Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in St. Michael Parish on the Caribbean island of Barbados. She is the eldest of three children born to Monica Fenty, an accountant, and Ronald Fenty, a warehouse supervisor. Rihanna’s childhood was marred by her father’s struggles with addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine and her parents’ marital problems—they divorced when she was 14 years old.
As a teenager, Rihanna turned to singing as a release from her troubles at home. She formed a girl group with two classmates; when they were 15 years old, they scored an audition with music producer Evan Rodgers, who was visiting the island with his Barbadian wife. Rogers was awed by the precociously beautiful and phenomenally talented Rihanna, to the unfortunate detriment of her two friends. “The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the other two girls didn’t exist,” he admitted.
She eventually moves to Connecticut to live with Rogers and his wife, while cutting a four-song demo. “When I left Barbados, I didn’t look back,” Rihanna adds. “I wanted to do what I had to do, even it meant moving to America.”
Rihanna’s demo makes its way to Def Jam and the budding star is invited to audition for rapper turned Def Jam president Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter. “I was in the lobby just shaking,” Rihanna, who sings Whitney Houston’s “For the Love of You,” tells Rolling Stone. However, once Rihanna opened her voice to sing she regained her composure. “I remember staring into everybody’s eyes in the room while I was singing, and at that point, I was fearless,” she said. “But the minute I stopped singing, I was like, ‘oh my God, Jay-Z is sitting right in front of me.'”
“I signed her in one day,” Jay-Z adds. “It took me two minutes to see she was a star.” The hip-hop icon was every bit as wowed by Rihanna’s stunning voice and commanding presence as Rogers had been two years earlier, and he signed her on the spot. “We made a little Godfather joke,” Jay-Z remembered. “We said the only way she could leave was through the window.”
Only eight months later, in August 2005, Rihanna released her first single, “Pon de Replay,” a reggae-influenced club track that skyrocketed to No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart and announced Rihanna as the next big up-and-coming pop star. Her first album, Music of the Sun, released later that month, reached No. 10 on the Billboard albums chart and also featured the single “If It’s Lovin’ That You Want.” The Barbados beauty tours with Gwen Stefani to promote her album, which sells more than 2 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone calls the album “a seductive mix of big-voiced R&B and souped-up island riddims – what Beyoncé might have sounded like if she had grown up in the West Indies and skipped the whole Destiny’s Child thing.” Eight months after the release of her debut album, Rihanna releases her sophomore album, A Girl Like Me. The album boasts Billboard Hot 100 chart-toppers “S.O.S.” and “Unfaithful,” and earns her four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year. But the success is paired with gossip that Rihanna is romantically involved with her mentor Jay-Z, who is dating pop star Beyoncé. “At first I was like, ‘Ha ha, it’s funny,'” Rihanna tells the AP. “Now I just ignore it and I’m numb to it…You cannot stop people from saying what they want to say.”
“Unfaithful”, the album’s second single, reached the top ten in eighteen countries, including number one in Canada and Switzerland. “We Ride” and “Break It Off”, the latter featuring Sean Paul, were also released as singles. Following the release of the album, Rihanna embarked on her first headlining tour, the Rihanna: Live in Concert Tour, also performing alongside Jay-Z and Ne-Yo on the Rock Tha Block Tour. In addition, she joined The Pussycat Dolls on their PCD World Tour.
Rihanna follows the likes of Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera when she sheds her innocent image for an edgier look and sound. She releases the single, “Umbrella,” which reaches the top spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in June and kicks off her upcoming third album, Good Girl Gone Bad. “It shows such growth for her as an artist,” Jay-Z tells the AP.” “If you listen to the lyrics to that song, you know the depth and how far she’s come.” After becoming the face of Cover Girl cosmetics, Rihanna appears in PEOPLE’s Most Beautiful issue sans makeup. “The best thing about going without makeup is that it takes a lot less time to get ready,” Rihanna tells PEOPLE. “You feel comfortable and free.” The glowing singer is also listed at No. 8 on Maxim’s Hot 100 and No. 59 on EW’s 100 Stars We Love, among such up-and-comers as Hayden Panettiere and Shia LaBeouf.
Rihanna’s latest disc, Good Girl Gone Bad, debuts at No. 2 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. It features songs produced by Timbaland, cameos by Jay-Z and has a track, “Rehab,” written for her by Justin Timberlake. “‘Good Girl Gone Bad’ was an expression of where I am at this point in my life, where I am in my career. It just represents my rebelliousness,” she tells EW. Rihanna cleans up at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, taking home two of the evening’s most prestigious trophies for her smash hit “Umbrella”: Video of the Year and Monster Single of the Year. The singer was nominated for five awards, including Female Artist of the Year. “Umbrella” topped the Billboard singles chart and earned Rihanna her first Grammy Award for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The album reached No. 2 on the charts and also featured the singles “Don’t Stop the Music” and “Shut Up and Drive.” Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded, released the following year, scored two new further hits in “Disturbia” and “Take a Bow.”
After making a splash with an even shorter do, Rihanna performs “Umbrella” and “Don’t Stop the Music” at the 2008 Grammy Awards. The 19-year-old singer also goes home with her first Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Jay-Z for her hit “Umbrella.” During her acceptance speech, Rihanna says, “Dad, I know I promised you I’d give you my first Grammy, but we’re going to have to fight for this one!” Now a household name, Rihanna appears on the cover of Cosmopolitan, with newfound self-confidence. “A year ago, I would have sat here in my shell with my hands in my lap and been very shy,” she explains to the magazine. “But now, I can be goofy and outgoing.” The Grammy winner also gets to celebrate another single, “Don’t Stop The Music,” heating up the Billboard charts, reaching No. 3 – right behind Chris Brown’s “With You.” Continuing her magazine cover domination, Rihanna appears on the cover of Elle.
In early 2009, Rihanna began working on her fourth studio album, Rated R. Meanwhile, she collaborated with Jay-Z and Kanye West on “Run This Town”, the second single from Jay-Z’s eleventh studio album The Blueprint 3. The song peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached the top ten in ten other countries. Rated R was released in November 2009 with Rolling Stone stating that Rihanna “transformed her sound and made one of the best pop records of the year”. The album’s lead single, “Russian Roulette”, was a commercial success, reaching number one in Norway and Switzerland and making the top ten in sixteen other countries.This was followed by the release of “Hard” with Young Jeezy and “Rude Boy”. The latter was the biggest worldwide success from the album, topping the US Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and reaching top ten positions in twenty-two other countries.Two other singles were released from the album: “Rockstar 101″ with Slash and “Te Amo”. Rated R: Remixed was released in the spring of 2010 and featured ten tracks remixed by Chew Fu. To promote the album, Rihanna embarked on her second worldwide tour, the Last Girl on Earth Tour. At the 52nd Grammy Awards, “Run This Town” won Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration.
In summer 2010, Rihanna collaborated with rapper Eminem on “Love the Way You Lie”, which was a major worldwide success, reaching number one in over twenty countries. The song was Rihanna’s seventh US number one of her career, making her the female artist with the fifth-most number ones in the chart’s history. Reaching number two, the song became the biggest-selling song of 2010 in the UK, and the first of Rihanna’s singles to sell over one million copies in the country. She also lent her vocals to “All of the Lights”, a single from Kanye West’s album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, alongside John Legend, The-Dream, Elly Jackson, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, and Elton John. In October 2010, Rihanna switched managers, joining Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Management.Almost a year after the release of her last effort, Rihanna tops the charts with Loud, which boasts hit singles, “What’s My Name?” and the Grammy-winning dance recording “Only Girl (In the World)”. “What Loud showcases best…is a star undefeated by her worst circumstances – and finding redemption in exactly the kind of pop nirvana that made her famous in the first place,” raves EW of her fifth album, which earns her album of the year and best pop vocal album of the year Grammy nominations in 2011.
Rihanna’s sixth album, Talk That Talk, was released in November 2011. The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 with sales of 198,000 copies and number one in the UK, selling 163,000 copies. The lead single, “We Found Love”, topped charts in twenty-seven countries worldwide, peaking in the top ten in thirty countries and breaking many records worldwide. It topped the Billboard Hot 100 for ten non-consecutive weeks, becoming Rihanna’s longest-running number one single and the longest-running number one of 2011. The song was later named the 24th biggest hit of all time on the Billboard Hot 100. “You Da One” and the titular track featuring Jay-Z were released as the second and third singles from the album to moderate success, the former reaching the top twenty in the UK and US. “Where Have You Been”, the fifth single, successfully charted worldwide, reaching number five in the US and six in the UK. “Cockiness (Love It)” was released as the album’s sixth and final single in a remixed form featuring rapper ASAP Rocky.
Though Rihanna is crowned Esquire‘s Sexiest Woman Alive, the singer alleges that her appeal is entirely unintentional. “At the end of a concert, I don’t feel like I’ve been this sexy thing,” the star demurs. “Really, I don’t even think about it.” Rihanna jumps from the record studio to the silver screen, making her acting debut in the big screen adaptation of the board game Battleship, opposite Taylor Kitsch and Alexander Skarsgard. Despite the star-studded cast, the film opens in second place, grossing $26 million during its first weekend.
Rihanna’s seventh studio album, Unapologetic, was released in November 2012. In the United States, the album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 with sales of 238,000, marking Rihanna’s first number one album in the country. In addition, it was the best-selling debut week of her career, besting her fifth studio album Loud (2010). The album was Rihanna’s third consecutive number one album in the United Kingdom and fifth in Switzerland.
The lead single from the album, “Diamonds”, reached number one in more than twenty countries worldwide, including on the US Billboard Hot 100, her twelfth number one on the chart which tied her with Madonna and The Supremes as the artists’ with the fourth most number ones on the chart’s history.
The album’s second single, “Stay”, featuring Mikky Ekko, reached the top five in over twenty countries, including number three on the Billboard Hot 100. “Pour It Up” was released as the second U.S. single and third overall, reaching number 19 on the Hot 100. An official remix featuring American rappers Young Jeezy, Rick Ross, Juicy J, and T.I. was later distributed. As promotion prior to the album’s release, Rihanna embarked on the 777 Tour, a mini tour of seven shows in seven countries in seven days. A documentary DVD of the tour was later released. In February 2013 at the 55th Grammy Awards, Rihanna won her sixth Grammy Award, in the category Best Short Form Music Video for “We Found Love” (2011).
Known for her wild style, Rihanna made headlines for the sheer dress she wore to the Council of Fashion Designers of America Fashion Awards in June 2014. She was there to receive the CFDA’s Fashion Icon Award and told the crowd that “Fashion has always been my defense mechanism,” according to an Associated Press report. Rihanna acknowledged that there were some rules to fashion, but explained that “rules are meant to be broken.” Around this time, Rihanna made a bold professional move as well. She switched from the Def Jam label to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. On February 25, 2014, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, Jeffrey Katzenberg, announced that Rihanna will release a concept album based around the upcoming 3D animated film Home, which she also stars in alongside Steve Martin and Jennifer Lopez.