Rihanna's billion-dollar idea: Opinion

By Mary Fashoyin August 09, 2021
Rihanna onstage during the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City. Rihanna onstage during the 2012 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory in New York City.

NewsAfrica's Mary Fashoyin on how the Barbadian singer tapped into a gap in the market  – and transformed the fashion and cosmetics industries.

Singer, actress, fashion designer and businesswoman Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty is now a billionaire and the world’s richest female musician. 

The Barbadian, 33, officially joined the billionaires’ club on August 4, according to Forbes.

This is not a surprising development given Rihanna has branched out into many industries, including fragrance, beauty and fashion since she bagged an audition, aged 15, with an American record producer, while he was on holiday in her native Barbados.

A professional music career beckoned, and when her first album dropped two years later, in 2005, she became a household name.

Although Rihanna hasn’t released an album since 2016, Forbes named her the world’s richest female musician, with a net worth of $1.7 billion. Most of her fortune, however, stems from the success of her cosmetics empire rather than her chart-topping singles.

She launched her cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, in 2017, which she owns 50 per cent of with the French luxury conglomerate LVMH. It included a revolutionary 40 shades of her Pro Filt'r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation.

This was a significant step forward for the beauty industry, as many women, particularly black women, are limited in their foundation shade options. After more than a year, the singer expanded the range to 50 shades and introduced a complementary concealer in 50 shades, too.

Before Fenty Beauty, ‘a lot of women felt there were no lines out there that catered to their skin tone,’ explained Shannon Coyne, co-founder of consumer products consultancy Bluestock Advisors.

‘It was light, medium, medium dark, dark… We all know that’s not reality. She was one of the first brands that came out and said, “I want to speak to all of those different people.”’

Fenty Beauty embodies modern millennial woman in the most unapologetic, disruptive way. Rihanna’s release of so many shades has helped women, particularly those with darker complexions, feel more confident in their skin. 

It was a game changer for the girls who thought their skin was too dark to find the perfect match.

Other beauty companies have begun to better cater to black women and expand their product offerings, thanks to brands like Fenty leading the way. 

We all want to feel beautiful in our skin, but how could we do so if the ‘beauty industry’ didn’t cater to us? That’s the change Rihanna made. 

And she didn’t stop there. Rihanna launched her lingerie line Savage x Fenty in 2018, of which she owns a 30 per cent stake.

In an interview with Vogue, she said Savage was ‘about taking complete ownership of how you feel and the choices you make. Basically, making sure everybody knows the ball is in your court.’

Many lingerie companies cater to women with smaller busts only. They definitely do not cater to plus-size women. But, again, Rihanna tore up that rulebook, making sexy lingerie for women of all shapes and sizes.

Always challenging the beauty standards, she even went so far as to launch her fashion show with models of various skin tones and body shapes, ranging in size from XS to 2XL, displaying how her lingerie looks on women that aren’t your typical catwalk models.

‘I’m not built like a Victoria’s Secret girl,’ she told Vogue.

‘I still feel very beautiful and confident in my lingerie… I mean, I know when I’m having a fat day and when I’ve lost weight… I accept all of the bodies.’

Clearly, Rihanna’s billion-dollar-plus fortune was made by tapping into an overlooked market – and in the process she’s helped change the fashion and beauty industries’ mindsets.

The Barbadian will always be most famous for her music, but she will also be remembered for her impact on the beauty and fashion industries, in which she gave voice to women who had previously been ignored. Regardless of how dark her skin is, any woman can now walk into a store and find her shades.

Regardless of her size, any woman can walk into a store and find the perfect lingerie, thanks to the self-made billionaire Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty.

Mary is NewsAfrica’s Marketing Assistant.