Rihanna: Vanguard of the Decade

Rihanna began the decade with the vibrant and vivacious Loud (2010), her fifth album, and one that’s filled with the bright, fierce energy we’ve come to associate with its creator. Loud was a departure from its predecessor, Rated R, where Rihanna probed darker themes and found release through artistic self-expression.

Yet the start of this decade showed us only a glimpse of Rihanna’s capacity to transcend and transform through her own unique creative vision. As we near the end of the 2010s, we’ve come to know Rihanna as an ever-evolving, multi-hyphenated talent, an icon as bright and distinct as her music, whose artistic aptitudes and business savvy has allowed her to build her legacy.

She’s an adapt collaborator, an inimitable artist,  (think the broad emotional palette of 2016’s Anti), and a tenacious businesswoman.

She’s collaborated with a wide-ranging group of artists, from Jay Z and Shakira, to Paul McCartney and Kevin Parker. On the same album, sometimes on the same song, she can wrap together an even blend of soulful, powerful and raunchy.

As the founder of beauty company Fenty Beauty, lingerie line FENTY X SAVAGE, and a new fashion brand that launched this spring under luxury fashion group LVMH, Rihanna proved her creativity and persistent work ethic know no bounds. She quickly soared to the top as a fashion designer, beauty mogul and business owner, while also redefining the landscape of beauty and fashion: her range of foundations and concealers, for example, is available in more skin tones than even the most established beauty brands.

Nine Grammy Awards, 12 Billboard Music Awards and even six Guinness World Records? Check. An artistic and business drive that accumulated in more than 250 million records sold and a reported $600 million fortune (Forbes named her the world’s wealthiest woman in music in 2019)? Check. A Harvard Humanitarian of the Year award? Check. Roles in top-billing films, like her character Nine Ball in Ocean’s 8? Check. The woman even has her own holiday —  February 22 is known as national “Rihanna Day” in Barbados.

For Rihanna, however, the portrait of a renaissance woman, and a self-made one at that, the iconography of a goddess, the larger-than-life picture of creative success, co-exist peacefully with a more intimate self (the shy, goofy, and funny Rihanna that she has shared with us, graciously, over the past 10 years.)

Throughout the past decade, the word trailblazer and Rihanna have become synonymous. Most significantly, Rihanna’s decade-long journey to create and reinvent herself—the persona, the artist, the icon, the businesswoman—culminated in a complex and self-realized woman who redefines what it means to own power and success, on her own terms.

One-name celebrities and cultural powerhouses are gradually etched in our collective cultural consciousness through private and public feats of reinvention and perseverance. No one proved that more than Rihanna over the last decade.