Rihanna is a multi-faceted icon, whose impact has transcended races, cultures, countries, and eras.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in the Saint Michaels Parish of Barbados. Her mother-Monica née Braithwaite- was Guyanese, and her father-Ronald Fenty-was Barbadian. She grew up with two younger brothers, Rorrey and Rajad Fenty. Rihanna’s family life is what prompted her to pursue music. Her father was an addict, which inflicted a tremendous amount of stress upon a young Robyn. In addition to her stressful family life, she was bullied for her lighter skin complexion due to her father’s Irish lineage. She initially combated her struggles with violence, but she eventually turned to music to escape and cope. She was heavily influenced by artists such as Madonna, Mariah Carey, Janet Jackson, and Bob Marley. It was not until her parent’s divorce that she would start to pursue singing. At 14, she took on being the primary provider for her younger brothers -due to her mother having to work full time- and promoting herself as an artist hoping to be discovered. She would sing at beaches, social gatherings and events, and her high school talent show. At 15, she formed a trio with a couple of friends; they would perform any and everywhere. Everything changed when a friend of her’s claimed that her mother knew producer Evan Rogers, who happened to be vacationing on the island at the time. The trio was able to schedule an audition with Rogers, but he only solicited Robyn. He flew Robyn and her mother out to Connecticut to record a demo. Her mother eventually allowed her to stay with the producer and his wife until the project was completed.
Rihanna officially began her career as an artist when she was 16. Rogers presented her demo tape to rapper Jay-Z, and she was signed to the Def Jam label. The label released her debut album: Music of The Sun, in 2005. This album drew from her Caribbean roots and highlighted the innocence of the young artists. This album encompassed the hit single Pon de Replay, which catapulted her album’s release, thus re-popularizing the dancehall sound in Western culture. A year later, she proceeded to produce her second album entitled; A Girl Like Me in 2006, which included number one singles; SOS and Unfaithful. The next year, she released her album Good Girl Gone Bad in 2007. with the help of artists Timbaland and Justin Timberlake. This album was, in a sense, her coming of age, her entrance into womanhood. It was a symbol of maturation for the young Caribbean artist. This album not only transformed her image but her sound as well. This album featured hip hop and R&B beats with hit singles like Umbrella. She carried her newfound image into her next album, Rated R in 2009, which featured hit single Russian Roulette. This entire album was following her domestic violence encounter with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. While the public questioned whether or not she was really the victim due to her image, she used this album to redefine what it meant to be “the victim,” exposing her vulnerabilities in her predicament and somehow making them superpowers through her lyricism. Thus creating hits for women to sympathize with and or empathize with as a means to escape violence as she did growing up. Henceforth, she released an album every year up until 2012. In 2010, she released her album Loud featuring her provocative Billboard Charting single S&M. In 2011; she released her Talk That Talk album featuring the single We Found Love. That same year, she began her 777 tours, making her first acting debut in Battleship and her first animated appearance as Tip in the movie Home. Rihanna released her most recent album, Anti, with hit single Work featuring Drake in 2016. She embarked on her Anti tour that same year. Though RiRi has not dropped an album within the last four years, she continues to do features on songs such as Lemon by N.E.R.D., Wild Thoughts by DJ Khalid, and BELIEVE IT by PARTYNEXTDOOR.
Some of Rihanna’s contemporaries are Christina Aguilera, Cassie, Beyoncé, Christina Millian, Ciara, and Fergie. All of these women contributed to the contemporary sound of R&B, Pop, and Hip Hop throughout the entirety of Rihanna’s career.
Rihanna’s multi-faceted career contributes to her influential impact. Though her first debut was as an artist, she gains a tremendous amount of notoriety as an innovator and visionary in the fashion industry. She has designed collections for Armani, U.K. brand River Island, and PUMA. She also has her hands in the beauty industry, with MAC naming her the face of the Vivia Glam campaign in 2014. This also highlights her philanthropic efforts in that all proceeds were donated to women and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. She also started the Clara Lionel Foundation, which promotes humanitarianism and the improvement of life globally. She generates revenue for her foundation through her entrepreneurship. Rihanna is now a trailblazer in the beauty and cosmetic industry due to her cosmetic brand: Fenty Beauty. She created a makeup line with 26 foundation shades compatible with all skin types and colors, which was a bit of a unicorn before her launch. Though her line was intended for all, she wanted to cater to Black women because she knew our shades were underrepresented in the makeup industry. She followed her cosmetic release with the launch of her lingerie brand Savage X Fenty, which also coincides with the all-inclusive brand she perpetuates with its extensive size ranges. With this brand, she enables all women to feel beautiful and or sexy despite their size. She has also recently released a skincare line called Fenty Skin, which essentially coincides with her makeup line with moisturizers and face washes that prep the skin before the makeup application. The multiple aspects of Rihanna’s career enable her to reach the masses. However, she attracts so much success because she is still a Black woman who has conquered the music industry and those that have been dominated by our white counterparts. Her involvement in all of these industries expanded these industries to have no choice but to include products for Black women by a Black woman. Because of her, our struggle to find compatible makeup shades or flattering clothes is a bit easier.
In 2006, Rihanna received three Billboard awards; Female Artist of The Year, Pop 100 Artist of The Year, and Female Hot 100 Artist. Rihanna received her first Grammy in 2008 for her single Umbrella ft Jay-Z for best rap/sung collaboration; she also won two MTV VMA’s for video of the year and monster single of the year. She won a BET award for viewer’s choice as a feature on rapper T.I.’s single Live Your Life in 2009 and her single Hard in 2010. She won two more Grammy’s in 2010 to collaborate with rappers Jay-Z and Kanye West for best rap/sung collaboration and best rap song for the single Run This Town. In 2011 she won her next Grammy for her single Only Girl for best dance recording. She also won three Billboard awards this year; Top female artist, top radio songs artist, and top rap song for featuring on Eminem’s Love the Way You Lie. She won a BET award for the best female artist R&B artist in 2011 and 2014. In 2012 she won a Grammy for her collab with Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Fergie on the single All of The Lights for best rap/sung collab, and she also won a Billboard award that same year for the top streaming artist. She won her next Grammy in 2013 for her single We Found Love for the best short-form music video, and she also won a VMA for Video of the year. This same year, she won four Billboard awards; Top radio songs artist, Top R&B Artist, Top R&B album for Unapologetic, and Top R&B Song for Diamonds. She won a Grammy for her album Unapologetic for the best urban contemporary album in 2014. In 2015, she won her next Grammy as a feature on Eminem’s single Monster for best rap/sung collab. She won the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the VMA’s in 2016. She won a BET award for her single Work for best collaboration in 2016. She won the Billboard Chart Achievement Award in 2016. She garnered her last Grammy also as a feature on Kendrick Lamar’s single Loyalty for best rap/sung performance in 2018, and she also won a BET award for best collaboration. She won her last VMA in that same year for best editing for her collaboration with N.E.R.D. on the single Lemon.
Robyn Rihanna Fenty empowers and inspires Black women everywhere to pursue their dreams. She is a music mogul, philanthropist, entrepreneur, designer, and, most importantly, a Black woman. She embodies what it means to possess Black girl magic in that she can and does it all.
Rihanna. Music of The Sun, Def Jam Recordings, 2005
Rihanna. “Pon de Replay.” Music of The Sun, Def Jam Recordings, 2005
Rihanna. A Girl Like Me, Def Jam Recordings, 2006
Rihanna. “SOS”. A Girl Like Me, Def Jam Recordings, 2006
Rihanna. “Unfaithful”. A Girl Like Me, Def Jam Recordings, 2006
Rihanna. Good Girl Gone Bad, Def Jam Recordings, 2007
Rihanna(ft. Jay-Z). “Umbrella”. Good Girl Gone Bad, Def Jam Recordings, 2007
T.I.(ft Rihanna). “Live Your Life”. Paper Trail, Grand Hustle, LLC, 2008
Rihanna. Rated R, Def Jam Recordings, 2009
Rihanna. “Russian Roullette”. Rated R, Def Jam Recordings, 2009
Jay-Z (ft. Rihanna & Kanye West). “Run This Town”, The Blueprint 3, S. Carter Enterprises, LLC., Distributed by Roc Nation, 2009
Rihanna. Loud, Def Jam Recordings, 2010
Rihanna. “S&M”. Loud, Def Jam Recordings, 2010
Eminem(ft. Rihanna). “Love the Way You Lie”. Recovery, Aftermath Records, 2010
Kanye West. “All of the Lights”. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, UMG Recordings, Inc., 2010
Rihanna. Talk That Talk, Def Jam Recordings, 2011
Rihanna. “We Found Love”. Talk That Talk, Def Jam Recordings, 2011
Rihanna. Unapologetic, The Island Def Jam Music Group, 2012
Rihanna. “Diamonds”. Unapologetic, The Island Def Jam Music Group, 2012
Eminem(ft. Rihanna). “The Monster”. The Marshall Mathers LP2, Aftermath Records, 2013
Rihanna. Anti, Westbury Road Entertainment, 2016
Rihanna (ft. Drake). “Work”. Anti, Westbury Road Entertainment, 2016
DJ Khaled (ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller). “Wild Thoughts”., Grateful, Epic Records, 2017
Kendrick Lamar(ft. Rihanna). “LOYALTY.”, DAMN, Aftermath/Interscope (Top Dawg Entertainment), 2017
N.E.R.D. & Rihanna. “Lemon”. N.E.R.D. Music, 2018
PARTYNEXTDOOR & Rihanna. “BELIEVE IT”. PARTYMOBILE, Warner Records Inc., 2020
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Jones, Esther. “On the Real: Agency, Abuse, and Sexualized Violence in Rihanna’s ‘Russian Roulette.’” African American Review, vol. 46, no. 1, 2013, pp. 71–86. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/23783602. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.
“On Performance and Position, Erotically.” Blackhood Against the Police Power: Punishment and Disavowal in the “Post-Racial” Era, by Tryon P. Woods, Michigan State University Press, East Lansing, 2019, pp. 185–218. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/10.14321/j.ctvcwnj98.10. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.
“Bio.” Rihanna, www.rihannanow.com/bio/.
Dolan, Jon. “Rihanna’s 30 Greatest Songs, Ranked.” Rolling Stone, Rolling Stone, 17 July 2019, www.rollingstone.com/music/music-lists/rihannas-30-greatest-songs-ranked-205613/lemon-with-n-e-r-d-2018-197655/.
“Rihanna.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Oct. 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Rihanna.
-, Jenny Medeiros, et al. “[VIDEO] Rihanna’s Life Story: From Island Tomboy to Platinum Pop Sensation.” Goalcast, 4 Feb. 2020, www.goalcast.com/2018/01/30/rihannas-life-story/
“List of Awards and Nominations Received by Rihanna.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Rihanna.