“The Caramel Curves show the world what being a badass boss is all about, while bringing sexiness along for the ride,” Rihanna wrote via email. The women were photographed by Shaniqwa Jarvis around New Orleans in body-skimming lingerie—curve-hugging bodysuits, fishnet tights, embroidered bras, and opera gloves—alongside their prized accessory, their motorcycles. “It is just looking fab all the time,” explains Smith over Zoom about the style of her and her fellow riders. “We are always blinging and glistening. Anything sequins, rhinestones— we’re going to wear it.” Motorcycle riding is typically male-dominated activity and sport, making the women of Caramel Curves trailblazers to begin with. But their clothing takes things a step further. “I didn’t want to go shop for basic clothes because I didn’t dress like that. I always wore sparkly, blingy stuff all the time,” says Smith. “So that pretty much started the trend for the Caramel Curves that ‘This is our look. When you come in, be prepared to look this way. You’re gonna have to wear heels, sexy clothes, be cute. Get it together. We don’t want to look regular.’ I’m never going to look regular.”
New Orleans’ Caramel Curves, an all-Black women’s biking crew founded in 2005 by Nakosha “Coco” Smith and Shanika “Tru” Beatty, has already enjoyed the limelight for a few years thanks to their head-turning, pedal-to-the-metal clothing. When the 10 active members meet on Sundays, the women dress up in strappy heels fit for a night out, rhinestone-encrusted jackets, customized T-shirts boasting phrases like “anything but basic”, and helmets sprouting with fuchsia mohawks. The color palettes are flashy: blazing hot pinks, radiating highlighter yellows, and searing nuclear greens. There is no shortage of high-wattage glamour. It was enough to catch Rihanna’s eye, and have her cast them to model in the newest campaign for Savage X Fenty.
They’ve been criticized for their bold looks, especially their heels, in the past. “Whenever we post something, it’ll be, ‘The stupid girls who ride in heels. Who rides in heels and doesn’t protect themselves? Who doesn’t wear proper gear?’” says Thomas. Smith notes that the women may wear heels for their short trips around New Orleans, but more covered gear for their longer trips, which can range up to 100 miles. “We don’t want to make it sound like, ‘We glitz and glam the whole ride,’” says Smith. “Safety does matter to us. Coming home safely does matter to us.” The women stress that wearing the heels hasn’t impacted how they ride, and in fact, they take more precautions than their male counterparts. “We appreciate our bodies, like, we want our skin to be pretty. We don’t want a bunch of scars all on our skin and stuff,” says Beatty. “So that causes for us to be a little bit more cautious, too, because I don’t want to be bruised up.” Smith that for over 20 years of riding in heels, she hasn’t yet fallen. “I have been wearing heels and thank the Lord, I never fell,” says Smith. “But I’ve watched a million men fall that had no heels on, so having a set of heels can’t be too bad. Maybe they need to try some heels.”
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