- Rihanna is one of the most influential artists of this generation.
- She is the most successful artist in the history of Billboard’s Pop Songs Chart.
- The 32-year-old has also made her mark as a humanitarian and entrepreneur.
- Here’s a complete timeline of Rihanna’s biggest achievements and most iconic moments.
At just 32 years old, Rihanna has already achieved icon status.
Over the course of her relatively short career, Rihanna has positioned herself as one of the most influential artists of this generation. She is the most successful artist in the history of Billboard’s Pop Songs Chart – not to mention her already-lasting mark as a humanitarian and entrepreneur.
Here’s a complete timeline of Rihanna’s biggest achievements and most iconic moments.
As a child in Barbados, Rihanna reportedly used music to escape from “anxieties of a violent home life.”
Record producer Evan Rogers met Rihanna in 2003, while he was vacationing in Barbados with his wife. The 15-year-old singer told Rogers that being in the music business was “all I’ve ever wanted to do.” She had no formal training in music or dance, but Rogers remembers her remarkable “presence.”
“It was more likely a much more urgent need to escape from the anxieties of a violent home life into the illusion of security and boundless love that a life onstage seemed to offer,” he told John Seabrook, as recounted in his book “The Song Machine.”
“That desire, more than any inborn talent, is what fans will connect to, and that is what record men look for in a new artist. It’s the one thing they can’t manufacture.”
Rihanna was signed to Jay-Z’s label, Def Jam, in 2005.
In December 2004, Rihanna recorded the Caribbean jam “Pon de Replay” and sent the song off to several record labels.
In early 2005, a then-16-year-old Rihanna flew to New York City to audition for Def Jam’s newly appointed president and CEO,Jay-Z. According to a 2007 interview with The Guardian, she sang a Whitney Houston cover (“For the Love of You”) and two originals, one being “Pon de Replay.”
“I was like, ‘Oh God, he’s right there, I can’t look, I can’t look, I can’t look!'” she told The Guardian. “I remember being extremely quiet. I was very shy. I was cold the entire time. I had butterflies. I’m sitting across from Jay-Z. Like, Jay-Z. I was star-struck.”
“The audition definitely went well,” she continued. “Jay-Z said, ‘There’s only two ways out. Out the door after you sign this deal. Or through this window.’ And we were on the 29th floor. Very flattering.”
Rihanna’s debut single “Pon de Replay” was an immediate hit.
One year later, in May 2006, she scored her first No. 1 single.
“S.O.S.” was the debut single from Rihanna’s sophomore album, “A Girl Like Me.” It reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 three months after its release on Valentine’s Day and maintained its reign for three consecutive weeks.
The game-changing track “Umbrella” was released on March 29, 2007.
As Billboard’s Joe Lynch writes, when “Umbrella (feat. Jay-Z)” dropped, “Rihanna already had two albums and four top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hits under her belt. But for a burgeoning pop icon, she was short just one thing: An instantly iconic pop smash that would prove she was in it for the long game.”
“‘Umbrella’ was that ubiquitous smash,” Lynch writes, “an inescapable hit that hit No. 1, soundtracked the summer of 2017 and introduced Bad Gal RiRi to your mum, dad, grandma, grandpa…basically, anyone with a set of ears.”
She took home her first Grammy in 2008.
Rihanna earned four nominations for the 50th annual Grammy Awards, which was the first time she was recognised by the Recording Academy.
On February 10, 2008, Rihanna and Jay-Z took home the trophy for best rap/sung collaboration. Their smash hit “Umbrella” was also nominated for record of the year, but lost to “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse.
She collaborated with Drake for the first time in 2010.
The steamy track was released as the second single from Rihanna’s fifth studio album on October 26, 2010. It peaked at No. 1 and even earned the duo a Grammy nomination for best rap/sung collaboration. (It lost, but to another Rihanna song: her 2010 collaboration with Kanye West, “All of the Lights”).
“What’s My Name?” is especially notable for marking the beginning of the duo’s beloved creative relationship, which would later yield hit songs like “Take Care” and “Work.”
Rihanna’s fifth studio album “Loud” marked her first Grammy nomination for album of the year.
“Loud” was released on November 12, 2010, and spawned three No. 1 songs: “What’s My Name?,” “Only Girl,” and “S&M.”
“Loud” earned Rihanna her first and, to date, only Grammy nomination for album of the year, the show’s most coveted award. It lost to Adele’s “21.”
She made her big screen debut with “Battleship” in May 2012.
The summer blockbuster “Battleship” was loosely based on the board game of the same name. It was critically panned, but praise-worthy for Rihanna’s big screen debut – for which she was chosen specifically by the film’s director, Peter Berg.
“Her videos are super hot and I’d watched them a lot. It clicked for me though after she got assaulted and she went on Diane Sawyer’s show and talked very frankly about that night and what happened,” Berg told GQ, referring to Rihanna’s 2009 assault by then-boyfriend Chris Brown.
“She was so intelligent and articulate,” he continued. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow. There’s much more to this woman than I’d thought.’ I then saw her do this stupid little skit on ‘Saturday Night Live’ where she was in a classroom giving a hard time to these boys. She was funny as all hell! I knew in that moment that the girl could act. No question.”
In November 2012, “Unapologetic” became Rihanna’s first No. 1 album.
The album’s “stark, shadowy R&B,” wrote Rolling Stone’s Jon Dolan, “is confrontationally honest and sung within an inch of its life, whether she’s turning a strip-club anthem into a declaration of independence (‘Pour It Out’) or pleading at the piano (‘Stay’).”
Rihanna was given the American Music Awards’ first-ever Icon Award in 2013.
After performing the “Unapologetic” hit single “Diamonds,” Rihanna was presented with the first-ever Icon Award by her mother, Monica Braithwaite.
“I know the journey and your career has not always been an easy one,” Braithwaite said, according to Rolling Stone. “But tonight, I applaud and admire you for being so strong and so positive and so humble and so focused. I’m so blessed to be part of this historic moment.”
She received the CFDA Fashion Icon award in 2014.
Rihanna walked the 2014 Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) red carpet in a sparkling, sheer gown and little else. But when asked about the daring fashion choice, she laughed it off in a classic Rihanna style: “Do my t— bother you? They’re covered in Swarovksi crystals, girl!”
Rihanna was named the creative director of Puma in 2014.
As reported by Time, Rihanna was tapped to oversee a women’s line of clothing for Puma, focusing on fitness and training clothes.
“It really came from her,” Adam Petrick, Puma’s global brand and marketing director, told The New York Times. “Though we originally started talking about it in terms of advertising, she wanted to express herself in this way. They said to us, ‘We can change the face of the brand from a product perspective.'” She did not just want to be a “face.”
She was also named a “brand ambassador” for the company, alongside star athletes like Usain Bolt.
The role ultimately led to Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma venture, which has yielded fashion moments like the award-winning suede Creepers, iconic fur sliders, and haute-couture athleisure.
Rihanna dropped her most celebrated album yet, “Anti,” on January 28, 2016.
Rihanna’s eighth studio album “Anti” was surprise-released after three years of anticipation. It was unlike anything the pop star had ever released. It went to No. 1 two weeks after its debut, most likely stalled by a Tidal-exclusive release, and spent 159 weeks on the Billboard Hot 200.
Rolling Stone’s Brittany Spanos called it “a sprawling masterpiece of psychedelic soul” and “a rich full-length statement.”
“After more than a decade as a superstar of the singles chart, Rihanna has become an album artist,” Spanos wrote. “After years as a singer largely defined by her production, it finally feels like Rihanna is in charge of her own sound, remaking pop on her own terms.”
“Anti” was nominated for best urban contemporary album and best recording package at the 2017 Grammy Awards.
The album’s biggest hit, “Work,” was nominated for record of the year. Two of the album’s sleeper hits, “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better,” were nominated for best R&B performance and best R&B song, respectively.
Rihanna’s Grammy nominations that year also included album of the year for her work on Drake’s “Views” and best rap/sung performance for her vocals on Kanye West’s “Famous.” She didn’t leave the ceremony with any awards (and fans will never forget).
Rihanna accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 VMAs.
Before Rihanna accepted the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards – presented by Drake, who also casually confessed his love to her – she performed a medley of her greatest hits, including “Only Girl in the World,” “Rude Boy,” and “B—- Better Have My Money.”
Instead of putting on one career-spanning performance of hits, as per tradition for the award, the pop star gave four such performances over the course of the show.
Rihanna was Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2017.
In March 2017, the Harvard University Foundation gave Rihanna its Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of her dedication to promoting educational programs.
In 2012, Rihanna founded the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, named after her grandparents, for students from Caribbean countries going to college in the United States. She also supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides education access to tens of millions of young students around the world.
In June 2017, Rihanna was photographed smooching a Saudi billionaire.
While Rihanna’s relationship with Saudi businessman Hassan Jameel reportedly ended recently after nearly three years of dating, their carefree outings inspired a cascade of memes that praised Rihanna for “living her best life.”
Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty in September 2017.
Time magazine even listed Fenty Beauty among its best inventions of the year for 2017, in large part thanks to Rihanna’s mission of representation.
“It was important that every woman felt included in this brand,” Rihanna told Time. “We are all so different, with our own unique skin tones, so we started with the 40 foundation shades out the gate.”
“I never could have anticipated the emotional connection that women are having with the products and the brand as a whole. Some are finding their shade of foundation for the first time, getting emotional at the counter,” Rihanna said. “That’s something I will never get over.”
She launched Savage x Fenty in May 2018.
Rihanna channeled the pope at the 2018 Met Gala, for which she was a co-chair.
In one of her more iconic fashion moments, Rihanna attended the 2018 Met Gala in a silver, bedazzled Maison Margiela by John Galliano gown and accompanying robe.
She completed her elaborate look with a Stephen Jones Millinery hat crafted in the style of the pope’s tiara. This headdress is normally reserved for religious ceremonies, which seemed to be a nod to the night’s theme “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion & The Catholic Imagination.”
The complete outfit took 250 hours to sew and 500 hours to hand-embroider.
Rihanna starred in the ensemble film “Ocean’s 8,” released on June 5, 2018.
Rihanna was cast as a hacker named Nine Ball in the heist comedy, which was conceived as an all-female spinoff of the popular “Ocean’s 11” series.