The Method Behind Rihanna's Madness
As Pisces season comes to a close it's only right we celebrate one of the best fish in the sea, Robyn Rihanna Fenty. A Caribbean gem, single-handed buying powerhouse, and a giver of life and glam to the world. Since making us swoon with “Pon de Replay” despite all hidden doubts at only 17, Ms. Fenty has given us timeless classics like “Umbrella,” “Unfaithful,” and “Stay.” She gave us “Rated R.” At only 21. She’s also given us some of the best lipgloss to ever touch your lips. Now it might seem like I’m just fangirling over here, but no, I’m going to explain why Rihanna is the most powerful artist of our generation.
After being discovered in her home country of Barbados, Rihanna came in the game with an advantage, a ready-made international market. Seeing that she is not originally from the U.S. but she became famous here, which automatically gave her two national fanbases; Barbados and America. Once she learned what she can do with it, she used her power to make herself into a worldwide megastar.
Now I’ve done a lot of research into this, so I‘m going to break this down into a few parts.
Part 1: Rihanna Masters The Public Eye
Throughout Rihanna’s entire career, she has had to fight some form of criticism. After “Pon de Replay” had it's in and out success, many fans and even people in the industry weren’t sure that her career would actually last. Some even started seeing her as a one-hit-wonder. After being immediately signed to Roc Nation by Jay-Z that, at the time, housed artists like Tearri Mari and The Dream, many would assume the Jay-Z and label co-sign would help ensure her success, but it didn't happen immediately. Her debut album “Music of the Sun” failed to meet projected numbers. However, by the time of her second album, A Girl Like Me” Riri was able to keep her buzz going with songs “SOS,” ”Unfaithful,” and We Ride.”
We know all too well about the infamous incident with...CB so we won’t go into all those gruesome details, but we do need to discuss the reactions and criticisms that she faced during that time. Although she was considered the primary victim in the incident, people still decided to side with CB because he was a fan favorite. Even a lot of people stated that it was her fault because she started the argument and allegedly put her hands on him first. Total lack of sympathy.
In 2009, Rihanna almost became broke! She claims that her accounting firm, Berdon LLP, made so many “boneheaded” decisions with her money including her accountant giving her the green light to buy a $7 million moldy mansion in Beverly Hills, her accountant taking a whopping 22% commission, and while her "Last Girl on Earth" tour lost money, her firm failed to notify her that she was declared effectively bankrupt. However, she successfully sued Berdon LLP back in 2014 and settled out of court for $10 million, hence giving us “Bitch Better Have My Money” as a celebratory track.
By the time 2012, Rihanna had come to terms with the constant attacks on just about every aspect of her personal life. Her various love life and rendezvous with A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, Ashton Kutcher, Future, and Matt Kemp. Drake vs. CB (everybody remembers the bottle-throwing incident), and constant criticisms of her smoking weed and weight loss (which people speculated she was on drugs, specifically cocaine). She was basically seen as a promiscuous drug addict. But when Rihanna dropped the video for “Loud” hit “S&M,” she included a scene of her dancing in front of a wall with a screen projection of tabloid headlines that scrutinized her, using this as a tactic to say “f*** you” to the media, and that was the turning point of her whole career. That move now put the ball in her court and helped her say, “Despite what you say about me, I’m still the shit.” At that point, people had no choice but to respect her.
Despite the rollercoaster ride, she was on at the beginning of her career and throughout the constant media attacks, Rihanna has managed to brand herself so well in the public eye, that now she is looked at as nothing less than a regal being. Who knew that someone who was once seen as nothing but a troubled industry rebel would end up being seen as a full-blown role model for Black girls and women everywhere? She has gone on to win awards including the CFDA Fashion Icon Award, the Rock Star Award at BET’s Black Girls Rock celebration, the MTV Video Vanguard Award, and recently just received the President’s Award from the NAACP Image Awards.
Part 2: Rihanna Masters The International Market
Now let’s backtrack to my statement that Rihanna came into the industry with an international advantage due to her Barbadian and American audience. Throughout her time in the industry, you can tell she has studied the international markets and used her advantage within to capitalize.
First of all, to build an international connection, it means more than just touring in different countries; Rihanna first made that connection through music. For the infamous 7.0 magnitude earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010, she did a charity cover of Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and collaborated with Jay-Z, Bono, and The Edge and made “Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)” for the charity effort. Her collaboration with Eminem, “Love The Way You Lie,” is considered the best selling song in the UK in 2010. Her songs “Pon de Replay,” “Man Down,” “Work,” “Rude Boy,” “Watch n’ Learn,” and “No Love Allowed” all pay homage to her Caribbean roots. Her song “American Oxygen,” she discusses her view of the American Dream.
Riri’s second international connection came through fashion. She has been one of the most fashionably captured artists in the world; she’s been featured in Vogue alone over 25 times including Vogue Italia, British Vogue, Vogue Brazil, Vogue Arabia, Vogue Australia, Vogue Hong Kong, and even a triple feature for Vogue Paris. She’s the first woman to ever grace American male-centered mag GQ. Her clothing line River Island is a UK exclusive brand. She even did a collaborative shoe collection with Spanish designer Manolo Blahnik.
Third, she has made a connection through philanthropy. Her organization dedicated to her grandmother, The Clara Lionel Foundation helps award scholarships for students from Brazil, Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, Grenada, Guyana, and Jamaica who plan on attending an accredited four-year college/university in the US. She joined the fight of the education crisis in Malawi and has been pictured teaching math to Malawian students and helping build a nearby hospital. In 2018, she was named an “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” of Barbados, specializing in promoting education, tourism, and investment for her home country. She even got tested for HIV with Britain’s Prince Harry in Barbados for World HIV Day back in 2017.
With Riri being able to sow her “royal oats” into the hearts of millions all over the world through music, fashion, and philanthropy, she is now seen as a global star and a persona for all people.
Part 3: Rihanna Masters Buying Power and Influence
Rihanna has the power to basically make you wanna buy anything. As jokingly being dubbed as “the Avon lady” on Twitter, Rihanna has not only been able to diversify her musical range but the businesses she puts her Fenty name behind. With not only legally buying her surname for business rights (and even suing her dad for using it without her knowledge), she has made the following brands: perfumes Reb’l Fleur, Rebelle, Nude, Rogue, and Rogue Men, stylist agency Fr8me, Fenty X Puma (I’m still mad at her discontinuing it but at least I got some slides), Fenty Beauty, Savage X Fenty, and her fashion house Fenty, where she is actually the first woman and person of color to have a fashion house under the luxury fashion group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy).
Within the first month of its release, Fenty Beauty made over $72 million worth of internet revenue and has celebrities and famous make-up artists including Allisa Ashley, Duckie Thot, Slick Woods, Jackie Aina, and even Tiffany “New York” Pollard to endorse her beauty brand. Her lingerie and undergarment brand Savage X Fenty had its first show back in September 2019 which showcased some of the latest pieces from her line, and included performances from Migos, Big Sean, A$AP Ferg, 21 Savage, and Normani (who became the line's first ambassador). This show was such a success across multiple demographics, that Victoria’s Secret announced the cancellation of their annual show (which has been around since 1995). You wanna why Savage X Fenty was able to overshadow Victoria’s Secret? Because Rihanna was able to do something that VS wasn’t even able to achieve in over 20 years; Riri’s show was the true embodiment of representation. She featured models that were disabled, trans, plus-sized (like actual everyday woman plus-sized), and all races and skin colors.
When we talk about influence, nobody is touching my good sis. Back in 2016, she posted a photo on Instagram captioned “listening to ANTI,” while wearing a pair of gold-encrusted headphones with a top piece that resembles a tiara made by Frends x Dolce Gabbana while costing a whopping $9,000! The photo and headphones went viral instantly and thanks to Rihanna, the headphones sold out everywhere in literally 24 hours. Back in 2012, Rihanna actually broke a VEVO record for the most video views with 4.93 views within 24 hours for “Talk That Talk hit” “Where Have You Been.” And you know why it broke that record? Because fans finally saw her do full-blown dancing choreography and we were all so proud to see her step outside of her comfort zone and do it effortlessly. Talk about constant growth.
Whether it's clothes or fashion shows, Rihanna knows how to get the people to buy and to talk. And we all know the famous phrase, “It’s ugly until Rihanna says it isn’t.”
Part 4: Rihanna Masters Relevancy
Can y’all really believe that her eighth album Anti came out 1,488 days ago (that’s four years and 27 days) and she hasn’t even been on a song as a feature since Kendrick Lamar’s “LOYALTY” and DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts” from 2017? Rihanna hasn’t done a tour, hasn’t released a single, hasn’t even done a charity concert in almost three whole years and she and her music has managed to stay completely relevant this whole time. Right now, you can get on Twitter and probably see somebody remembering how strong and beautiful her vocals sounded on “Love On The Brain,” quoting “who cares when it feels like crack,” or see the Navy literally begging for a ninth album. This woman has literally made us music fiends, just itching and scratching just for her to stop putting her damn IG videos on mute whenever she posts herself in the studio.
But honestly, what artist you know can go that long without dropping not one song and still keep their name in everybody's mouth? Hell, even Beyoncé is still putting out albums. Riri doesn't even care to show up to music award shows anymore, even when she gets nominated. These days she’s all about improving the quality of our makeup, underwear, clothing, and the injustices and inequalities in our world. Whether she’s dressing up the world or stepping in to help change it, Rihanna has proven time and time again that when her impact is loud as your music, then whether you drop a song or not, you will be forever timeless.
Throughout Riri’s career, she has ultimately proven that it’s more than just being a music artist; it’s about using your music to make a world art. Y’all better put some respect on a queen’s name. All hail Badgalriri!