Rihanna’s building an empire. What of it?

It’s been a year since Rihanna founded Fenty Beauty and the brand is only getting stronger. Adam Lawler celebrates the past and potential future of the empowered beauty powerhouse. “I can’t believe we’re getting Fenty Furniture before Fenty Music”. Last year, who would have thought that this would be something someone would tweet. This widely-echoed sentiment came after Rihanna reportedly said that she’d like to extend her indomitable Fenty brand, which originated with Fenty Beauty, to making furniture. This was met with many long-time Rihanna fans rolling their eyes; she’s really dropping sofas before a new album? She doesn’t owe us any more music, though. 2016’s Anti was a good album and the perfect segue into her next music-less phase. Even before Fenty Beauty, Rihanna had reached a near Goddess-like status on the internet, every move and streetwear look subject to more fervour than Beyoncé, and establishing a brand that promised to deliver Rihanna’s effortless aura to the masses was a logical development. Her other activities, such as tweeting at politicians asking to discuss hot topic issues and humanitarian efforts that earned her Harvard’s Humanitarian Award, are less easy to explain. The fact that she’s receiving a doctorate and was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary of Barbados to be called both Doctor and Her Excellency is wild but only serves to emphasise her global vision. Music is no longer her main priority or even her biggest project. She’s feeding her fans a different kind of meal and educating the more casual observers as she goes. This is exemplified by the fact that so many people expressed their confusion around the brand’s name, as they didn’t know her surname was Fenty. Rihanna’s here to make sure that everyone knows her name before it becomes household.
“Music isn’t her main priority or even her biggest project. She’s feeding her fans a different kind of meal”
At the beginning, Fenty Beauty was a lauded and much-hyped passion product by Rihanna and whose effortless cool and huge shade range left every other beauty company choking on a cloud of pressed powder. It had its finger on the fast-beating pulse of the internet youth and reflected this with its meme-spouting social media accounts and slickly alternative Stunna lipstick shades, including a controversial green sported by SZA earlier this year. Then came Savage x Fenty, the lingerie line that let some fans down when it wasn’t as edgy or raunchy as expected. Since then it’s been accepted as a comfortable set that suits every body type. Rihanna stays winning. Everyone is so behind Rihanna’s wave that only now are the usual trolls noticing models like Slick Woods and making memes out of her unconventional look. They don’t know it’s too late, that Woods was empowered as soon as Rihanna personally chose her for her brand and has been earning her big money for over a year. All this lead to her walking in the recent Savage x Fenty show extremely pregnant, going into labour immediately after walking, and rebuilding her six-pack in two weeks. The women Rihanna chose to represent Fenty are endlessly fierce brand ambassadors, who are young and relatable. It’s endlessly gratifying to see Rihanna and her models front and centre; there’s no hidden committee puppeteering this venture. There isn’t a highly-visible male business partner. This is Rihanna’s show, and it’s so within her brand to let everyone know the extent to which she’s running things. 
“Not since Oprah has a black woman so effectively built a brand so huge, beloved and multi-faceted”
Not since Oprah has a black woman so effectively built a brand so huge, beloved and multi-faceted. Oprah built herself up from nothing, and if she isn’t exactly relatable in her obscene wealth, it’s because the nature of her brand has always been heightened and aspirational. Fenty is aspirational in a different way. Rihanna took a leaf from Oprah’s book and tossed the rest, not out of disrespect, but from an awareness that it needed updating. She’s writing a new version, a manifesto that includes every type of woman and aims to make absolutely everyone feel like a boss bitch, that it’s within their reach; that they can’t be priced out of self-love. Maybe this manifesto will be released, named the Fenty Bible, under her publication imprint, Fenty Books. More power to her if she does.