The Caribbean has produced many international stars such as Clive Lloyd, former West Indies Cricket Captain; Dereck Walcott, Nobel Laureate for Literature, Slinger Fransisco aka Might Sparrow calypso king of the world; Bob Marley global reggae superstar; Machel Montano soca extraordinaire, Fresh Prince actor Joseph Marcell and so on.
In spite of these icons that have for many years made us proud, it is arguable that no one from the Caribbean has enjoyed greater global influence and success than Rihanna.
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty to an afro-Guyanese mother and Bajan / Irish farther on February 20th 1988, Rihanna was a naturally gifted model and singer having began sung in a school trio as a teenager at the Combermere High School, Barbados.
A former army cadet, Rihanna got her big break when she met with American record producer Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers; in Barbados in December 2003. She later auditioned for the president and CEO of Def Jam Recordings Jay-Z and industry executive L.A. Reid, performing Whitney Houston’s version of “For the Love of You” as well as the original songs “Pon de Replay” and “The Last Time”.
On the same day of the audition, Rihanna signed a six-album record deal with Def Jam Recordings, later relocating from Barbados to New York to live with Rogers and his wife.
We know what these introductions and auditions have produced; many many awards and accolades. In 2008 Rihanna was bestowed the honourable title Ambassador for Culture and Youth in Barbados which she represented well by assisting the island to attract visitors and foreign investment.
Among her numerous music industry awards, too many to mention in this blog, in April 2012, she placed at number twenty on Time magazine’s list of the ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’. The following month, Forbes ranked her fourth on their Celebrity 100 list, naming her one the world’s most powerful celebrities with earnings of $53 million between May 2011 and May 2012.
She is the most popular person on the social network Facebook, has the fourth most followers on Twitter and is the most-viewed female artist on video-sharing site YouTube, putting her atop Forbes list of ‘Social Networking Superstars’.
Rihanna has broken multiple Guinness World Records, noting titles as the first woman in the UK to have five number one singles in five consecutive years, the singer with most number one singles in a year and the artist with most digital number one singles in the United States.
This Bajan girl has been named the best-selling digital artist of all time in the United States, having sold 58 million singles as a lead artist as of 2012.
This is all fabulous for a young woman who has managed to forge a successful career in music despite the pressures of living with a cocaine addicted father.
There are many who claim she’s not regarded as a full fledged Barbadian (Bajan) because of her mother’s Guyanese heritage, a notion not unbelievable given the long standing and unofficial ill-feeling which is perceived to exist between Guyanese and Bajans.
It is well known that controversy and sex sells and those of us who have been following Rihanna’s career would know there has been lots of controversy and rumours of sex.
Her relationship with Chris Brown has been the central topic in many a rum shop and hair dressers in the Caribbean with the consensus being she’s a fool to still be with him after being abused; but some say that’s what love does to people…while others say it’s the way of the music industry and that she has sold her soul to the devil. There are even those among us who say her fate was set by her father who provide the unhealthy environment she grew accustomed to…Who knows!!?
My view is, we all behave according to our experiences and to a large extent the values we learn from our parents so it’s not our business to judge Rihanna, as it is only she who really knows who she is and what she’s about!