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The Rise of Rihanna and Her Impact on Culture

Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados. Robyn, who later came to be known as simply Rihanna, experienced many hardships throughout her childhood. Her early life was often unpredictable due to her father’s drug and alcohol addiction, which caused trouble in her parents' marriage. When she was 14, Rihanna’s parents divorced.

Rihanna’s pathway to music began when she joined a musical trio with two of her classmates. She used her star presence to land an audition at Def Jam, a record label in New York. The moment Jay-Z--the president and CEO of Def Jam at the time --and L.A. Reid-- the chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group--heard Rihanna sing, Reid stated that he did not want her to leave the building until she signed a contract. After signing with Def Jam, Rihanna released her debut album, Music of the Sun, in 2005. One year later, Rihanna released her sophomore album, A Girl Like Me, spawning the popular songs “SOS” and “Unfaithful.” Her turning point would come the following year; she sported an edgier look through her infamous bob haircut and marketed it for her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad.

On her fourth album, Rated R, Rihanna departed from the prevalent themes in Good Girl Gone Bad. After an assault at the hands of then-boyfriend and singer Chris Brown, Rihanna channeled her pain into her music. These emotions gave Rated R a much darker and more atmospheric tone. Songs such as “Russian Roulette” and “Hard” exuded her confidence, yet still showed vulnerability from the artist. Soon after, Rihanna experienced several musical metamorphoses as she released her following albums: Loud (2010), Talk that Talk (2011), Unapologetic (2012), and ANTI (2016). All of Rihanna’s hard work would pay off. According to Billboard, Rihanna has earned 14 number one songs and 31 top-ten singles in the United States.

Rihanna’s creativity also fueled some successful business ventures. In 2017, Rihanna launched her cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty. A year later, she launched an all-inclusive lingerie brand named Savage x Fenty. She also founded her fashion house, Fenty, under the luxury fashion group Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (also known as LVMH) in July 2019. This made her the first woman to launch a brand under LVMH and the first woman of color to lead an LVMH brand. According to Forbes, Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty made Rihanna worth 1.7 billion in 2020, making her the second richest woman behind Oprah Winfrey.

Rihanna has also delved into charity and nonprofit work. In 2012, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. The foundation focuses on funding education and emergency preparedness and response programs globally. Last year, her foundation donated $5 million for COVID-19 response efforts.

Rihanna has also taken part in politics. In 2008, the government of Barbados appointed Rihanna as an honorary Youth and Culture ambassador for Barbados. That same year, Barbados declared February 22 “Rihanna Day.” Ten years later, Rihanna was​ appointed as an ambassador of education, tourism, and investment by Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

It is no secret that Robyn Rihanna Fenty is a force to be reckoned with. She is a singer, actress, businesswoman, and philanthropist. Yet, Rihanna feels humbled by her own experiences. In an interview published in the New York Times in 2015, she stated:

“I used to feel unsafe right in the moment of an accomplishment — I felt the ground fall from under my feet because this could be the end. And even now, while everyone is celebrating, I’m on to the next thing. I don’t want to get lost in this big cushion of success.”

Rihanna has impacted the world as a Black female singer and entrepreneur in such a short time. She has built longevity throughout her sixteen years of stardom, which many assume will continue to grow. From fashion to music to entrepreneurship, she has and will continue to impact the lives of young Black women.



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