Rihanna turns 30 today! Robyn Rihanna Fenty has come a long way, from ‘Pon de Replay’ and her discovery by Jay Z, to the glory days of her late 20s. RiRi’s discography consists of eight studio albums, seven of which have been certified platinum.
But her global influence goes beyond her music career – compared to her status as a fashion and beauty icon, her music almost seems like a side hustle. That’s not even a jab – it’s a genuine appreciation of the immense success she’s managed to achieve outside of singing.
The Barbadian singer’s impact is global, viral, unique and unapologetic (much like her 2012 album of that name). She is admired by millions of fans, and she has a kind of cultural impact that cannot be emulated by any other star. The thing about Rihanna is that she created a lane, cruised and stayed in it to the point that she’s an icon by the day of her 30th birthday.
With that in mind, here’s a look at 10 moments that make RiRi worthy of all the praise:
1. Umbrella ella ella eh eh
Yes, he was her boss, but a Jay-Z feature in the infancy of your career is an indicator of how far you’ll make it in the industry. ‘Umbrella’ was RiRi’s second no.1 hit and Jay’s third after ‘Heartbreaker’ (1999) and ‘Crazy In Love’ (2003). This is also the hit that introduced us to an edgier side of the Barbadian girl.
2. We Found Love
According to Refinery29, Rihanna was the first female artist to collaborate with house DJ Calvin Harris, when they made 2011’s ‘We Found Love’. It was also Calvin Harris’ first number 1 hit, propelling him to household-name status. The same phenomenon was predicted for Mikky Ekko, who featured on ‘Stay’.
Speaking of ‘Stay’, when Rihanna performed this ballad live for the first time at the 2013 Grammys (after taking home her seventh golden statue), we were exposed to a vulnerable side of her we hadn’t seen since her Chris Brown break-up. This was a testament to how much of a layered artist she is. We were shook.
4. Pon de Replay
Never forget the song that started it all. This song brought Caribbean music to an audience that may otherwise never have explored it. RiRi’s island vibes are also evident in a number of her other smash singles, including ‘Man Down’, ‘Rude Boy’, ‘What’s my Name’ and, most recently, ‘Work’, featuring a very smitten Drake.
This has to be Rihanna’s most successful album yet, still breaking records two years later. Features on Anti include SZA and Travis Scott and a Florence and the Machine sample. With ‘Needed Me’, ‘Same Ol’ Mistakes’, and ‘Kiss it Better’ as leading hits on the album, how could it possibly flop?
6. Fenty Beauty
When Rihanna ventured into the beauty industry in 2017, she not only gave us that glorious Trophy Wife highlighter, but more importantly, she showed the rest of the cosmetics industry what diversity and inclusivity really look like by offering 40 shades of Fenty Beauty foundation. And that ad campaign with Slick Woods, Duckie Thot, Paloma Elesser, and Leomie Anderson just to name a few. Fenty Beauty by Rihanna also made it onto Time’s list of ‘25 best inventions of 2017.’
7. Harvard University Humanitarian Award
The Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations honoured Rihanna with the 2017 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of all her humanitarian work in her home country, Barbados. Watch her acceptance speech, which she opened with a humorous ‘So, I made it to Harvard.’
8. 2014 CFDA Fashion Icon Award
When the ‘Diamonds’ singer wore a sheer Swarovski crystal Adam Selman dress to accept her Fashion Icon award, she created a new iconic moment. This milestone confirmed what we always knew about Rihanna’s image: she invents trends and pushes boundaries in fashion and beauty. You only need to look at Fenty Puma pool slides – and how many brands created their own versions – as an example of her influence.
‘I can compensate for all of my weaknesses with fashion,’ Rihanna said during her CFDA acceptance speech. ‘Fashion should never be frustrating, it should be fun.’
‘As long as I can remember, fashion has been my defence mechanism,’ she said in her relatable acceptance speech.
And now for two of her most memorable Met Gala gowns:
9. Guo Pei – 2015
10. Comme des Garçons – 2017
She’s music. She’s fashion. She’s beauty. She’s a muse. She’s sexual liberation. She’s personality. She’s philanthropy. And absolutely legendaRih. Cheers to 30 more years of our Bajan Princess!