Who Is Rihanna?
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, on February 20, 1988, in Barbados, Rihanna signed with Def Jam records at age 16 and in 2005 released her first album Music of the Sun, which sold more than two million copies worldwide. She went on to release more albums and an array of hit songs, including “Unfaithful,” “Umbrella,” “Disturbia,” “Take a Bow,” “Diamonds” and “We Found Love.” A global pop star with an unrelentingly edgy image, Rihanna has also won multiple industry accolades, including Grammys and MTV awards.
Singer Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in St. Michael Parish on the Caribbean island of Barbados. She is the eldest of three children born to Monica Fenty, an accountant, and Ronald Fenty, a warehouse supervisor. Rihanna’s childhood was marred by her father’s struggles with addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine and her parents’ marital problems—they divorced when she was 14 years old.
Rihanna also struggled with crippling headaches for several years during her childhood, a condition she attempted to hide from her friends and classmates so that they would not think she was abnormal. “I never expressed how I felt,” she remembered. “I always kept it in. I would go to school … you would never know there was something wrong with me.”
Move to U.S.
As a teenager, Rihanna turned to singing as a release from her troubles at home. She formed a girl group with two classmates; when they were 15 years old, they scored an audition with music producer Evan Rodgers, who was visiting the island with his Barbadian wife. Rogers was awed by the precociously beautiful and talented Rihanna, to the unfortunate detriment of her two friends. “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist,” he admitted.
Less than a year later, when Rihanna was only 16 years old, she left Barbados to move in with Rogers and his wife in Connecticut and work on recording a demo album. “When I left Barbados, I didn’t look back,” Rihanna recalled. “I wanted to do what I had to do, even if it meant moving to America.”
- Music of the Sun (2005)
- A Girl like Me (2006)
- Good Girl Gone Bad (2007, reissued in 2008 as Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded)
- Rated R (2009)
- Loud (2010)
- Talk That Talk (2011)
- Unapologetic (2012)
- Anti (2016)
Rihanna has also made headlines in her personal life, although often for circumstances beyond her control. She first made gossip column headlines in 2006 when rumors swirled that she was having an affair with her mentor, Jay-Z. Both she and Jay-Z have always dismissed such allegations as ridiculous. “At first I was like, ‘Ha ha, it’s funny,'” Rihanna said. “Now I just ignore it and I’m numb to it. You cannot stop people from saying what they want to say.”
In 2009 Rihanna again made headlines again, becoming the center of a media firestorm after a domestic violence incident in which her then-boyfriend Chris Brown assaulted her before an awards show. The incident sparked a huge public outpouring of support for Rihanna, and she became a spokesperson against domestic violence. “This happened to me,” she said in an interview with Diane Sawyer. “It can happen to anyone.”
Rihanna was later romantically involved with Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, but the pair have since split ways. Since she first appeared on the scene in 2005, this Barbadian pop star has enjoyed a nearly uninterrupted run at the top of the music industry. For years, it has been virtually impossible to listen to the radio or enter a dance club without hearing one of Rihanna’s catchy songs.
But beyond the constant stream of hits, Rihanna has acknowledged that she is still a young woman who has experienced much adversity.”I put my guard up so hard,” she said of the aftermath of her domestic violence incident with Chris Brown in 2009. “I didn’t want people to see me cry. I didn’t want people to feel bad for me. It was a very vulnerable time in my life, and I refused to let that be the image. I wanted them to see me as, ‘I’m fine, I’m tough.’ I put that up until it felt real.”
In 2012 Rihanna appeared to be reconnecting with Brown. The pair worked together on the song “Birthday Cake” released that year. Rihanna also spoke very candidly with Oprah Winfrey about her relationship with Brown that August. She told Winfrey that Brown may have been the love of her life and she has developed “a very close friendship” with him. The two officially dated again for a time, with Rihanna maintaining in a Rolling Stone interview that Brown had changed and that any form of abuse would be unacceptable.