Introduction: Barbados Cinderella
Introduction: Barbados Cinderella
On an island in the sun, a baby entered the world one February day in 1988. Her parents named her Robyn Rihanna Fenty. No one knew then that this newborn would someday become a star. Nor did they realize her sunny island home of Barbados would provide the idea for her first album. But the baby born that February 20 had a date with destiny. A decade and a half later she took the stage name Rihanna, stunned the music world at age sixteen, and became part of a real, live fairy tale.
Rihanna's Cinderella story began on Barbados, a Caribbean island with a warm climate and friendly people. A bit smaller than New York City, Barbados is home to about 300,000 people, unlike New York, which teems with a population of more than 8 million. Islanders are called Barbadians or, more popularly, Bajans. Bajan is also the name of the language, a mixture of British and West African, sometimes called Barbadian Creole.
Proud to be a Bajan, Rihanna has honored her island not only by calling her first album Music of the Sun but also by using a trident as a backdrop for many of her appearances and album covers. The trident is a three-pronged spear for fishing that appears on the flag of Barbados. In turn, the island honored Rihanna. At the first Barbados Music Awards in 2006, she received eight awards. In February 2008 the minister of culture named her “Cultural Ambassador of Barbados.”
The island of Barbados is more than Rihanna's birthplace; it is her heritage and her people. It is where she first learned to sing. She absorbed the island rhythms as she was growing up, and its
beat comes through in her music. She blended the Caribbean influences of soca and reggae music with hip-hop and rhythm and blues to create her own unique sound. This unusual fusion caught the attention of music producers and fans alike. In the summer of 2005 her first release, “Pon de Replay,” showcased reggae “riddims”—Carribean instrumental rhythms—to create a catchy beat that made it a dance hall hit and started her on the road to stardom.
Rihanna's meteoric rise to fame may seem to be magic, but the truth is that Rihanna believed in herself and her dreams. Even more importantly, she worked hard to achieve them. To reach her dreams, she left behind her beloved island, her family, and her friends and moved to another country. She adjusted to a fast-paced life in New York. She worked long hours to produce her albums, perform on tours, and improve her craft. At times, when loneliness and exhaustion tarnished the glitter of stardom, she persevered. She gave it her all as she sang through the pain, much as she had as a young child who sang through the many heartaches of growing up.
Her strong work ethic and drive for success paid off. By 2008 twenty-year-old Rihanna had produced four albums that, between them, had spawned eleven Top 40 hit singles in the United States. All of her albums and many of her songs had gone platinum; some, multiplatinum. She had won countless awards, including a Grammy. Rihanna had achieved her childhood dream: to make music all over the world.
She did not plan to stop with these achievements, however. As she told interviewer Chris Rolls of MP3.com, “I try not to get comfortable at all, because I don't want to be satisfied at any success that I get. To me it's all working harder and trying to strive to get to the next level.”1 Motivated by a philosophy like this, Rihanna's journey has only just begun.