Honestly, Can We Just Let Rihanna Live?

Her fans need to take a seat

Rihanna attends the Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Anniversary Event in Sydney, Australia (Photo: Getty Images)

Oh, she’s rich rich. Forbes released its list of America’s Richest Self-Made Women Under 40  on June 4 and revealed that Rihanna is officially the world’s richest female musician, with a $600 million fortune that beats out living legends like Céline Dion, Madonna and Queen Beyoncé herself. It’s no small feat, but should we really be surprised? The B-tch Better Have My Money” singer has spent the last decade and a half building an empire—first with a successful music career, then with a *very* successful foray in to the world of beauty and fashion, introducing inclusive make-up with her Fenty Beauty line and inclusive sizing with Savage x Fenty lingerie. And in May, Drake’s forever #WCW announced her first luxury line too, Fenty Maison, a brand under LVMH. With the label’s release, Rihanna became the first woman of colour to lead a luxury fashion house.

Her rise to the top of multiple industries hasn’t been without pushback, even from her fans. Since the release of Anti, her latest album in 2016, Riri has been focusing on building her empire in other industries; and increasingly, as she works to highlight our cheekbones and up our lingerie game, fans have been pestering and even demanding the Barbadian beauty release her next album. And what started out as a joke—commenting on Riri’s Fenty Beauty posts and Instagram photos with pleas for a new album—has gone, like many things on the internet, too far, with fans saying they’re “annoyed” at the delayed release and continuously badgering the singer to just bang out some new songs. Riri started out with just a music career, and as she commented in a response to one fan/troll, they’ll never let her forget it—or move past it.

But we’ve seen this kind of fan-demand before—in the Seven Kingdoms, or at least in those who are obsessed with it. In a match-up that we’re pretty sure no one saw coming, it turns out the Rihanna Navy and Game of Thrones fans have *a lot* in common: namely, they’re controlling AF. GoT fans were less than thrilled (myself included) with the most recent and final season of the show to the point where they decided it was time to take the lead, circulating a petition for the writers and actors to re-do the final season. (FYI: that was eight months and $90 million worth of work). In response, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa Stark on the show, told the New York Times it was disrespectful to everyone who’d worked on the show. Kit Harington (who plays Jon Snow) told Esquire in April, after the premier had aired, that critics need to eff off. “I think no matter what anyone thinks about this season—and I don’t mean to sound mean about critics here—but whatever critic spends half an hour writing about this season and makes their negative judgement on it, in my head they can go f-ck themselves,” he said.

And when it comes to being disrespectful, the same can kind of be said for Riri’s fans. Because, like Game of Thrones, it’s bullsh-it that we think we can dictate what Rihanna does—here’s why.

She’s allowed to have diverse interests

While fans may not be wild for the “Wild Thoughts” singer’s foray into realms outside of music, Rihanna herself obviously is—and TBH, that’s all that really matters.

They may not even be aware of it, but fans and trolls alike continuously pestering the multi-hyphenate to get back to music, kind of reeks of some serious “stay in your lane” vibes.

Riri is merely following in the footsteps of *tons* of other pop singers who have built their initial fame off of a music career, before branching off. Look at Jessica Simpson: While initially known for her Christian-good-girl-turned-sexpot looks (with a little bit of early 2000s breathy vocals thrown in), the singer has become well-known for building a billion-dollar fashion empire aimed at the everyday woman. Similarly, Britney Spears has built a non-music empire on more than 20 fragrances. And beyond the upper echelons of pop stardom, there’s actors like Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow who have *almost* become more well known for their lifestyle and wellness brands than their actual acting (although Alba’s Into the Blue was, and always will be, a cinematic masterpiece).

People are allowed to be interested in different things and to evolve, sometimes, beyond those initial interests—whether temporarily or for good. We know Riri will eventually come back to focusing on her music, both because she’s told us *numerous* times while responding to rabid fans and because she’s cheekily posted about recent studio work to her Instagram story: “Behind the scenes of ‘where’s the album?'” So seriously, we need to relax.

To try to box her into always making music (when she may not even be feeling super creative or in to that realm atm) is not only doing a disservice to her and her innumerable talents, but to us—the fans—as well. Do we really want a half-hearted, thrown-together album for an album’s sake like Ariana Grande’s?

She’s actually good at what she is doing

Listening to “Love on the Brain” for the 4,000th time is a small sacrifice for all the good our fave bad gal is doing outside of the music industry right now. Just like GoT‘s Daenerys was hoping to become Queen of the world, our girl Robyn *is* pretty much the Queen of everything (minus Beyoncé). As The Good Place actor Jameela Jamil tweeted, defending the prices of Riri’s luxury line: “All her shit is quality.”

What makes criticisms of Riri’s temporary musical hiatus *so* infuriating though, is the fact that the work she’s doing in the fashion and beauty industry is legitimately groundbreaking. Aside from the big GD deal that is Ms. Robyn becoming the first woman of colour to head a luxury fashion brand, Riri has continuously seen gaps—whether it’s a lack of clothing and feel-good lingerie for curvy women, or a *serious* lack in beauty products for women who don’t have bone-white-china skin—and sought to fill them. She’s building what’s lacking. And in doing so, Rih is making real change in several industries. After the introduction of Fenty Beauty’s more than 40 foundation colours, several other mainstream brands followed suit.

And she’s done it largely in her own way and on her own terms. In a behind-the-scenes Vogue video for the release of her luxury collection, Rihanna commented on how far she’s come, from spokesperson to IRL designer. “I first started off being the endorser of brands and just lending my likeness and face to fashion brands,” she said. “And then I started collaborating with them…[at Puma] I got to design and have people see really what I’m made of as a designer and really respect the work that we did.”

“This is completely different,” she concluded. And she’s right. In many ways, the milestones Queen Ri mentioned were conventional. Like Simpson and Spears, Riri entered the industry as Jay-Z’s protégé, hyping up the island girl vibe and coasting on poppy vocals for the first few years of her career (need we remind you of the “Umbrella”-ella-ella phase?). But in many ways, she used these early milestones as a means to an end, building her celebrity before doing something completely different. Our #WCW is in uncharted territory because no one’s done what Rihanna has done—and maybe that’s why people are so anxious to put her back in place.

When we continuously comment on her accolades and groundbreaking achievements with “great, but where’s the music?” it feels like this trailblazing work isn’t enough. We’re not giving her the space to do the heavy lifting of some pretty stuck-in-their-ways industries—even though she’s shown that she has the will, and more importantly the vision, to create change.

She has the potential to open doors for more people

Rihanna’s success speaks to what can happen when you don’t elevate the same types of people and perpetuate the status quo (*ahem* Taylor Swift); you end up with something completely different and revolutionary. Rihanna isn’t part of the type of machine that churns out cookie-cutter hits and apolitical celebs. Instead, she’s rebuilding her own machine after entering the music industry as a young, seemingly naive, dime-a-dozen ingenue and completely disrupting it. Rihanna is deciding that what was already out there doesn’t serve her or the people in her community, and she’s changing it. And in doing so, she’s paving a new path not only for women like her—women of colour or of diverse body types—but for women as a whole.

While Queen Daenerys may not have ruled the Seven Kingdoms, we think we know one strong woman who’s set to rule it all: Robyn Rihanna Fenty, first of her name, breaker of the status quo, the Queen of rocking tiny sunglasses and snatched waists, Drizzy’s one-that-got-away—and we should seriously let her.


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