Also Credited As:Rhianna, Robyn Rihanna Fenty
|Robyn Rihanna Fenty on February 20, 1988 in Saint Michael, BB|
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Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on Feb. 20, 1988 in St. Michael, Barbados. She attended top grammar schools and tried to live a normal life on the island where she grew up, but her childhood was influenced by her father's crack cocaine addiction and her parents' unstable marriage that ended when Rihanna was 14. The shy teen found an outlet through singing; even winning a school talent show with her performance of Mariah Carey's ballad, "Hero" (1993). At age 15, she auditioned for veteran music producer Evan Rogers, who was on vacation in Barbados. Rogers immediately arranged an audition with rapper-turned-Def Jam president Jay-Z in New York. Blown away by her unique vocal styling, the music impresario took Rihanna under his wing. In 2005, Rihanna blew up with the single, "Pon de Replay," from her debut album Music of the Sun. Reminiscent of early 1980s new wave classics with an island feel, the single sold more than two million copies worldwide and put Rihanna on the fast track to stardom. Her sophomore album, A Girl Like Me, showcased Rihanna's evolving style that was becoming more urban and sophisticated than her island-inspired debut album. A Girl Like Me earned Rihanna four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year, and spawned the hit single "SOS," which incorporated the drumbeat and bass line of Soft Cell's "Tainted Love." "SOS" was Rihanna's first single to reach the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Rihanna shed her innocent look and sported an edgy bob for the release of her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad (2007), which melded different genres from 1980s pop rock, dance, R&B and hip-hop. It also featured the singer's biggest hit, "Umbrella," a song lush with rock and hip-hop beats up until the chorus, where Rihanna's vocals crescendo along with an exploding bass line, ending with her catchy repetition of the song's title. The album also included the popular dance track "Don't Stop The Music," inspired by a looped sample of Michael Jackson's song "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" (1983). The album brought Rihanna two trophies - Video of the Year and Monster Single of the Year - for the smash "Umbrella" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. In 2008, Rihanna took home a Grammy for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration with Jay-Z for "Umbrella." The pair's awkward reaction before going on stage and while accepting the award reignited rumors of an affair that began circulating in 2007. Both Jay-Z, who was engaged to singer Beyoncé, and his protégé denied those rumors adamantly.
With numerous hit singles, award-winning albums, and several product endorsements including Cover Girl cosmetics under her belt, Rihanna was on top of the world. Her fearless, space-age fashion choices - whether latex leggings, leather pants, bold minis or designer heels - also made Rihanna a style icon. She began dating R&B sensation Chris Brown, and both fell hard and fast. The two enjoyed a seemingly perfect, albeit slightly obsessive, relationship until the morning of Feb. 7, 2009 when he assaulted Rihanna after a pre-Grammy party. According to police reports, officers responded to a 911 call from an unidentified woman who claimed that Brown attacked her. The pair, who was scheduled to perform on the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles the next day, started arguing in their car after Rihanna found text messages from another woman on Brown's phone. The search warrant indicated that Brown tried to force Rihanna out of the car, pushed her head against the passenger window, punched her in the eye, and drove away. It also indicated that Brown steered with one hand while he continued to punch Rihanna with the other, threatening to kill her when they got home. News of the incident spread like wildfire, and while media outlets kept the victim's name confidential, many believed that it was Rihanna. The pop star's name was never mentioned, until The Los Angeles Times decided to run Rihanna's name, even though the police had yet to identify her as the victim. Shortly after, a photograph showing Rihanna with a bruised and bloodied face surfaced online and all hell broke loose.
Amidst death threats against him by fellow rappers and musicians who considered Rihanna a little sister, Brown turned himself in to the Los Angeles Police Department two days after the attack and was released on a $50,000 bail. During the investigation, Rihanna attempted to stay out of the limelight. But after photos of her battered face was leaked online, Rihanna issued a statement to reassure her fans that she was doing fine. In June 2009, Brown pleaded guilty to charges of felony assault, and conveniently escaped jail time. In exchange, he was sentenced to five years of probation, 180 days of community service, and was required to complete a year of domestic violence classes and pay a fine. He was also ordered to stay at least 50 yards away from Rihanna. Brown's guilty plea came before a preliminary hearing was scheduled to start, with Rihanna set to testify against him. Rihanna kept details of the assault private during the investigation. She finally broke her silence in a November 2009 "20/20" (ABC, 1978- ) interview with Diane Sawyer, saying, "He had no soul in his eyes, just blank. He was clearly blacked out. There was no person when I looked at him. All I kept thinking the whole time: When is it going to stop?"
That same month, Rihanna released her fourth studio album, Rated R, which many considered her statement on the attack and her remarkable journey towards recovery. In "Cold Case Love," a futuristic soul ballad co-written by Justin Timberlake, Rihanna sings, "What you did to me was a crime." Empowerment was clearly the driving force behind the album's electric-guitar-soused songs. In "Rockstar 101," Rihanna adamantly announced, "I never play the victim, and in "Rude Boy," a sexy come-on where she devilishly taunts the prowess of her male subject. The critically acclaimed album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard R&B album chart. In the summer of 2010, Rihanna further addressed the issue of domestic violence by lending guest vocals to the Eminem's controversial single "I Love the Lie" which the rapper penned with her in mind. The song, which many women's advocacy groups decried as glorifying beating women, featured a full-voiced Rihanna crooning "Just gonna stand there and watch me burn - but that's alright because I like the way it hurts " In 2011, Rihanna was cast in her first feature film role in the sci-fi flick "Battleship." The film, scheduled to be released a year later, was based on the popular board game.