Growing up on the island of Barbados, a young Robyn Rihanna Fenty couldn’t afford Dior.
Instead, she saved up her pocket money for a whole school year to buy a pair of $100 Timberland boots. To her, these boots were Dior.
Inside her childhood home, diversity was the only thing the 31-year-old ever saw. Her father “is half black, half white”, and her mother “black from South America.” To her, different faces and skin tones were normal.
It’s for these reasons making her cult Fenty Beauty Pro Filt’r Soft Matte Longwear Foundation in 40 shades – now 50 shades – with a mid-range price tag wasn’t a clever marketing ploy, but a reflection of what she knows.
It wasn’t until after launching and seeing how people of colour were emotionally reacting to finally being able to find a foundation for their skin tone that she realised she’d stumbled into “the void in the market,” she told Jeremy O. Harris for The New York Times Style T Magazine earlier this month.
At the time of publishing, Forbes estimates Rihanna’s net worth to be upwards of US $210 million (AU $303 million), with other publications quoting it as being US $260 million (AU $375 million). Because, what’s a casual $50 million here or there, right?
Forbes have also given the Grammy-winning singer a ‘self made score’ of 10 – the scale aims to distinguish those on The Forbes 400 list who were “born with a silver spoon” from those who truly made it own their own, with a one indicating their fortune was completely inherited and 10 signifying a truly self-made millionaire like Rihanna.
So, how did the girl from Barbados become a global multi-million dollar brand?
Rihanna’s music career
As expected, Rihanna earned a lot of her fortune from touring – since releasing her first album ‘Music of the Sun’ in 2005 aged 17, she grossed US $40 million (AU $57 million) from the Last Girl On Earth Tour in 2010, US $90 million (AU $130 million) from the Loud Tour in 2011, and more than US $140 million (AU $202 million) worldwide on her 2013 Diamonds World Tour.
The New York Post also reported a lucrative Samsung sponsorship deal made her an additional US $25 million (AU $36 million) on her 2015 Anti World Tour.
Despite not having toured or released new music since her ‘Anti’ album 2016, Rihanna continues to make around US $70 million (AU $101 million) per year off her back catalogue in royalties and downloads. According to Billboard, Rihanna earned US $7.6 million (AU $11 million) from streaming, US $2.5 million (AU $3.6 million) from sales, and US $10.1 million (AU $14.5 million) in royalties in 2016 alone.
Oh, and she’s also a part-owner of the streaming service Tidal, which is also worth millions.
Rihanna and Fenty Beauty
Celebrity beauty brands aren’t a new thing, but Rihanna managed to cut through with her line, Fenty Beauty, when it launched in Sephora in 2017.
Vogue reports the brand made US $100 million in sales in its first 40 days, and according to research by data platform Slice Intelligence, Fenty Beauty customers spend five times more than the average online cosmetics buyer, putting their spend ahead of what customers are spending on other celebrity cosmetics brands including Kat Von D, Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Beauty and Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics.
It appears the appeal of Rihanna’s celebrity makeup line is a perfect balance of relatability, inclusivity and affordable price points, as well as the fact Fenty Beauty is about more than Rihanna herself. So much so, her first name isn’t a part of the brand.
Speaking to T Magazine about that deliberate decision, she said:
“I used to be afraid to step into the whole celebrity makeup world… it got to a place where [celebrity brands] were so oversaturated in the market that it diluted their personal brands. Every collaboration I did outside of music, I used [my last name] Fenty so that you didn’t have to hear the word “Rihanna” every time you saw something that I did. So Rihanna stayed the music, the person. But these other brands are called Fenty.”
Rihanna and Savage X Fenty
Since launching her Savage X Fenty lingerie brand in May, 2018, Rihanna has made millions from creating underwear for different body types and skin tones.
Much like Fenty Beauty, the entire Savage X Fenty sold out within a month of launching.
In September, 2018, Rihanna closed New York Fashion Week in Brooklyn with a Savage X Fenty show featuring almost 50 women, none of whom looked the same.
Showing her lingerie on bodies that look like the average consumer’s (in Australia, she’s a size 16 woman) was a smart business decision because ultimately, they are the people who are spending their money on the products.
It makes so much sense, you wonder why no one else is doing it…
Rihanna and Fenty, the luxury fashion brand
Rihanna debuted her Fenty ready-to-wear range of women’s and men’s clothing, accessories, sunglasses and jewellery in Paris on May 24, 2019, confirming her partnership with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), a luxury fashion conglomerate of 70 high-end fashion houses including Lous Vuitton and Celine.
Her collaboration with LVMH makes her the first woman in charge of a major luxury fashion house in Paris, as well as the youngest person to do so.
Carrying items up to a French size 46 (an Australian size 18), which is completely unheard of in the high-end fashion world, there’s no doubt Fenty will rake in even more cash to add to Rihanna’s net worth in the coming year.
Pieces are sold online at Fenty.com and start from US $200 up to $1,500.
Rihanna, the personal brand
Throughout her career so far, Rihanna has collaborated and endorsed brands including Armani, River Island, MAC, Dior, Balmain, Gucci, Manolo Blahnik, Louis Vuitton, and Covergirl.
In 2014, PUMA named Rihanna their creative director. Her first sneaker launch with the brand in 2015 sold out in just three hours.
We don’t know exactly how much cash Rihanna has made through her PUMA role, however, we do know that Rihanna made the brand roughly US $975 million (AU $1.4 billion) in sales in 2015, up 17.1 percent from the previous year.
Amongst all of these commitments, Rihanna’s also managed to pick up some work in Hollywood with roles in Battleship, Annie, Home, and most recently, the all-female Ocean’s 8 film.
With everything Rihanna does, from selling out foundation shades to sending a pregnant model down a lingerie runway, it proves building businesses on foundations of diversity and inclusivity isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do.