While there are many folks out there going above and beyond to alter themselves and essentially morph into their favorite celebrity, 23-year-old Yna Sertalf doesn’t have to, because she’s already the spitting image of one of the world’s most beloved superstars, Rihanna. Imagine being that blessed! According to Yna, the face and the fame happened by accident. Yna has gained notoriety online as a Rihanna look-alike without even trying. “I [have] never changed my face,” she tells BET.
Followers, or folks who happen upon her social media accounts, are constantly flooding her comments with comparisons to the 31-year-old songstress. Sometimes it's barely a sentence and they just drop a simple “Rihanna” below one of her posts. As you could imagine, life as Rihanna’s doppelganger has plenty of perks, (like, hello, being beautiful!) but it’s not at all a completely charmed experience.
BET spoke to Yna, who originates from the West Indies, but lives in France, to find out what it’s really like to live life as a Rihanna look-alike.
To set the record straight, Yna isn't obsessed with Rihanna, though, she says, “like many people, I love everything she does.” But she doesn't purposely alter her appearance to reflect Rihanna. It's just genetic happenstance, and she is constantly conscious of the ways that people might accuse her of imitating the star. Yna adds, “I like her makeup brand and her lingerie, but I feel that I don’t have the right to wear them in the same way as other people under risk of being criticized.”
On top of how often she is stopped by the Navy for photos or dodging stares while out and about doing regular people things, Yna receives offers from talent agencies that want to bank off her Rihanna-ness. “Agencies contacted me to say, ‘We're going to make you a look-alike. You'll do shows and sing Rihanna's music,’ but I don’t want to. I don’t want Rihanna to see me one day and say, ‘What is she doing?!’ [laughs]. It's not like it was [Rihanna herself] who validated this, in which case I would have [considered the] job.”
Just to be clear, Yna may have Rihanna’s looks, but that’s where the similarities end. Yna is not interested in the entertainment industry at all. She has a modest following (as far as look-alikes go) on Instagram of roughly 31,000 followers and launched a YouTube channel with just a single video, which she quickly pulled off the platform out of fear of being deemed a Rihanna poser. “I wasn’t satisfied with the result, so I removed it. I still have this fear of being [compared] to Rihanna… I feel like a bad copy of her, and she is on YouTube now, so I have to make [my] videos different from hers or I risk getting hate from her fans.”
It’s true the resemblance is uncanny, so Yna’s reservations about her YouTube career are understandable, but she herself has had a hard time seeing what everyone else sees. “I never really noticed the resemblance myself. I think I realized with the app TikTok where every video I post, 99 percent of the comments are, ‘You look like Rihanna,’ and so 200,000-plus people follow me for that. The first time I really knew it, my uncle had told my mother when I was about 15 years old. I had already heard it, but it becomes more real when your family says it.”
Well, her potential boyfriends definitely see it, because Yna previously spoke to the Daily Mail about how her love life has actually suffered as she can’t find a date who genuinely wants her for her and not because she looks like Rihanna. “I've been single for about a year, but I would never put myself in a relationship with someone who sees me as 'Rihanna' and not 'Yna.'
"When I talk to someone and hear 'Rihanna' too many times [when we're hanging out], I give up [on them] because I can't determine if the person fantasizes about Rihanna or if they really want to know me. That's why I'm single” she said.
When we asked Yna what’s the rudest thing that has ever happened to her on one of her Rihanna-obsessed dates she said, “He introduced me to his family and friends while I have known him for three weeks [and was] happy as soon as his relatives said that I look like Rihanna. I stayed [with him] a month and then realized that I was like a decorative object or a puppy that he [wants] to take everywhere.”
So we guess it comes down to this: Is life as a Rihanna look-alike more of a blessing or a curse?
Yna sums it up this way: “As long as I don’t take advantage of this resemblance, I can’t really judge whether it's good or bad. I think it's a blessing in the sense that it can open doors, and many people love me automatically without ever wanting to know who I am, but a curse if I'm not trying to enjoy it.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: These quotes have been edited to reflect the true nature of the subject’s narrative since her native language is French.
(Photo: Courtesy of Yna Sertalf; James Devaney/WireImage)
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