The Cosmic Capacity of Rihanna
By Blair Martin,
In a world where millions of entertainers vie for the attention and adoration of the masses, honest, true stars are rare. The kind of stars that dazzles us with their talent, originality, and authenticity. They become figures whose single names spark interest and excitement in the public’s hearts: Beyonce, Prince, Rihanna. Since the infectious beat of her debut single reached our ears 18 years ago, the Barbados native has simultaneously emulated and defied society’s expectations for what the best of the best should be. She’s one of the best-selling artists of all time and widely recognized as one of the most beautiful and stylish women in the world, all while notoriously flexing her versatility and denying the public the comfort of being able to categorize her as just one thing. By harnessing excellence in music, style, humanitarianism, and entrepreneurship Rihanna has become a megawatt star—and with her Super Bowl halftime show on the horizon, there’s no telling just how her light will shine.
Born in the small Caribbean nation of Barbados, Robin Rihanna Fenty grew up fostering a love for music that would eventually find itself on the global stage after auditioning for record producer Evan Rogers. The man was so blown away by the then-15-year-old that he helped her produce Pon de Replay, a palpable hit Jay-Z wouldn’t let Rihanna leave the building until she signed with his record label ROC Nation after hearing it for the first time. The song’s success, however, raised some eyebrows within the music community.
“The one-hit-wonder comment came straight out of the gate, and that put a fire under my ass; I never stopped working,” Rihanna said in 2019 to playwright Jeremey O Harris. “Every time, it was about challenging myself: I have to do better, I have to be better. And what’s next, what’s next?”
In the eleven years following her debut, Rihanna sold more than 60 million albums and got nominated for more than 40 Grammy Awards.
Rihanna went beyond the “cool-girl” aesthetic that rose to popularity in the late 2000s and 2010s and remains in the hearts and minds of people to this day—She was Badgalriri, and she was great at it. She burned an image of herself into our minds that were crazy, sexy, cool, and composed of iconic moments that are impossible to forget. She silenced dozens of Twitter haters with her swift fingers, and she swerved a kiss from Drake after he confessed to being in love with her for almost a decade at the 2016 MTV Awards; she accepted the title of a fashion icon from the CDFA wearing a sheer dress embellished only by Swarovski Crystals.
ANTI, Rihanna’s 8th studio album, was celebrated by critics and members of her mighty “Navy” fan base. It was exceptional, pulling both from her Caribbean roots and R&B influences to become a body of work that represented Rihanna as both the artist and woman that people love so dearly. The album was certified platinum in less than 48 hours, quickly hit number one on the Billboard Top 200 albums list, and has remained on it for almost seven years. While it didn’t take home any of the 8 Grammy Awards it was nominated for at the 59th recording academy awards, Rihanna still managed to steal the show with her glittering flask, proving that she can shine both on and off stage.
But then she vanished.
In 2017 the star disobeyed her iconic demand and stopped the music to dive headfirst into two worlds that she’d swam in her entire career: Humanitarianism and Beauty.
When Rihanna was just 18 years -old, she founded the Believe Foundation, which aimed to support terminally ill children by providing emotional, educational, and financial resources. Four years later, she founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her late grandmother, and aims to alleviate poverty in the Caribbean, where climate change is becoming more and more of an issue.
In 2017, Harvard University named Rihanna the Humanitarian of the year.
Fenty, her beauty line, was first launched in 2017 and generated over 100 million dollars during its first week in sales and is now worth 2.8 billion dollars. Savage x Fenty, Rihanna’s lingerie company, dropped in 2018, and she has since served as the executive producer for its four immersive fashion shows that have streamed on Amazon prime. Both companies have been celebrated for embracing and utilizing diversity by committing themselves to serve various customers with various shades and sizes.
In 2019, Rihanna made history as the first woman to create an original brand at LVHM, the fashion house that hosts companies like Dior, Givenchy, and Celine.
While working on all these ventures, Rihanna found time to work with musicians like Pharell Williams and Kendrick Lamar. The songs she has collaborated on since her hiatus from solo music have amassed more than 4 billion streams on Spotify, the world’s most popular streaming service. She is currently the 9th most popular artist on the planet, reminding us that her “constellation is in space.”
In 2021, Rihanna became the youngest self-made billionaire in American history.
The first era of Rihanna’s career was a decade-long sprint in which most artists needed more endurance, talent, and charisma. Now, her pace has slowed. With no definite finish line in sight, Rihanna has managed to maintain an allegiance to her artistry while still giving herself time to smell the roses that life has to offer along the way.
Rihanna confirmed her relationship with A$AP Rocky in 2020 after being romantically linked to him for nearly a decade. The duo gave birth to a baby boy in 2022. She confessed to Vogue that she believes she can “do everything” with the rapper.
Rihanna’s first solo release since ANTI was Lift Me, the leading track in Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The song was applauded for including one of Rihanna’s best vocal performances in her entire career and earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song on January 24th, 2022, Rihanna’s first.
Despite her bold departure from the role in which Somebody the first introduced, Rihanna has maintained the relevancy that endures space and time. The ability to excel and trend in myriad ways has become an integral part of Rihanna’s identity and made her an incredibly inspirational figure to mesmerize. When we do so, we see a savvy woman, a stylish woman, a gracious woman, an unapologetic woman, a woman that is fierce, fun, and free.
Rihanna is both the artist and the muse, the designer and the model. She’s everything and can do anything if she deems it worthy of her time, effort, and talent—And in a world that imposes so many limitations on Black Women, that is a beautiful thing. By embracing all of her unique elements within her arsenal, Rihanna has catapulted herself into a universe of her very own. One where the rules—those that declare that musicians must churn out an album every other year, that celebrities lack the entrepreneurial skill set to create meaningful, thriving businesses, and becoming a mother puts a weight on your career that no nanny nor self-help book can alleviate— do not apply.
In just three weeks, Rihanna will step into the Super Bowl Halftime Show spotlight and reintroduce herself. She may announce her long-awaited 9th album, reveal her newest business venture, or perform hits like Work, Don’t Stop the Music, and Umbrella for old times’ sake. With her at the helm, the possibilities are endless.
That is the beauty of a star like Rihanna, a three-dimensional one.
With so many facets and intricacies, because she shines that much brighter and eclipses her peers in the process, she can emit light into the hallowed halls of the beauty industry, recording booths worldwide, and the lives of people in need.
Rihanna’s capacity for excellence is meaningful, thrilling, and cosmic- and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Copy Edited by Kevin Williams