While New York City music producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken were relaxing on vacation in Barbados in 2003, they generously agreed to disrupt their much-needed R & R to meet and listen to a 15-year old Barbadian girl who had big dreams of becoming a professional singer. Accustomed to being bombarded with similar requests on a regular basis, it would have been very easy for them to politely decline. But they didn’t. They agreed to give the youngster a chance. Her name was Robyn Rihanna Fenty.
Advised to drop Robyn and Fenty from her stage name, Rihanna was soon snapped up by Jay-Z for Def Jam Records. Within two years, her debut song, Pon de Replay, reached the Top 5 in the charts of twelve different countries. Since then, Rihanna has become a global icon as one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Along the way, she has notched up 8 Grammy Awards, 14 Billboard Awards and countless other music accolades. Rihanna has also starred in Hollywood movies, developed and produced TV shows, earned a Fashion Icon Lifetime Achievement Award, amassed a multi-million-dollar business empire, and been acclaimed as one of the world’s most influential people.
With 80 million Facebook fans, 57 million Twitter and 35 million Instagram followers, Rihanna has put her monumental influence to productive use by supporting good causes and promoting her own philanthropic efforts, which started in 2006 with the launch of the Believe Foundation to help terminally-ill children. Since then she has greatly expanded her endeavours, mainly assisting charities that focus on disaster relief, AIDS and environmental issues. After establishing the Clara Lionel Foundation in memory of her grandmother in 2012, she donated $1.75 million to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown. In 2017, Rihanna was honoured by Harvard University with their Humanitarian of the Year Award in recognition of her outstanding work as Ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education. The Government of Barbados has since appointed Rihanna as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, with responsibility for promoting education, tourism and investment for the island.
But for a young Barbadian girl from a humble background, perhaps Rihanna’s biggest achievement has been to launch her own fashion label, FENTY, with the world-renowned French luxury goods group LVMH, an acronym for Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, which also includes Christian Dior and Givenchy. In doing so, not only has Rihanna introduced the first new label since 1987, she is also the first woman of colour to lead a house under LVMH and the first ever woman to create an original brand for the group. Rihanna’s substantive role at FENTY is CEO and Artistic Director, and she undertakes her responsibilities with the same dynamic purpose and energy that she puts into her music. In the words of Bernard Arnault, Chairman and CEO of LVMH:
“Everybody knows Rihanna as a wonderful singer, but through our partnership at FENTY Beauty, I discovered a true entrepreneur, a real CEO and a terrific leader.”
Robyn Rihanna Fenty is also a proud Barbadian woman. And Barbados is proud of her.