Robyn Rihanna Fenty is yet again the toast of not only Barbados but also the world.
The 31-year-old Barbadian’s meteoric rise to stardom, from an unknown teenager to the wealthiest female musician, is living proof that dreams do come true.
Now comes word that Rihanna’s fortunes are an estimated US$600 million, making her the richest female entertainer in the world.
That puts her ahead of pop icon Madonna whose wealth was listed at US$570 million, Celine Dion at US$450 million and Beyonce who is said to be worth US$400 million.
Rihanna’s story is one that should be forever told, a testament to what can be achieved once you’re willing to put in the hard work.
It’s a story worth summarising here.
It all began in 2003, world acclaimed record producer Evan Rodgers was vacationing in Barbados with his wife when 15-year-old Fenty managed to secure an audition.
While Rodgers was blown away by both her singing and beauty, as John Seabrook describes in his biography The Song Machine, Fenty’s mother was somewhat “low key” about the opportunity.
Fenty, who had no formal training in dance or music, told Rogers during their meeting that being in the music business was “all I’ve ever wanted to do”.
In December the following year, Rihanna recorded the Caribbean jam Pon de Replay and the song was sent off to several record labels.
When the demo reached the Def Jam label it was sent all the way to Jay Z – who himself only recently became the first rapper to accumulate a US$1 billion fortune – the president of the label. Robyn was flown to meet with Jay Z and a few other executives at the label.
Thus a girl from Westbury Road set off to stardom, awards, riches and fame were paved.
In a modern recording career of incredible staying power, everything Rihanna has touched has turned to… platinum, as over the course of the last 15 years, Rihanna has steadily built an empire, first of music, then of fragrances, and now of fashion and lifestyle.
While that fortune was initially built on a career in music which saw her releasing eight studio albums, two compilation albums, two remix albums and 71 singles, the ambitious Barbadian’s ambitions led to her charting new territory.
Rihanna has also featured in several movies, most notably Ocean’s 8, Battleship and Home.
She didn’t stop there either, forming partnerships with Puma, Dior and jewelry line Chopard, just to name a few.
Rihanna also started fashion brand Fenty collections.
But she accomplished her biggest achievement to date when it was announced she would become the first black woman to be in charge of a major luxury fashion house.
Her partnership with LVMH, the French luxury goods giant run by billionaire Bernard Arnault, is largely responsible for her Fenty Beauty line.
The entire operation is worth, conservatively, more than $3 billion. Forbes estimates that LVMH owns an estimated 50 per cent of it, while Rihanna has about a 15 per cent stake.
Along with her numerous financial achievements, Rihanna has also left her mark on the world stage in other areas.
In 2017, she received the Humanitarian Award of the Year from Harvard University, for being a prominent public-spirited leader.
According to Harvard, she was awarded for founding the nonprofit Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program in 2012 for students attending college in the US from Caribbean countries, and supporting the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.
Additionally, the university also recognized her for building a state-of-the-art centre for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Rihanna continues to set blazing trail that leads to her native Barbados, through song, fashion and humanitarian efforts. She is the perfect example for any young Barbadian, but especially to girls and young women that anything can be achieved once you put your mind to it.
Go on, Riri; Barbados is behind you.