Why Rihanna Becoming A Billionaire is Really, Really Important Right Now:
Let’s talk about this…
It’s Thursday the 5th of August. I wake up to my phone beeping because I stupidly decided last night that I would wake up at 5am to have a productive day. To make matters worse, I can’t roll over and go back to sleep because I’m too awake. Condemned to stay awake at 5am, I unlock the source of my problems to see Instagram going crazy about a recent Forbes publication.
Rihanna is now a billionaire worth 1.7 billion dollars, making her the wealthiest female musician in the world and the second richest entertainer second to Oprah.
My response? A prompt ‘huh’ and then to keep scrolling until Complex overdid it with the posts and so I put my phone away and will myself to fall back asleep.
Now, let me be clear that this is not a dig at Rihanna. It’s a reflection that 5am me could find out that my girl Rihanna literally pulled herself out of debt and into billionaire status and I will still not care because I want to go back to sleep.
However, now that I’m wide awake and able to think, there are some things we need to consider. First and foremost that every single report talking about this mentions the same thing; Barbados-born, money isn’t linked to music but her beauty and lingerie brands that came out of a joint venture with LVMH, the amount of shares Rihanna has in said companies and finally, she hasn’t released an album since 2016’s ANTI. As Washington Post succinctly put it, “Forbes attributed $1.4 billion of Rihanna’s wealth to the success of the Fenty Beauty brand, of which she owns 50 percent, and the rest to her Savage X Fenty lingerie company and earnings from her career in music and film.”
There is not a single mention of the fact that in 2014, Rihanna finally settled a multi-million dollar law-suit. In 2012, Peter Gounis was sued for mishandling her finances to the point of Rihanna losing millions through unfixed taxes, real estate loses (at his advice) and royalty payments. Moreover, her Last Girl On Earth Tour didn’t actually turn over a profit. So it all makes sense that 2015’s song was ‘Bitch Better Have My Money.’
Albeit it’s not the ‘rags to riches’ Oprah Winfrey-esque ‘I-was-born-in-extreme-poverty-and-look-at-me-now’ story that the media loves to construe… credit is still owed to the fact that after releasing ANTI in 2016, Rihanna started Fenty in 2017. A beauty company that, in its first few weeks, earned approximately $100 million. Another, more unquantifiable stat about Fenty Beauty is the ‘Fenty Effect’ which had other beauty companies realising just how and why Fenty Beauty was making so much money; it catered to every single skin colour. Alas, we saw every other beauty company come out with ‘inclusive shades.’ Therein, we have both the money and the influence.
Currently, Forbes estimates that Fenty Beauty alone is worth around $2.8 billion and that’s not counting SAVAGExFenty or her recent film appearances. And, oh yeah, her music. I mean, this is Rihanna. If you Google her, what comes up is ‘Barbadian singer.’ So maybe it makes sense why, no matter what Rihanna does, we’re all going to keep coming back to her music. Which, by the way, she herself does to, explaining in a 2019 interview: “I used to be in the studio, only the studio, for three months straight, and an album would come out,” Rihanna explains. “Now, it’s like a carousel. I do fashion one day, lingerie the next, beauty the next, then music the next. It’s like having a bunch of kids, and you need to take care of them all.”
So she is taking care of her music. It’s just that beauty is taking such good care of itself that it just so happens that she made her money off make-up and skin care as opposed to music. Even though we mustn’t forget to give credit where credit is due; she did use to release about an album a year.
However, without going into the what ifs about had Rihanna had a better accountant, would news outlets not need to so heavily specify where she got her money from… we can just instead understand that beauty conglomerates are nowadays trading at “7.5 (or more) times annual revenues” (Forbes). So for someone like Rihanna to have a beauty company that is firstly, Rihanna’s and secondly, an actually decent company that sells product for everyone, its not surprising that after its first full calendar year in 2018, Fenty brought in “$550 million in annual revenues, according to LVMH” (Forbes) which surpassed other celebrity-founded brands.
One thing that I am surprised about is that only once has there been a reference to other celebrities with make-up lines. The Kardashian-Jenner clan were mentioned in passing, alongside Jessica Alba, in the Forbes article which spoke about Fenty’s beginning in 2018. Aside from that, there has been nothing else, no subtle mention to a certain Other who has also become a billionaire via cosmetic company. And so whilst it’s painstaking that I feel that I’m going to have to be the one to make that, well, obvious comparison, to Kylie Jenner.
That’s not to say that there haven’t be subtle slights. Many forget that Rihanna had actually been losing money from her ANTI tour, something that even the likes of Kendrick Lamar referred to in his own music. Therein, whilst she was still Rihanna, a rags to riches story can still, somewhat, be constructed. For example, Forbes’ own article has the line; “While Barbados-born Rihanna isn’t the only celebrity to capitalize on her social media presence — she has 101 million followers on Instagram and 102.5 million on Twitter — to build a beauty brand, she is the most successful beauty entrepreneur to do so.” It’s interesting to read that considering Forbes were the ones to announce Jenner’s ‘self-made billionaire’ status… and begin the whole internet debacle of whether or not that was true.
I mean, even the Dictionary got involved.
Which is why I giggle since everyone’s so picky about the word choice. There is not even a whiff of the word ‘self-made.’ Even though I feel that is more applicable to this situation than before.
Both Jenner and Rihanna started out young and had influence from their work as an ‘entertainer’ but what about hardship? What about independence. People were confused as to what was ‘Fenty’ — not realising it was Rihanna’s actual last name. And Kylie Cosmetics was one such beauty conglomerate that underwent the ‘Fenty Effect.’ However, this is not to put down Kylie Jenner so much as to highlight why it is so important to talk about how Rihanna is a billionaire. Yes, she had credit to her name prior to starting Fenty Beauty of SAVAGExFenty… but that isn’t to say that she has not kept working hard for her work to stand for itself. Generally speaking, when a person hits billionaire status, we know why they’re a billionaire; Bezos has Amazon, Musk has Tesla (and dating Grimes, apparently) and Jenner has Kylie Cosmetics. Yet, we all knew still had some awareness as to who Kylie Jenner was before she had even launched her company. She was starring on a popular reality TV show and therefore had, as the kids say, ‘pull.’
And now you have Rihanna who, to this day, I haven’t yet met someone who somewhat dislikes her. At 33, she already has an impressive discography, a promising filmography and has a prominent presence in beauty and fashion. She was dating a billionaire… until she dumped him for finding him “boring.”
Recently, A$AP Rocky has come forth, loudly proclaiming that she’s “the One” and Rihanna’s response has been a shrug of the shoulders as she keeps hustling. No longer will she allow the significance of her hard work to be over shone by a man proclaiming his love for her.
AKA — Drake and the 2016 MTV Music Video Awards.
Hence, Rihanna’s status of ‘billionaire’ is really, really important right now for a few reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that you can change. Rihanna in 2012 is not what Rihanna is today and that is through her constant work ethic and hustle to keep on growing. One need to only look at what her companies are producing to know that the money she made is not largely based on name.
It also shows that risk taking is necessary; how many celebrity beauty brands were around in 2017? No one really was asking for another one and yet here came Fenty Beauty to change the game.
Finally, it shows that you can successfully not just be one thing. Yes, she is a singer but it’s been how many years since she’s done just that? Her making money from what she is not known for exemplifies that you don’t have to be knuckled down to one thing, to stick to only one passion.
In short; go Rihanna. Her inspirations lead her to becoming one also.