“Rihanna is today’s most fascinating performer, a mysterious amalgam of amiable warmth and glittering charisma. with her keen creative eye for line and color, she has become a fashion icon, like Audrey Hepburn. Yet, she is a tempestuous wild child and international adventuress, like Ava Gardner. Most importantly, as an artist in this over-mechanized age, she bravely draws on deep wells of pure emotion, endearing her to millions of fans worldwide.” This is what American critic Camille Paglia told Elle about Rihanna for its September 2017 issue.
The magazine, itself, referred to the Barbados-born multi-hyphenate business woman, who made her global music debut with "Pon de Replay” in May 2005, as “the coolest woman on the planet—with beauty, talent, attitude, and personal style to spare.” In less than 15 years, Rihanna – born Robyn Rihanna Fenty – has not only won Grammys, Billboard Awards, MTV Music Video Awards, and American Music Awards, among others, and the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon Award, she has infiltrated industries ranging from fashion and luxury (obviously) and debuted a wildly successful beauty collection.
In light of the 30th birthday, here as a look at some of what Rihanna has said over the years about her ambitions in the fashion industry, her red carpet looks, what she wants to symbolize for women, her advice for young girls, and more …
On her career in fashion: I have long-term goals in fashion … I take it seriously. I have a lot of respect for the industry. (Vogue’s Forces of Fashion, October 2017)
On her personal style evolution: It started with bad style, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You live and you learn and you make mistakes. I’m always up for a challenge, and if I don’t get it right the first time or the first hundred thousand times, I keep going. I think really knowing myself, really knowing exactly what my boundaries are. For me, there aren’t many boundaries with fashion, really. I want to do everything and in the most extreme way possible, but [my style evolution] started with me knowing myself and knowing what I want. (Vogue’s Forces of Fashion, October 2017)
On her runway looks: I love when you have to work to wear your outfit. You have to be committed. (Vogue, October 2017).
On being a woman of color in business: When I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals … Everyone’s cool with a young black woman singing, dancing, partying and looking hot. But when it comes time to negotiate, to broker a deal, she is suddenly made aware of her blackness. (Essence, 2015)
On success: Only now are things hitting me, like I’m feeling them emotionally. I used to feel unsafe right in the moment of an accomplishment — I felt the ground fall from under my feet because this could be the end. And even now, while everyone is celebrating, I’m on to the next thing. I don’t want to get lost in this big cushion of success. (New York Times, July 2015).
On her Fenty Beauty collection: I don't think it’s fair to limit [foundation] to one shade or one group shade. I have friends of all races, all skin tones, and I think it's painful to exclude anyone. Women love makeup and they should all be included. (ET, September 2017).
On her advice for young girls: The biggest mistake you can make is to compare yourself with someone else. I hate the pressure that’s being put on us by social media. Young girls don’t know which way to go; they’re still figuring themselves out. And what we’re teaching them through social media is this idea that you have to be perfect. I just reject that at every cost. I only know how to be me, and people thrive when they’re who they’re meant to be. I can only try my best to encourage girls and women to respect their uniqueness and be 100 percent true to themselves. (InStyle, November 2017)
On wanting to empower women: I think women want freedom, they want to be empowered, they want hope, they want love, they want all the things that I want and I’m not afraid to say those things and act on them, and I think that’s why they identify with me. Women want to be fearless and sometimes all it takes is to see that it’s possible. Once you see it can be done, you think “I could do it, too.” That’s all I could ever hope for, to have a positive effect on women. ’Cos women are powerful, powerful beings. But they’re also the most doubtful beings. They’ll never know – we’ll never know – how powerful we are. (Elle UK, February 2015)