We profile one of the biggest stars on the planet ahead of her Yas Island gig
Time Out Dubai staff
She’s one of the planet’s biggest pop stars, with her own perfume, clothing and make-up lines. And she’s performing in the UAE for the second time this October. Style takes a closer look at Rihanna.
This September, Rihanna achieved something not even country star Billy Ray Cyrus or footballer Cristiano Ronaldo could: she made the mullet look cool.
Rocking the new ’do on a trip to London, the world’s biggest music star once again managed to get herself in the newspapers. As well as the new hairstyle, she was papped wearing a lively outfit made up of flags from countries all over the globe and then proceeded to cavort for the cameras with a Vivienne Westwood purse, featuring a rather explicit gold emblem on the front.
How do we know it was a Vivienne Westwood? Because in this modern world of social networking, the job of fashion journalists is made that much easier when popstars tweet to their followers (all 31,666,728 of them, in RiRi’s case). ‘Super impressive!!! Thank you to my Westwood family!! #VivienneWestwoodLondon’.
Twitter has given the world a window into the star’s life that was never possible with celebrities before – and so popular is Rihanna that she’s in the 2014 edition of the Guinness World Records, as the most ‘Liked’ person on Facebook (almost 76 million and counting).
And she’s good value online. Recently she’s tweeted selfies of her and fellow pop star Nicki Minaj at designer Alexander Wang’s New York Fashion Week after-party (and she was spotted wearing Wang’s Spring/Summer 2014 collection just days after its debut, including a piece which didn’t feature on the runways). One minute she’ll be striking raunchy poses with female friends or arguing with tweeters, especially the keyboard warriors who hurl abuse at her from the comfort of their homes. The language she uses would make your mum blush. Scroll through her Twitter feed and it doesn’t take long to form a picture of the real Rihanna: bold, confident and someone who doesn’t give two hoots what anyone thinks of her. A rebel, maybe. Not that the star necessarily sees it that way.
‘I think the term rebellious is a term society has created, for people being themselves,’ she says. ‘That is simply it. A lot of people just aren’t like others and they understand that and they have accepted that, and they are not afraid to be that, and people don’t understand that and that’s why it comes off as rebellious. But to me, it’s just doing things my way, things that I believe in.’
Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born in St Michael, Barbados on February 20 1988. Growing up with her two brothers, she lived a relatively normal life back home, although she was still clearly a star in the making, winning several beauty pageants growing up and performing Mariah Carey’s ‘Hero’ in a school talent show (you can watch her singing it on YouTube). But her life dramatically changed when she was introduced to Evan Rogers, a music producer from New York. Rihanna was flown to the Big Apple to meet Jay Z (who performs in Abu Dhabi in November, the month after Rihanna herself performs in our neighbouring emirate). She was just 16 when she signed her first record deal with Def Jam.
‘I grew up around guys, it was just me and my cousin, we were the only two girls around, my brother is her brother, our cousins, their friends, and we would have to fight too and do the same things they do, but we had to prove our way, and earn our way in, because they hated us hanging out, they felt like we were going to snitch or something, and we just wanted to do what they did. Those guys didn’t want us to do anything,’ she says. ‘But because they were doing it, we wanted to do it, we wanted to climb trees, we did that, so eventually, we started doing everything on our own. Me and my cousin, we would go climb trees and get chased, fall, get chased again, we would do all kinds, we had an adventurous childhood, but it was so awesome. We had a blast.’
The back story to Rihanna’s life, and the controversy which has often followed her over her glittering career, could fill all 88 pages of this issue of Time Out Dubai Style. We could easily go over old ground and dig up the tabloid fodder about her controversial previous relationship with singer Chris Brown, not to mention dissecting her raunchy stage show (which UAE audiences will get to see for the second time in Abu Dhabi on October 19 as part of her Diamonds World Tour). Everyone has an opinion on the star, even fellow singer Katy Perry, who very vocally discussed RiRi’s alternative lifestyle in a US magazine just this September.
But as you’re reading a style bible, we think it’s pertinent to look at what made her one of the most fashionable women on the planet today: one who not only made the pop star cool again, but has a look that fans are desperate to copy (if they can keep up, considering how often and quickly she changes her looks and hairstyles). Rihanna isn’t just music and films (the 2012 clunker Battleship shows that movies are perhaps the only market she’s not had success in): she has her own fragrance, Rogue, which was released on September 13 this year. ‘People are always changing and evolving, and with Rogue I wanted to switch it up to reflect who I am today,’ she said at the launch of her fourth fragrance for women.
She regularly has outfits made for her by costume designer Adam Selman and then there’s her recently launched third clothing collection through River Island and her second MAC make-up collection, also released this month. She’s as much a brand as she is a singer, capable of making or breaking a company or a designer. UK clothes store Topshop was even willing to face her in court after it ran an image of her on one of its T-shirts. It cost the company Dhs18,365,500 when it lost the legal battle.
It’s not the first time millions of dirhams have been associated with her name. Even her legs are reported to be insured for Dhs3,673,099. ‘I get a lot of attention for my legs but I never thought they were particularly outstanding. I thought I just had decent legs. I’ve received a couple of magazine awards for them so I better stop nicking them when I shave,’ she says. ‘One magazine gave me an award called Legs Of A Bronze Goddess and sent me this cute little plaque with legs on it.’
So far we’ve already mentioned Vivienne Westwood, River Island and Topshop, but which designers does Rihanna salute?
‘I love fashion. I love Dolce & Gabbana,’ she adds. ‘And thank God I got a great stylist. I like to try different styles, mix and match especially on stage. It’s just fun.’ She’s also a big fan of shoes. ‘I cannot help it when I go shopping. I always end up at the shoe department and suddenly I’m buying shoes and if I go crazy for a pair I just have to have it in different colours. I cannot resist.’ Even other celebrities copy her look. One member of British pop group Little Mix was recently photographed just weeks after RiRi wearing the same Adidas trail dress.
But no matter how stylish Rihanna is, in October UAE fans will be more concerned with her performance. But fashion is a key part of her show. ‘I have really cool costumes and some sick concepts. I even sat down with a make-up artist to plan what kind of make-up I would be doing to go with the clothes because the way I see it, people always look at your face first,’ she says. ‘My show has a lot of flash but talent to go with it.’
Brand Rihanna is on the rise and the singer believes she’s learnt just as much from the bad times as she has from the good. ‘Throughout your life, every experience builds the person that you are. I’m always evolving,’ she adds. ‘I’m still going to keep growing. Sometimes it makes you just see things for what they are. And you realise what’s important in life. And that’s like a weapon for me. That makes me feel strong.’ Rihanna plays the Du Forum Abu Dhabi, October 19. Tickets Dhs395-Dhs1295. www.thinkflash.ae.