Posted on by Tamarin Fountain
Have you ever wondered how some of your favourite stars made it from obscurity, to where they are today?
The Barbadian singer has sold hundreds of millions of records around the world, launched a beauty brand, appeared in films, racked up a formidable net worth and been involved with countless humanitarian causes. But how did Rihanna get famous?
Read on to find out how the talented musician and entrepreneur launched her uber-successful career.
How did Rihanna get famous?
Rihanna’s real name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty. She was discovered by American record producer Evan Rogers. Her career took off quickly and she’s since been signed by Jay-Z’s own record label. But how did Rihanna get famous?
She chose to follow a musical career at an early age and found fame when she was still a young teenager. The star has been internationally famous now for over 14 years. Like many musicians who’ve had long careers, she has a knack for evolving and changing with the times as an artist.
But her interests don’t stop with music. RiRi has her own brand, signature perfume, clothing line and is a passionate supporter of many causes.
Where did Rihanna grow up?
Rihanna’s early years
Born on February 20th 1988 in Barbados, Rihanna grew up listening to Caribbean music such as reggae, as well as American hip hop and R&B. As a child in Bridgetown she helped her father sell clothes on his market stall. Initially, she wanted to graduate from high school (RiRi was a self-described nerd). But she decided to follow a music career instead. She enjoyed singing and won a high school talent show. Later the singer formed a musical trio with two of her classmates. They performed at every possible opportunity, singing covers.
Although the trio had no name and no training they managed to get an audition with record producer Evan Rogers who happened to be in Barbados on holiday. However, it was Rihanna who stood out. The other two girls were soon forgotten when Rogers invited her back for a second meeting, with her mother present. She has since said that this was a really challenging experience. Although it was a huge breakthrough, she felt really bad for her friends.
Who are Rihanna’s parents?
RiRi’s mother is accountant Monica Fenty (Braithwaite is her maiden name), who is Afro-Guyanese. Her father is warehouse supervisor Ronald Fenty, a Barbadian of Irish descent. She has two brothers, Rorrey and Rajad, two half-sisters and a half-brother, via her father.
Her childhood wasn’t easy though. Her parents separated in the mid-1990s, after which she was heavily involved in looking after her younger brother. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper she said:
“My mom was a single mom, so she worked a lot. She was really never home – I mean, she was home, but it would be after work, late at night, so I would take care of him. He was my best friend. He thought I was his mom! So cute… I don’t think he’ll ever be bad, until he’s, like, 19.”
How did Rihanna get discovered?
The move to America
Evan Rogers invited Rihanna to the United States to record some demo tapes to send to record labels. He had been very impressed with her rendition of Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ and Destiny Child’s ‘Emotion’. On seeing her beauty and presence when she first walked in for her audition, he felt it was very clear that Rihanna was meant for music. She began recording demos. But it was a slow process at first, taking about a year. Due to her age, she could only record during the school holidays.
Eventually, after a few visits, Rihanna gained her mother’s permission to move to Connecticut. Here she lived with Evan and his wife while she recorded her first album. Over the next year, and at just sixteen years old, Rihanna recorded tracks for the album. So how did Rihanna get famous?
When did Rihanna get signed?
Signed to a label
A demo was sent to Def Jam Recordings, where it was heard by Jay Brown, an A&R executive. He then played the tape for rapper Jay-Z who had been appointed president and CEO of Def Jam. He was impressed and invited Rihanna to audition for him. Still only seventeen, the teenager sang a Whitney Houston song, and her own demo tracks “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time”. Jay-Z’s boss, music mogul L.A. Reid was equally impressed and they decided to sign her there and then. This resulted in a six-album lucrative record deal and Rihanna relocated from Barbados to the United States.
However, Rihanna left this label in 2014 and acquired the masters to all of her previous recordings. She then signed with her management company, Roc Nation, headed by Jay-Z. More on that later…
Rihanna’s first album
After signing with Def Jam, the next few months were spent recording and completing the album. “Pon de Replay” was selected as a lead single and released in May 2005. It charted in the top five in fifteen countries, including US Billboard Hot 100 and the UK singles chart. It also peaked at No 2 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs. The album, Music of the Sun, sold over 2 million copies worldwide and captured an international audience, making Rihanna a recognized name in the music industry.
What did Rihanna do to become famous?
Wasting no time after the release of her debut album, Rihanna started work on her second studio album “A Girl Like Me”. Released in 2006, it became a commercial success and her first album to be certified platinum. The uptempo lead single “SOS” charted in the top five in eleven countries and reached no.1 on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as no.1 in Australia. The second single from the album gave her a no.1 hit in Canada and Switzerland and reached the top ten in 18 countries.
But the singer has always looked to the next project, rather than bathing in her success. This has helped her career to go from strength to strength. She told The NY Times:
“Only now are things hitting me, like I’m feeling them emotionally. 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.’’
What was Rihanna’s first hit?
Umbrella – and a new image
2007 proved to be a turning point in the popstar’s career. Swapping her innocent teen star look for an edgy bad girl vibe, Rihanna transformed her image into an independent rebellious woman. She adopted a new spiky asymmetrical hairstyle and raunchy stage performances. Her third album “Good Girl Gone Bad” produced the smash hit single Umbrella. The track featured an introductory rap from Jay-Z. Umbrella earned her a Grammy award and put her on the international music map.
The album also featured the singles “Shut Up And Drive” and “Don’t Stop The Music”. Described as a gigantic song with a heart, the massive hit song “Umbrella” went on to break several records and managed to stay at no.1 in the UK Singles Chart for ten weeks.
When did Rihanna become famous?
The album Good Girl Gone Bad with the chart-topping single Umbrella established Rihanna as a global star. From 2009 to 2012, her next albums: Rated R, Loud, Talk That Talk, and Unapologetic mixed pop, R&B and dance, and produced a string of hit singles including Diamonds and We Found Love. Her strong work ethic showcased a new creative control in her eighth album Anti, in 2016, following her departure from Def Jam. The album has since spent five full years on the Billboard 200 and made her a bestselling female artist.
Rihanna’s acting career
In addition to her music career, Rihanna has acted in the movies Battleship, This Is The End, Ocean’s 8, and voiced a main character in the animated adventure film Home. She starred in Guava Island in 2019, which premiered at the Coachella Valley Festival before streaming on Amazon. RiRi had a prominent role in the science fiction film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Plus recurring appearances in season 5 of Bates Motel.
Who has Rihanna collaborated with?
In her album “Anti”, the lead single featured rapper Drake and earned two Grammy nominations. 2017 saw Rihanna as a featured artist on DJ Khaled’s “Wild Thoughts”, scoring another no.1 single. Then in 2010, she recorded a charity song “Stranded” in aid of the Hope for Haiti Now campaign, together with Jay-Z, Bono and The Edge. “Love The Way You Lie” was a collaboration with Eminem, and had major worldwide success, reaching no.1 in over 20 countries.
She also featured on Kanye West’s “All Of The Lights”, Nicki Minaj’s “Fly” and David Guetta’s “Who’s That Chick?” Her long list of collaborations includes Sean Paul, Ne Yo, Maroon 5, Slash, Calvin Harris and Coldplay. Musical giants Paul McCartney and Kanye West teamed up with Rihanna in 2015 for the huge hit “FourFiveSeconds”.
Who is Rihanna signed with now?
Record labels will go far to keep a mega-selling star. In 2012, Roc Nation gave her a customized brand-new Porsche 911 Turbo S, worth in excess of $160,000. In terms of publishing, she’s signed a deal with Sony/ATV for her full catalogue of music – past, present and future.
Is Rihanna dropping a new album in 2021?
Anti, launched in 2016, was RiRi’s last album. But fans have been excited to hear she plans to drop another album this year. Posting on Instagram in February 2020, the singer revealed she was back in the studio. Rumours of an upcoming release were heightened in October 2020, when she was spotted on what appeared to be a ‘shoot’ at the NoMad Hotel NYC. But finding the time and inspiration isn’t always easy, as the singer revealed in an interview with Vogue:
“I have been trying to get back into the studio,” she says, sounding as close to sheepish as Rihanna is capable of sounding. “It’s not like I can lock myself in for an extended amount of time like I had the luxury of doing before. I know I have some very unhappy fans who don’t understand the inside bits of how it works.”
We do know that the new album with be reggae-infused, relating to the singer’s Caribbean roots.
So how did Rihanna get famous? A mixture of luck, incredible talent, hard work and great business acumen. And she continues to get involved with new projects. Lockdown inspired her to create a cookbook made up of the Caribbean recipes she’s been making during quarantine. She has a great attitude, something aspiring musicians can learn from. She offered some sage advice for the future when speaking with NME…
“2021 is a little unknown for everybody and nobody is sure what restrictions there are going to be. My creativity is within my control though, and I want to take my music and my brands to a different level.”
Is Fenty owned by Rihanna?
Fenty is a beauty brand owned by the singer, comprising make-up and skincare products. Designed to be inclusive, it is named after RiRi’s surname (which isn’t used in her music). It previously included the sale of clothing and lingerie, although this side of the business has since been paused.
Did Rihanna and Drake date?
It seemed that the two dated briefly, following Rihanna’s much-publicised relationship with Chris Brown. However, Drake and Rihanna were never officially a ‘couple’. After this, she had a long-term boyfriend, Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel. But they have since broken up.
Does Rihanna have kids?
Rihanna doesn’t have kids, but she is very close to her cousin’s daughter, Majesty, whose fourth birthday party appeared on the singer’s Instagram. Majesty’s mum is Noella Alstrom. Rihanna has spoken about wanting three or four of her own children and says she’s happy to do this without a partner.
Are you a Rihanna fan? Have you covered any of her songs? Let us know and share them in the comments below.