In the Spotlight
In the Spotlight
With her Grammy, Rihanna had received the highest honor in the music world. She did not plan to stop there, however. She told one interviewer, “Success for me isn't a destination, it's a journey. Everybody is working to get to the top, but where is the top? It's all about working harder and getting better and moving up and up.”83 She planned to do just that.
Rihanna's string of musical successes, along with six-figure endorsement deals, made her one of the richest teens in the country. People magazine interviewed her—along with Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe, golfer Michelle Wie, and actress-singer Hilary Duff—for its July 23, 2007, issue. The article, which was titled “Young and Rich,” questioned how the wealthiest teens in the world handled money. Rihanna admitted that, although she saves some of her earnings, she also likes to shop. She is careful with money, though, and prefers to buy things that will last or that she will use often. She did confess, however, that she splurges on makeup and shoes, especially her favorite brand, Christian Louboutin. She may drop a lot of money on accessories, but Rihanna does not only spend money on herself or on frivolous purchases. She also puts some of her fortune to work for charity.
Rihanna's income grew as she marketed her records. She also promoted products such as the Miss Bisou clothing line, LG Chocolate phones, Clinique perfume, and Chevrolet vehicles. Although she claimed to have inherited her mother's workaholic tendencies, she worked such long hours that her producers worried about her health. According to Margeaux Watson of Entertainment Weekly:
Fearing that Rihanna might burn out from the pressures and her grueling schedule, Jay-Z urged her to return to Barbados for a vacation…. She followed his advice, but after soaking
When Rihanna won a Grammy, most Bajans were overjoyed that she was putting Barbados on the map. Rihanna often uses a trident—the three-pronged fishing spear on the Barbados flag—on her music covers and in her appearances.
Some islanders, however, criticized Rihanna's dress, her outspokenness to the press, and her attitude. A few said she snubbed them. Evan Rogers, her producer, responded by reminding people that Rihanna was still a teenager and that she was trying to promote the island.
On February 22, 2008, a few weeks after her Grammy win, Minister of Culture Steve Blackett read the following proclamation:
Whereas the Government and the people of Barbados truly acknowledge and celebrate the remarkable achievements of Robyn Rihanna Fenty; And whereas such an accomplishment has brought significant honour and deserving recognition not only to Rihanna but also to her beloved country and has elevated Barbados to the forefront of the entertainment world … the Government of Barbados designates Robyn Rihanna Fenty an honorary Youth and Cultural Ambassador of this country.
Afterward, Rihanna thanked the people of her homeland for their support and told them how proud she was to be a Bajan.
Caribbean Hot 30, “Rihanna Named Cultural Ambassador,” February 25, 2008. www.caribbeanhot30.com/index.php?categoryid=8&p2_articleid=7.
up some rays at the beach and enjoying a few home-cooked meals, she found herself itching to get back into the studio. “That has a lot to do with my youth,” she says. “Younger people are usually very restless and can't keep quiet. But I am also very passionate about what I do.”84
Her tightly packed schedule left little time for relaxation or fun. Dividing her time between her career and personal life was difficult because work took the majority of her hours each day. She estimated that she devoted 99 percent of her time to her career. Even leisure pastimes of listening to music or shopping often connected to her career in some way. In the midst of recording her music, advertising products, and posing for magazine photo shoots, Rihanna also went on tour to attract international attention for her latest album.
Following the release of her earlier albums, she had opened for other singers while on tour. Now she was the star of her own
Good Girl Gone Bad tour. The six-month tour, with its forty scheduled shows, took her to Canada, Europe, and the United States from September 2007 through April 2008. She shared billing with Akon in Canada. In the United Kingdom, Ciara, Caramel Luv, and David Jordan joined her in concert. She also held a free concert in Sofia, Bulgaria. Everywhere she went, excited fans greeted her.
While talking to a reporter following a concert in Serbia, Rihanna admitted that she was bewildered by the turnout. The expected crowd of six thousand people turned into a throng of twenty-four thousand on the night of the concert. Although she had three best-selling albums and songs that had reached number one, she still could not believe that so many people had come to see her. She was stunned that fans were screaming for her, because she still viewed herself as an ordinary girl.
Though she had trouble picturing herself as a star, others did not. In fact, some of the people in Belgrade thought she was spoiled. They complained because Rihanna's people requested the use of a Mercedes and a variety of special foods and snacks for her. In addition, the concert started almost two hours late because the security fence around the stage had cracked from the press of the crowds. Rihanna did not go on until the problem had been fixed, then she cut the concert shorter than anticipated. This led some people to conclude that she was a diva.
U.K. audiences wondered, too, if she were getting arrogant when she canceled three shows in a row in December 2007. Her manager told reporters that she needed to rest her voice. Rather than talking, she had to write notes to people for several days. Even after she returned to her regularly scheduled tour dates, some audience members were annoyed when she was late for concerts. Others said she was performing robotically and not exerting real effort. They wondered if stardom had made her conceited or if overwork had exhausted her. Rihanna later told a reporter, “I just got so sick as I've been going for so long and haven't paced myself properly. My body just gave up and the
Christopher Maurice Brown, born May 5, 1989, grew up in Tappahannock, Virginia. Discovered at age thirteen, Brown went on to work with Jive Records and, by age sixteen, had a number-one single on the U.S. Billboard chart. He credits his father with helping him break into the industry. While working at a gas station, Brown's father met a producer and suggested he listen to his son.
Even after Brown had a recording contract and went on tour, his parents still insisted he do his homework. He left school in 2004 and was homeschooled so he could record his albums. His first album, Chris Brown, went platinum and generated three top-ten singles. The song “Run It!” was included on the album and debuted at number one. His second album, Exclusive, included the number-one hit “Kiss Kiss.”
Brown is also a songwriter (he started at age fourteen), an actor, a dancer, and a music-video director. He has appeared with many other stars, including Rihanna and Jordin Sparks.
Although the press has often linked his name with Rihanna's, Brown insists they are just good friends. Regarding photos of them looking romantic, he once said, “I think we've got the worst luck with pictures.” When asked how he could stop the rumors, Brown quipped, “Be yourself and see as many girls as possible!”
Quoted in Shawn Adler and Tim Kash, “Rihanna, Chris Brown Say It Again: They're ‘Just Friends’—Although ‘We've Got the Worst Luck with Pictures,’” MTV, March 31, 2008. www.mtv.com/news/articles/1584491/20080331/rihanna.jhtml.
doctors ordered me to rest. It was very upsetting letting people down but I feel much better now.”85
In spite of that, as soon as Rihanna felt better she returned to her frantic pace. Def Jam's decision not to release a complete new album in the summer of 2008 allowed her time to recover from her exhaustion and vocal strain. During that time Rihanna recorded three new songs. They hit the market as singles, but they were also added to her previous album, which was then rereleased as Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded. The album came out in June 2008, just as her original album marked its historic fiftysecond week on the Billboard 200 chart.
The first of the three singles to be released, “Take a Bow,” was written by Ne-Yo. In the video a haughty Rihanna informs her boyfriend that she sees through his act. He tries to attract her attention as she drives away, but she ignores him. Later, she burns his clothing on the table. As often happens, the tabloids wondered if the song were based on Rihanna's relationship with Chris Brown. Some suggested that the male actor in the video resembled him. Once again, Rihanna reiterated that she and Brown were only friends.
“Take a Bow” debuted at number fifty-three in May 2008, then jumped fifty-two spots to number one on the Billboard Hot 100—the second-largest leap to number one in Billboard history. The only song to make a greater jump was Maroon 5's “Makes Me Wonder,” which the year before had moved up from number sixty-four. “Take a Bow” became Rihanna's third numberone single. It was her first song to reach number one on the Black Entertainment Television 106 & Park: BET's Top 10 Live video countdown. “Take a Bow” also had high digital sales: It sold 267,000 copies in the first week.
Rihanna made no secret of the fact that she admired Chris Brown, Maroon 5, and Kanye West or that she hoped to work with these artists someday. Her opportunity to team up with each of them came much sooner than she had expected. When she recorded her next releases, she collaborated with two of the three singers on her list.
Her second single, following “Take a Bow,” was a remix of a Maroon 5 song written by group members Adam Levine and James Valentine. They had recorded the original for their second album, It Won't Be Soon Before Long. Although the song was almost complete, Levine wanted to add to it, so he invited Rihanna to join them in the studio. He said he chose Rihanna for her beauty and her talent. Maroon 5 believed she would be the best choice for what they had in mind.
When the group approached her, Rihanna was overjoyed. She had always wanted to work with Maroon 5 because it was one of her favorite groups. She felt honored that the band members asked her to record with them. The performers worked well
together, and both Rihanna and Maroon 5 added the song “If I Never See Your Face Again” to their upcoming albums. Levine was surprised to find that everything came together so quickly, but he believes that “if the magic is there, if the chemistry is there, you don't even have to think about it.”86
The same magnetism was there for both of them. Rihanna and Maroon 5 discovered that the chemistry between them was strong. Levine acknowledged that he often has trouble concentrating when he is in the studio. Having Rihanna there made it even more difficult. Rihanna admitted that she, too, felt the attraction. When a reporter from People magazine asked her to describe Levine, she called him “hot.” The magic continued as they teamed up for the video.
“I don't do a lot of videos where I have so much chemistry with the other artist; this is only my second duet in a video,” Rihanna said at the time. “It's really intense, because you have to work with each other so much. It's new for me, but I'm enjoying it.”87 For Levine, the video was a departure from his usual style. Before he worked with Rihanna on this project, he rarely did any preplanning; instead, he preferred impromptu performances. This time, though, the choreography was scripted, and he found he liked the new method.
If Rihanna felt a spark with Levine, it was nothing compared to the one between her and Chris Brown, at least according to the press. Brown and his team, Graffiti Artizts, had written a song, “Disturbia.” Originally, they planned to record it for the rerelease of Brown's album Exclusive, but Brown decided a female should sing it instead. He offered it to Rihanna. Def Jam wanted to save the song for her 2009 album, but Rihanna recorded it as another summer release. “Disturbia” was a bit different than most of her songs. The music retained the upbeat, rhythmic, dance tempo of many of her earlier releases, but the dark and depressing lyrics exuded the pain of mental anguish.
Interestingly enough, when “Disturbia” came out in June 2008, it debuted higher than any of her previous singles. It
started at number eighteen on the Billboard Hot 100, then moved up to number eleven. “Disturbia” put Rihanna in a class with Janet Jackson and Shania Twain: All three were the only female artists to have six or more Top 40 Hot 100 hits from the same album.
The “Disturbia” collaboration brought something new into Rihanna's life, if the media reports were correct. They claimed the two singers had more than a working relationship. As in the past, if Rihanna appeared with a male in public even once, speculation began about a romantic connection between them. Chris Brown and Rihanna spent quite a bit of time together. Paparazzi followed the couple around and snapped pictures of them at restaurants, out shopping, or at parties.
Some people question why with all Rihanna's money and generosity to various charities, her father, Ronald Fenty, sells toys, perfume, and household items from the trunk of his car. He makes about £250 ($500) a week, whereas Rihanna makes millions each year. He claims he does not want money from her: “The only thing I want is to be a part of her life. I have had her forgiveness, which you can't put a price on, and I would never dream of asking her for a dollar.” He continues:
She kissed me goodbye [after a concert] and I didn't notice her slipping something into my pocket. But when I got to the airport, I pulled out a wad of notes. It brought tears to my eyes. I would never ask her for money, but of course it came in handy. She rings me all the time and tells me she loves me.
That's reward enough for me. Nick Owens, “Rihanna Caught Her Dad Smoking Crack,” Sunday Mirror, February 17, 2008. www.mirror.co.uk/sunday-mirror/2008/02/17/rihanna-caught-her-dad-smoking-crack-98487-20321828/.
When asked about their relationship, Rihanna claimed that he was one of her closest friends because they had a lot in common. They had both started their careers at about the same time. Both of them had been discovered as young teens and had become almost instant successes in the music world. They enjoyed spending time together, but Rihanna and Brown insisted that their relationship was more like brother and sister. Part of their connection, in addition to their close friendship, is their music. Soon after they met, Rihanna indicated that she hoped to sing a duet with Brown at some point. She made it clear that this desire did not mean she was in love with him; instead, it resulted from her love of music.
Rihanna had an opportunity to collaborate with Brown during the Glow in the Dark Tour, which ran from April through August 2008. At some shows Brown performed his remix of “Umbrella,” called “Cinderella,” with Rihanna. Singing with him allowed her to fulfill one of her dreams. On the Glow in the Dark Tour, she also spent time with Kanye West. He had organized the tour and invited Rihanna to join him, Lupe Fiasco, and N.E.R.D.
Concerts were scheduled mainly in North America, although two months of shows were held in Europe. Singers Common and Estelle opened for the tour in the United Kingdom. The American singers developed close relationships as they traveled. By the time the tour was over, they had become like family, so it was hard for them to go their separate ways.
Wrapping up the tour allowed Rihanna to spend more time on other projects. She recorded songs for other performers' albums—for example, “Tears Fall” for Ciara's Fantasy Ride album and a remake of “The Tide Is High” for Kardinal Offishalls' album I Am Not 4 Sale. She fulfilled another dream—becoming an actress—with a role in Mama Black Widow. She also attended fashion shows in Europe that gave her ideas for her own clothing line.
Rihanna had one additional dream that she confided to a reporter from People magazine:
When I was young and I would watch television and I would see all the children suffering, I always said when I grow up I want to help. Not long after, I was in the position where I could help. I started to visit all these children's hospitals and I have a soft spot for kids. I just want to help and make sure they are happy.88
To help children, Rihanna started her own charity in 2006, the Believe Foundation. She conducts fund-raisers and offers concerts for children. The money she collects provides medical assistance and helps needy youngsters. In 2008 she partnered with Def Jam and Escada Moon Sparkle fragrance to sponsor a tour called “A Girl's Night Out.” After the concerts she held meet-and-greet sessions for terminally ill children, during which she signed autographs and had pictures taken with them. In addition to the Believe Foundation, Rihanna has also performed at benefits for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). One of her ad campaigns for Gucci, called “Tattoo Heart,” also provided money for UNICEF.
Children are not the only ones who have benefited from Rihanna's generosity. Lisa Gershowitz Flynn, the mother of two young children, discovered she had leukemia and needed a bone
Founded by Rihanna in 2006, the Believe Foundation is a charity that supports children in need around the world. According to its mission statement:
Believe gives children a chance to not only survive, but thrive in a world where many will never receive the medical attention, school supplies, toys and clothes that they deserve. The foundation is committed to creating change in the lives of our youth by providing educational, financial, social and medical support when and wherever it is needed. Rihanna and the Believe Foundation are committed to helping our children succeed by granting them the tools they need to believe.
After she helped leukemia patient Lisa Gershowitz Flynn, a mother with two children, Rihanna extended her support to the Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei donor center to help it find bone marrow donors. By saving adults, her charity is also helping children, who need their parents.
Some of the other charities Rihanna has supported include Designers Against AIDS, Live Earth (which combats the global climate crisis), Mission Australia (which provides housing for the homeless and jobs for the unemployed), Raising Malawi (which helps orphans in this poor African country), and the Red Cross.
Believe Foundation, 2006. www.believerihanna.com.
marrow transplant to live. Determined to help Flynn, Rihanna contacted the press and began a campaign to find a bone marrow donor for her. More than five thousand people offered to donate bone marrow to Deutsche Knochenmarkspenderdatei, one of the largest donor centers in the world. Two thousand of these volunteers became new donors.
Flynn was overwhelmed. She was amazed that a star as well known as Rihanna would take the time to help others when her own career was so demanding. She publicly expressed her gratitude for the donor match and for the singer's willingness to aid her family. Rihanna responded, “I feel honored to be a part of such an amazing miracle. This blessing has continued to keep me aware of how precious life really is. I will be praying for Lisa and her family as they move into a hopeful future.”89
From the time she was young, Rihanna focused on the future. Hers definitely looks bright. With more album deals in the works, she can continue to make her childhood dream of singing all around the world a reality. “I was born to do it. I eat, sleep, drink, cry, and laugh music. I love music, I have a passion for it and it comforts me.”90
She has had many chances to pursue her aspirations. Along with reaching her own goals, she hopes to inspire others. Rihanna realizes that as a celebrity she can have an impact on many people's lives. She hopes to be a positive influence on those around her. “I always wanted to make a difference in the world. I was always trying to figure out how can I change the world.”91 One way she accomplishes this is by being a role model for the many children who look up to her. As she told one young fan who asked her how to succeed, “Never give up on your dreams!Keep working, stay positive!!!”92 Rihanna's story provides a shining example of how hard work and determination can make dreams come true.