Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988 in Saint Michael, Barbados, known mononymously as Rihanna, is a Barbadian recording artist. Born in Saint Michael, Barbados, Rihanna moved to the United States at the age of 16 to pursue a recording career under the guidance of record producer Evan Rogers. She subsequently signed a contract with Def Jam Recordings.
In 2005, Rihanna released her debut studio album, Music of the Sun, which peaked in the top ten of the Billboard 200 chart and features the Billboard Hot 100 top-five hit single “Pon de Replay”. In less than a year, she released her second studio album, A Girl Like Me (2006), which peaked within the top-five of the Billboard albums chart, and produced her first Hot 100 number one single, “SOS”. Rihanna’s third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad released in May 2007, spawned the international hit singles “Umbrella”, “Don’t Stop the Music”, “Take a Bow” and “Disturbia”. The album was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Umbrella”.
Her fourth studio album Rated R (2009), produced the top-ten singles “Russian Roulette”, “Hard” and “Rude Boy”, with the later achieving the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Loud (2010), Rihanna’s fifth studio album, spawned the number-one hits “Only Girl (In the World)”, “What’s My Name?” and “S&M”. “We Found Love” served as the lead single from Talk That Talk, Rihanna’s sixth studio album, released in November 2011. The song was international success and topped the charts in over twenty countries.
Rihanna’s work has earned her numerous awards and accolades, including five American Music Awards, six Grammy Awards and 18 Billboard Music Awards. Billboard named Rihanna the Digital Songs Artist of the 2000s decade, and ranked her as the 17th Artist of the same decade. She is the youngest solo artist in Billboard charts history to achieve eleven number-one singles on the Hot 100. As of January 2012, Rihanna had sold approximately 47.6 million digital singles in the United States, making her the highest-selling digital artist in the US since 2004. By September 2011 she had also shipped 7.3 million album units in the US. Rihanna has sold more than 20 million albums and 60 million singles which makes her one of the best selling artists of all time.
Rihanna has named Madonna as her idol and biggest influence, and said she wants to be the “black Madonna”. She said: “I think that Madonna was a great inspiration for me, especially on my earlier work. If I had to examine her evolution through time, I think she reinvented her clothing style and music with success every single time. And at the same time remained a real force in entertainment in the whole world.” Rihanna also cites Whitney Houston as a major influence and idol. In an InStyle article, Rihanna said of Houston, “she is a big idol of mine and so influential”. Rihanna also sang Houston’s version of “For The Love Of You” to clinch her record deal with Jay-Z. Rihanna also cited Mariah Carey as her influence and idol. She said “I looked up to a lot and I still do. I admire her as an artist, and to compete with her was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life. Of Janet Jackson, Rihanna has commented that “she was one of the first female pop icons that I could relate to … She was so vibrant, she had so much energy. She still has power. I’ve seen her on stage, and she can stand there for 20 minutes and have the whole arena scream at her. You have to love Janet.” Beyoncé has been named as a major influence, citing that she was inspired to start her career after watching Knowles on television as part of a Destiny’s Child performance. Her other musical influences include Bob Marley, (for whom she built a shrine in her Los Angeles home) Alicia Keys, Destiny’s Child, Celine Dion, Brandy and Gwen Stefani. Her friend and former Island Def Jam record label artist Fefe Dobson was someone that she admired and looked up to, having a fellow artist writing, singing, and performing the music she truly loves.
Rihanna’s music contains strong influences of Caribbean music which include reggae and dancehall. The video for “Rude Boy” was inspired by her Caribbean roots. In an interview, she stated that while growing up in Barbados she grew up listening to reggae music and when she came to the United States she was exposed to many different types of music. During the Good Girl Gone Bad Tour, she did a cover to “Is This Love” which paid tribute to Marley; she would later do a cover song to Bob Marley & The Wailers’ “Redemption Song”. Rihanna commented that Marilyn Monroe and vintage clothing served for visual inspiration for the music video “Hate That I Love You” and “Rehab”; in contrast, the “dark, creepy” scenes of “Disturbia” have drawn comparison to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. The music video ranked number five on the “Top Five Most Paranoid Music Videos” published by MTV Buzzworthy. Jon Bream of the Star Tribune commented “in the tradition of Madonna and Janet Jackson, Rihanna has become the video vixen of the ’00s … Rihanna has perfected the pout, the long-legged strut and trend-setting hairdos that keep women and men alike checking her out on YouTube.” George Epaminondas of InStyle considers Rihanna’s music videos to be “cinematic” due to her “blend of lush island rhythms and swinging pop and … mischievous sensuality.”
New York magazine described Rihanna’s early look as that of a cookie-cutter teen queen while stating that she has the ability to shift looks dramatically and with great ease. This was underscored when in March 2011 American Chronicle writer Arturo Tora termed her “Rihannaissance Woman.” Around the time of the release of her second album, many critics felt that Rihanna’s sound and musical material were too similar to those of Beyoncé. Negative reviews appeared, in which her music, music videos, performances and her image were compared to those of Beyoncé, which garnered Rihanna much criticism. Some media even claimed that Jay-Z fashioned her to be a replica of Beyoncé. During the release of her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, she adopted a more sexual image. Sonya Magett of Black Voices reported that Rihanna’s style has become quite risqué since she burst onto the scene four years ago. After revealing a new image while headlining her first tour, she was likely to be criticized for her tight leather outfit during each show. A review in The Times compared Rihanna’s stage wardrobe styling to that of Janet Jackson. He described her outfit as “a vision of Ann Summers couture in thigh-high boots and a few scraps of black PVC.” Stuart Derdeyn of The Province commented that “even with the whole haute couture B&D clearly firing on all points, she’s still got a ways to go to become the new Janet Jackson.”
Rihanna has appeared on Maxim’s Hot 100 list five consecutive years, listed in positions eight in 2007, fifteen in 2008, eight in 2009, six in 2010, and twenty-two in 2011. She was also listed on People’s 10 Best Dressed Stars of 2008, and ranked seventeenth on Glamour magazine’s list of the 50 Most Glamorous Women in 2009. Tracey Lomrantz of Glamour commented, “If style risks could be measured in miles, Rihanna would have criss-crossed the globe a thousand times over already.” Rihanna was also declared as Woman of the Year 2009 by Glamour. In June 2007, Gillette named her the Venus Breeze’s Celebrity Legs of a Goddess. In October 2011, Esquire declared Rihanna as the Sexiest Woman Alive for 2011. Rihanna has four wax figures of herself at Madame Tussauds Wax Museums in Washington D.C., Vienna, Berlin and London.
Rihanna’s tattoos include a music note tattoo on her ankle, a Pisces sign behind her right ear, a Sanskrit prayer going down her hip, a star in her left ear, the word love on her left middle finger, an Arabic phrase meaning “Freedom in Christ” on her ribcage area, a trail of stars going down the back of her neck, a skull with a pink hair bow, the phrase “shhh…” on her right index finger, the date 11.4.86 in Roman numerals on top of her left shoulder, a henna-style dragon claw including hibiscus flowers, a handgun under her right armpit, the phrase on her chest “Never a failure, always a lesson” (tattoed backwards because she wanted to be able to read it in the mirror, it is her “motto in life for everything” and the phrase “rebelle fleur” on her neck, which means “rebel/rebellious flower” in French. Her gun tattoo was planned to be just below her shoulders but was ultimately located on her ribcage.
In answer to criticism for her violence-themed tattoo, Keith “Bang Bang” McCurdy, her tattoo artist, was quick to explain his opinion that the image simply “represents strength and power”.
In October 2005, Rihanna struck her first endorsement deal with Secret Body Spray for them to sponsor her first tour, Rihanna’s Secret Body Spray Tour In 2006, Rihanna participated in several endorsement deals, including Nike sportswear for the launch of her “SOS” and J. C. Penney. That same year, she received an endorsement deal from Clinique to promote their Happy fragrance. She recorded a song written by Ne-Yo entitled “Just Be Happy” as part of the deal to promote their Happy fragrance. Rihanna also recorded a song called “Winning Women” with Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger for Procter & Gamble’s female deodorant Secret. In 2007, Rihanna signed with CoverGirl and became a celebrity spokesperson which included appearances on TV commercials and in the Barbados Tourism Authority’s tourism commercials.
In December 2008, Rihanna contracted with Gucci to appear in their ads for the Tattoo Heart Collection, a special-edition line. In the Gucci handbag ad, Rihanna is seen hanging from a giant hoop, scantily clad in a barely-there white bodysuit and wearing an oversized white Gucci purse. The success of her single, “Umbrella” earned her an endorsement deal with Totes. Her handlers pitched her hit “Umbrella” to Totes and the song became the soundtrack for commercials in which she starred. On April 8, 2009, it was announced that Rihanna inked a fragrance deal with Jay-Z’s licensing company Iconic Fragrances. The fragrance is named Reb’l Fleur and was released in 2011. Rihanna was working with her artistic director for Rated R, Simon Henwood, on the book Rihanna. It was released on September 14, 2010. In August 2010 Rihanna began appearing in an Australian television advert for Optus, a position previously held by Pink. In May 2011, Rihanna became a spokeswoman for the German skincare brand Nivea. Rihanna’s song “California King Bed” was featured as a part of Nivea’s “100 Years of Skincare” commercial campaign.
Rihanna created her Believe Foundation in 2006 to help terminally ill children. Rihanna explained her reasons for starting the foundation saying, “When I was young and I would watch television and I would see all the children suffering, I always said: when I grow up, I want to help.” Rihanna is also heavily involved in the marketing of her native country of Barbados. She began by including the flag and broken trident in many of her videos, shooting her album packaging for A Girl Like Me there. In September 2007, she became the official face of tourism for Barbados, being included in many of their ad campaigns. She holds the honorary title of Ambassador for Culture and Youth in Barbados. She additionally was honored by the Prime Minister David Thompson, who presented her with several gifts at a national concert on February 20, 2008, in Barbados, called “Rihanna Day”. In February 2008, Rihanna thanked and honoured her country during the acceptance speech for her win of “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” at the Grammy Awards. Although Rihanna is heavily involved in the promotion of her country and works with the government in Barbados to do so, she is often criticized by other Barbadians for everything from her music to her successes and for wearing “skimpy clothes”. Rihanna, speaking on one incident, said, “I went to the beach and I had on a one-piece swimsuit with jeans They took the picture and they made it look like a top that was really revealing… There were radio programmes about it. It was a big deal for, like, three weeks straight – talking about I’m not setting a good example.” Rihanna states she was bullied at school. “Having lighter skin wasn’t a problem in my household, but it was when I went to school – which really confused me at first. The harassment continued to my very last day of elementary school.”
Rihanna has performed a number of concerts to raise funds for both charities and the Foundation and is a 2008 Cartier Love Charity Bracelet Ambassador. She performed at Madonna’s Raising Malawi fundraiser on February 6, 2008, in New York City. After becoming an honorary cultural ambassador for Barbados, Rihanna became involved with DKMS, an international donor network based in Tübingen, Germany, to try to find a donor for Lisa Gershowitz Flynn. The Manhattan attorney had been diagnosed in November with acute myelogenous leukemia. In January 2008, Rihanna contributed in the fight against AIDS when she visited the H&M in New York to support Fashion Against AIDS by presenting her t-shirt design and signing autographs for a limited time with slogans like “Believe” and “Stop and Think.” The collection features t-shirts and hoodies designed by Rihanna, Timbaland and other well-known designers, musicians and artists. The line, called Fashion Against AIDS, was launched in February 2008 to raise awareness of the disease among teens and spread awareness about HIV/AIDS. In August 2008, Rihanna and other pop, rock, R&B and country singers such as Carrie Underwood, Ciara, Beyoncé Knowles, Leona Lewis, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Fergie recorded the charity single, “Just Stand Up!”, the theme song to the anti-cancer campaign Stand Up to Cancer and its theme song. The singers performed the song live on September 5, 2008. Rihanna was also selected as the spokesmodel for Gucci’s first United Nations Children’s Fund ad campaign. She appeared in the fashion house’s Tattoo Heart campaign, which premiered in December 2008. Rihanna was photographed in series of special edition print ads with United Nations Children’s Fund items, twenty-five percent of sales will benefit the children’s charity.
On November 19, 2008, Rihanna was enlisted by Gucci’s Frida Giannini along with Madonna to light the United Nations Children’s Fund Christmas snowflake in New York City at the Grand Army Plaza. In 2008, she became the global representative and the face of the 4th annual Gucci Campaign to Benefit United Nations Children’s Fund. The campaign aimed to raise funds for children in Africa through the sale of its Tattoo Heart collection of bags, which launched worldwide on November 19, 2008. Rihanna has been a part of many benefit concerts to help raise money for various illnesses, such as cancer for Hope Rocks. Rihanna performed on January 20, 2009, at the Recording Industry Association of America’s Presidential Inauguration Charity Ball to raise money for the world largest anti-hunger organization. On April 2, 2009, Rihanna visited the NYU Medical Center to help look for another bone marrow donor for a young girl named Jasmina Anema. Rihanna first learned about Anema’s plight in February 2009, when she saw the moving video Anema’s best friend, Isabelle Huurman, and her mother, Karen Detrick, made appealing for donors to save Anema. Rihanna honored Anema’s best friend, Isabella, for her efforts for trying to save her best friend at a DKMS Gala on May 7, 2009. Jasmina Anema eventually received her transplant on June 11, 2009, but died on January 27, 2010. In September 2009, Rihanna performed at Jay-Z’s “Answer the Call” concert, which paid tribute to the police officers and firefighters who died on the September 11 attacks. In February 2011, Rihanna was scheduled to perform at a charity concert for the Women’s Cancer Research Fund, but was forced to pull out at the last minute, due to bronchitis.