Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados. Her mother, Monica (Braithwaite), is a retired accountant of Black Guyanese background, and her father, Ronald Fenty, is a warehouse supervisor of Black Barbadian and Irish descent. Rihanna has two brothers, Rorrey and Rajad Fenty, and two half-sisters and a half-brother from her father’s side, each born to different mothers from his previous relationships. She grew up in a three-bedroom bungalow in Bridgetown and sold clothes with her father in a stall on the street. Rihanna’s childhood was deeply affected by her father’s addiction to crack cocaine and alcohol which contributed to her parents’ strained marriage. As a child, she went through a lot of CT scans for the excruciating headaches she suffered: “[The doctors] even thought it was a tumor, because it was that intense.” By the time she was fourteen, Rihanna’s parents had divorced and her health began to improve. Rihanna grew up listening to reggae music and began singing at around the age of seven. She attended Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School and Combermere High School, where she studied alongside future England cricketer Chris Jordan and future West Indies cricketer Kraigg Brathwaite. Rihanna was an army cadet in a sub-military programme; the singer-songwriter Shontelle was her drill sergeant. Although she initially wanted to graduate from high school, she chose to pursue a musical career instead.
In 2003, Rihanna formed a musical trio with two of her classmates. She was discovered in her home country Barbados by American record producer Evan Rogers. Without a name or any material, the girl group managed to land an audition with Rogers who commented, “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist”. Rihanna went to Rogers’ hotel room dressed in pink capris, pink shirt, and sneakers where she performed renditions of Destiny’s Child’s “Emotion” and Mariah Carey’s “Hero”. Impressed, Rogers scheduled a second meeting with her mother present, who then invited her to his hometown in the United States to record some demo tapes which could be sent to record labels. She recorded the demo over the next year intermittently, due to Rihanna only being able to record during school holidays. “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time” were two tracks recorded for the demo tape, which were eventually included in her debut album Music of the Sun. In 2004, Rihanna won her high school talent show and the Miss Combermere school beauty pageant, where she was honored in the “Best Gown” and “Most Photogenic” categories. That same year, Rihanna was signed to Rogers’ and Carl Sturken’s production company, Syndicated Rhythm Productions, who assigned her a lawyer and manager, before the completed demo tape were distributed to various record labels around the world in late 2004.
Rihanna’s demo was shipped out to Def Jam Recordings, where Jay Brown, an A&R executive at the record label, was one of the first to hear the demo. Brown played the demo tape for rapper Jay-Z, who had recently been appointed as president and Chief executive officer (CEO) of Def Jam. When Jay Z first heard the track “Pon de Replay”, he felt the song was too big for her, saying “when a song is that big, it’s hard [for a new artist] to come back from. I don’t sign songs, I sign artists”. Despite being skeptical, he invited Rihanna to audition for the label. In early 2005, Rihanna auditioned for Def Jam in New York, where Jay Z introduced her to music mogul Antonio “L.A.” Reid. At the audition, she sang Whitney Houston’s cover of “For the Love of You” (1987), as well as the demo tracks “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time”. Jay-Z was absolutely certain about signing her after she performed her future hit single “Pon de Replay”. His boss L.A. Reid was also impressed with her audition who then looked at Jay Z and told him not to let Rihanna leave the building until the contract was signed. Reid left it to Jay Z and his team to close the deal which resulted in a six-album record deal with Def Jam. She waited in Jay Z’s office till three in the morning to get lawyers to draft up a contract because he wanted to prevent her from signing with another label.
Looking back on the audition and meeting Jay-Z, Rihanna explained that “when we first got there, I was shaking. I had never met a celebrity, and to have to audition for one and meet him at the same time … I was hysterical. But the minute I went in the office, it was totally different. He was so welcoming; the environment was so warm and friendly. The jitters just went away immediately.” Rihanna cancelled other meetings with record labels and relocated from Barbados to the United States to live with Rogers and his wife. During this time, Reid and Jay Z signed another young female artist named Teairra Mari and singer-songwriter Ne-Yo. With most of the attention on the other artist, the record label held a company showcase to introduce their newly signed artist, where Rihanna, Mari, and Ne-Yo were each performing. After the showcase, Beyoncé, who happened to be there with her husband Jay Z, was impressed and commented to L.A. Reid “That Rihanna girl, she’s a beast.”
After signing with Def Jam, Jay Z and his team did the A&R for Rihanna’s debut album and spent the next three months recording and completing her debut album. She worked with different producers to complete her debut studio album, primarily Rogers and his production partner Carl Sturken. With several songs to pick as a lead single, “Pon de Replay” was chosen because it seemed liked the best song suited for a summer release. In May 2005, her debut single, “Pon de Replay”, was released which charted successfully worldwide, peaking in the top five in fifteen countries, including at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart. The song became a big club hit in the United States, peaking at number-one on the Billboard Dance Club Songs and was described as “a poppy piece of dancehall reggae with slapping, syncopated beats recalling big-band jazz” by Rolling Stone. That same month, she appeared on the track “The One” with rapper Memphis Bleek on his fourth studio album 534.
Music of the Sun, was released in August 2005. It debuted at number ten on the Billboard 200 and received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting shipments of over 500,000 units. The album sold over two million copies worldwide. It received mixed reviews; Rolling Stone gave it two and a half out of five stars and described as lacking replay value, ingenuity, and rhythm. Sal Cinquemani of Slant Magazine described the album as a “glut of teen R&B chanteuses” and described her lead single as “a dancehall-pop mixture that owes plenty of its sweat and shimmy to Beyoncé’s “Baby Boy”. She promoted Music of The Sun upon its release, performing at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards pre-show and participating in the KIIS-FM Jingle Ball. A second single, “If It’s Lovin’ that You Want”, was not as successful as its predecessor, but reached the top ten in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand.
Aside from her work in music, Rihanna made her acting debut in a cameo role in the straight-to-DVD film Bring It On: All or Nothing, released in August 2006. A month after the release of her debut album, Rihanna began working on her second studio album. A Girl like Me was released in April 2006. Rolling Stone felt that “the burning rock guitar of “Kisses Don’t Lie” and haunted strings of “Unfaithful” help make “A Girl like Me much more likable.”The album was a commercial success, charting in the top ten in thirteen countries. The album reached number one in Canada and number five in the United Kingdom and United States, where it sold 115,000 copies its first week. The album became her first to be certified platinum by the RIAA, after selling of over 1,000,000 units. Its lead single, “SOS”, was an international success, charting in the top five in eleven countries, including Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The song reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and in Australia, her first to reach this chart position. “Unfaithful”, the album’s second single, reached the top ten in eighteen countries, including number one in Canada and Switzerland. Two more singles were released from the album: “We Ride” and “Break It Off”. The latter featuring Sean Paul, managed to reach the top 10 on the Hot 100. Following the release of the album, Rihanna embarked on her first headlining tour, the Rihanna: Live in Concert Tour.
In early 2007, Rihanna began work on her third studio album Good Girl Gone Bad. With the help of producers Timbaland, Tricky Stewart and Sean Garrett, she embraced a new musical direction through uptempo dance tracks. Released in May 2007, the album charted at number two in Australia and the US and topped the charts in multiple countries, including Brazil, Canada, Ireland, Japan, Russia and the UK. The album received the most positive critical reviews of her first three albums. The lead single, “Umbrella”, topped the charts in thirteen countries and remained number one in the UK for ten consecutive weeks, the longest-running number one single since Wet Wet Wet’s single “Love Is All Around” spent fifteen weeks at the top in 1994. It was Rihanna’s first single to be named one of the best-selling singles worldwide, with sales of over 6.6 million copies. The songs “Shut Up and Drive”, “Hate That I Love You” featuring Ne-Yo, and “Don’t Stop the Music” were also released as singles, with the latter becoming an international hit. In support of the album, she began the Good Girl Gone Bad Tour in September 2007, with 80 shows across the US, Canada, and Europe. Rihanna was nominated for several 2008 Grammy Awards, winning Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Umbrella” alongside Jay-Z.
During the late 2000s, Rihanna began experimenting with pop, dubstep and rock music while shifting her musical style and image away from the Barbados island girl. Throughout 2008, Rihanna performed on the Glow in the Dark Tour alongside Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and N.E.R.D.. Her third studio album’s reissue, Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, was released in June 2008 with three new songs: “Disturbia”, “Take a Bow”, and the Maroon 5 duet “If I Never See Your Face Again”. All three were released as singles and charted highly, reaching peak positions worldwide. In August 2008, Rihanna and a host of other female singers, recorded the charity single “Just Stand Up!”, the theme song to the anti-cancer campaign Stand Up to Cancer. “Live Your Life”, a duet between T.I. and Rihanna, released that November, and topped the Billboard Hot 100. A remix album, Good Girl Gone Bad: The Remixes, was released in January 2009. Good Girl Gone Bad has sold over 2.8 million units in the United States alone, receiving a two-times-platinum certification from the RIAA. It is Rihanna’s best-selling album in the country to date. The album has sold over seven million copies worldwide. By late 2008, Rihanna remained on the charts with her eighth single, “Rehab” and was named “Diva of the Year” by Entertainment Weekly for her “newfound staying power”.
In early 2009, Rihanna began working on her fourth studio album, Rated R. Meanwhile, she collaborated with Jay-Z and Kanye West on “Run This Town”, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached the top ten in ten other countries. Rated R was released in November 2009 with Rolling Stone stating that Rihanna “transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year”. Rated R featured a darker and more foreboding tone than Rihanna’s previous albums. Rated R debuted at number four on the US Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 181,000 copies in the United States, giving Rihanna her highest first-week sales in the US at that time. The album was supported by six singles including “Rude Boy”, which was the biggest worldwide success from the album, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and reaching top ten positions in twenty-two other countries. Rated R: Remixed was released in the spring of 2010 and featured ten tracks remixed by Chew Fu. To promote the album, Rihanna embarked on her second worldwide tour, the Last Girl on Earth Tour. At the 52nd Grammy Awards, “Run This Town” won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
In summer 2010, Rihanna collaborated with rapper Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie”, which was a major worldwide success, reaching number one in over twenty countries. The song was Rihanna’s seventh US number one of her career, making her the female artist with the fifth-most number ones in the chart’s history. Reaching number two, the song became the biggest-selling song of 2010 in the UK, and the first of Rihanna’s singles to sell over one million copies in the country. She also lent her vocals to “All of the Lights”, a single from Kanye West’s album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, alongside John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, and Elton John. In October 2010, Rihanna switched managers, joining Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Management.
Loud, Rihanna’s fifth studio album, was released in November 2010. Its lead single, “Only Girl (In the World)”, reached number one in fifteen countries, including Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The album’s second single, “What’s My Name?”, featuring rapper Drake, also reached number one in the US and UK, making Rihanna the first female solo artist to have five number one singles on the UK Singles Chart in consecutive years. The song reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 before “Only Girl (In the World)”, the first time in the chart’s history that an album’s lead single reached number one after the second. The third single, “S&M”, reached number one on the Hot 100 following the release of its official remix featuring Britney Spears, becoming her tenth number one single, which tied her with Janet Jackson for fourth place among female soloists who have topped the chart. With only four years, eleven months, and two weeks between her first and tenth number one on the chart, Rihanna set a record as the solo artist with the fastest accumulation of ten chart toppers.
At the 53rd Grammy Awards, “Only Girl (In the World)” won the award for Best Dance Recording. “Man Down” and “California King Bed” were released as singles in May 2011 with moderate success. “Cheers (Drink to That)”, which interpolates Avril Lavigne’s 2002 single “I’m with You”, was released as the sixth and final single from the album, reaching the top twenty in the UK and the top ten in the US. To promote the album, Rihanna embarked on her Loud Tour in June 2011, which sold out ten nights at the The O2 Arena in London, the most sold out shows for a female artist in the venue’s history. The tour was the seventh highest grossing tour worldwide of 2011. The final three shows in London were filmed for Rihanna’s second live video album, titled Loud Tour Live at the O2, which was released on December 18, 2012.
Rihanna’s sixth album, Talk That Talk, was released in November 2011. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with sales of 198,000 copies[ and number one in the UK, selling 163,000 copies. The lead single, “We Found Love”, topped charts in twenty-seven countries worldwide, peaking in the top ten in thirty countries and breaking many records worldwide. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for ten non-consecutive weeks, becoming Rihanna’s longest-running number one single and the longest-running number one of 2011. The song was later named the 24th biggest hit of all time on the Billboard Hot 100. “You Da One” and the title track featuring Jay-Z were released as the second and third singles from the album to moderate success, the former reaching the top twenty in the UK and US. “Where Have You Been”, the fifth single, successfully charted worldwide, reaching number five in the US and six in the UK. “Cockiness (Love It)” was released as the album’s sixth and final single in a remixed form featuring rapper ASAP Rocky.
In early 2012, two collaborations featuring Rihanna were released: Coldplay’s “Princess of China” from the album Mylo Xyloto and Drake’s “Take Care” from his album of the same name. In February 2012, Rihanna won her third Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 2012 Grammy Awards, and was voted the Best International Female Solo Artist at the 2012 BRIT Awards for the second consecutive year. March 2012 saw the simultaneous release of collaborations between Rihanna and Chris Brown: remixes of her song “Birthday Cake” and his “Turn Up the Music”. The recordings received mainly negative responses due to the pair’s history of domestic violence. In September 2012, “We Found Love” won the MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year, making Rihanna the first woman to receive the accolade more than once. Rihanna performed at the 2012 NewNowNext Awards along with British singer Neon Hitch.
Rihanna starred as Petty Officer (GM2) Cora Raikes in her first theatrical feature film Battleship, which was released on May 18, 2012. Loosely based on the game of the same name, both the film and Rihanna’s performance received mixed-to-negative reviews; The New York Times said she was “just fine in the rather generic role”. She received a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress and, on a more positive note, a Teen Choice Award. She appeared in Katy Perry: Part of Me, a 3D autobiographical documentary-concert film about her friend Katy Perry. On August 19, 2012, Rihanna appeared in the first episode of the second season of Oprah Winfrey’s American prime time television show Oprah’s Next Chapter. The episode scored the second-highest ratings in the history of the Oprah Winfrey Network.
Rihanna’s seventh studio album, Unapologetic, was released in November 2012. In the United States, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with sales of 238,000, marking Rihanna’s first number one album in the country. In addition, it was the best-selling debut week of her career, besting her fifth studio album Loud (2010). The album was Rihanna’s third consecutive number one album in the United Kingdom and fifth in Switzerland. The lead single from the album, “Diamonds”, reached number one in more than twenty countries worldwide, including on the US Billboard Hot 100, her twelfth number one on the chart which tied her with Madonna and The Supremes as the artists’ with the fourth most number ones on the chart’s history. The album’s second single, “Stay”, featuring Mikky Ekko, reached the top five in over twenty countries, including number three on the Billboard Hot 100. As promotion prior to the album’s release, Rihanna embarked on the 777 Tour, a mini tour of seven shows in seven countries in seven days. A documentary DVD of the tour was later released.
In February 2013 at the 55th Grammy Awards, Rihanna won her sixth Grammy Award, in the category Best Short Form Music Video for “We Found Love” (2011). Also that month, the Official Charts Company announced that Rihanna had sold 3,868,000 records in the past year in the UK alone, ranking at number one in the list of 2013 BRIT Awards artist nominees. Rihanna’s fifth headlining concert tour, the Diamonds World Tour, began in March 2013 in support of Unapologetic. Rihanna appeared in the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg comedy film This Is the End, released in June 2013. That same month, American hip hop artist Wale released a remixed version of his single “Bad” featuring Rihanna.
In October 2013, Eminem released his Rihanna-assisted single, “The Monster”, the fourth release from his eighth studio album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 (2013). With the song entering the UK Singles Chart at number one, Rihanna joined Elvis Presley and The Beatles as just one of three acts to have scored a number one single each year over seven consecutive years in the chart’s history. The song also peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, which marked Rihanna’s thirteenth chart topper, tying her with Michael Jackson for the third most number ones in the chart’s 55-year history. Cher Lloyd performed the song on X-Factor. The song won them a Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards. Rihanna appeared on Shakira’s single, “Can’t Remember to Forget You”, which was released as the first single from Shakira’s album on January 13, 2014. In May 2014, Rihanna left Def Jam to sign fully with Roc Nation, who had managed her career since October 2010. In 2013, Rihanna was originally to be featured on Pitbull’s song “Timber”, which later featured singer Kesha.
News of Rihanna’s work on her eighth studio album began in 2014. In January 2015, she released the single, “FourFiveSeconds”, featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney. Two more singles were released (“Bitch Better Have My Money” and “American Oxygen”), however the singles did not make the final track listing for her eighth studio album. She also released a concept album based around the 3D animated film Home, which she starred in, alongside Jim Parsons, Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez. “Towards the Sun” was released as the first single from the Home soundtrack on February 24. On July 1, 2015 the RIAA announced that Rihanna had surpassed more than 100 million Gold & Platinum song certifications. In doing so Rihanna has the most Digital Single Awards and is the first and only artist to surpass RIAA’s 100 million cumulative singles award threshold. In October 2015, she appeared as a guest on the ninth season of The Voice as the main advisor. That same month, it was announced that she would have a major role in the upcoming Luc Besson film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an adaptation of the comic book series Valérian and Laureline, which is scheduled for a 2017 release. She also inked a $25 million contract with Samsung that would see Rihanna promoting Samsung’s Galaxy line of products whilst Samsung would sponsor the release of Anti and its supporting tour. The Anti World Tour was announced in November 2015 and began in February 2016, with Travis Scott supporting in North America, and The Weeknd and Big Sean supporting at selected European dates.
On January 28, 2016, Rihanna released her eighth studio album Anti exclusively through streaming service Tidal. The following day, a deluxe version of the album, featuring three additional tracks, was also made available for streaming on Apple Music. After debuting at number twenty seven on the US Billboard 200, Anti went on to peak at number one becoming Rihanna’s second number one and the eighth top ten album on the chart. The album was supported by the release of three singles including the lead single “Work” which features rapper Drake, and reached the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Needed Me” which reached number seven. In mid 2016, Rihanna was featured on several singles. The first collaboration was Calvin Harris’ “This Is What You Came For,” which reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the UK single charts. Rihanna was also featured on Drake’s “Too Good” from his album Views and Mike Will Made It’s single, “Nothing Is Promised” which was released as the lead single from his debut album Ransom 2 on June 3, 2016. On June 27, 2016, Rihanna released “Sledgehammer”, the lead single from the Star Trek Beyond soundtrack. On August 28, Rihanna was honored with the MTV Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards.
In August 2016, Rihanna joined the all-female spin-off of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, called Ocean’s Eight directed by Gary Ross, opposite Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway and Awkwafina.