Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty grew up on the island of Barbados and at just 16 years old, signed with Def Jam Records. She dropped her first album, Music of the Sun, in 2005 and proved to be an instant superstar, selling over two million copies worldwide on her first go ‘round.
I remember the first time I saw the beauty, who was not yet the “good girl gone bad” we know now. I was 15, dancing in my East Harlem bedroom on a sunny day and a magazine I bought was opened to some random page. There she was. It was “Pon De Replay” Rih and she was beautiful, and I was immediately hypnotized by her presence and glowing skin – so hypnotized that I can still see that exact image in my head today at 25.
Rihanna’s always had that trance effect on people and I believe it’s partly because she’s owned every stage of her life, no matter how ugly, provocative, or beautiful.
She continues to evolve unapologetically, not only in her looks, but in her music. Talent aside, her evolution has been the very core of her success.
Here are 8 tips on reinventing yourself and staying relevant in your respective field, As Told By Rihanna.
1. Be inspired by, and pay homage to, the greats.
Look familiar? From Madonna to Lil Kim, Rihanna is constantly showing love to the women who came before her and inspired her career. While performing her 2015 hit “Bitch Better Have My Money” at the iHeartRadio Music Awards, she rocked the look above, an obvious nod to the Queen Bee. She once told the fashion bible (Vogue) of Kim: “There are a lot of nineties supermodels that I love and I’m inspired by—but Lil’ Kim, for me, she had so many different looks.” Get inspired, then put your spin on it.
2. Try something new and OWN IT.
There are so many looks that Rihanna’s killed that other people wouldn’t look good in – because RiRi owns it like no other. She’s overflowing with confidence, whether her hair is short, braided, weaved, or big and curly. Her look doesn’t just stop at hair and makeup either. Her ‘fit has to fit and so do her shoes, nails, and accessories. Even the music she’s working on has to be just right for the time. When you try something new, completely go for it in as many ways as possible. RiRi doesn’t half-ass anything, not even a clapback.
3. Let your truth manifest itself through your talent. Your story will help people.
If there’s one word to describe our favorite Bajan badass, it’s genuine. Whether she’s feeling generous and humbled or slightly petty, the singer always shows up as exactly who she is in the moment and makes no apologies for it. There’s power in that. She spoke about the industry trying to portray her as something other than who she truly is early on in her career, and how it wasn’t working for her. By her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad, she was a much sexier Rih, with darker, shorter hair and an evolving sound. In 2011, she said of the switch, “I was sick of listening to what everyone else wanted. This is the way I like to look and sound, so I became very rebellious.”
It was the Rated R album that really helped Rihanna and her followers purge, however. “I put everything I’ve wanted to say for the past eight months into my music. The songs are really personal,” Rihanna told Glamour for their 2009 “Women of the Year” issue. Be who you really are and speak your truth – you’ll evolve and inspire others to follow suit.
5. Go with the flow and do what feels right for the time.
Why so serious all the time? Life is about living, so be like Rihanna and go have fun sometimes. As you can see in the photo above, RiRi felt like rocking a pink wig… so, yep, she rocked a pink wig.
7. Collaborate with people who compliment you professionally.
Rihanna’s collaboration game is nothing to play with, and we’re talking music and fashion. Rih is the first Black woman to front a Dior campaign, she’s bringing PUMA back to life, she brought Travi$ Scott in on her latest album ANTI because he could help reflect her current shmood, and we won’t even get started on her and Drake‘s body of work. Your network dictates your net worth. Join forces with like-minded people who understand where you want to go professionally; you’ll grow and get there faster.
8. Don’t be predictable.
The fun in reinventing yourself stems from unpredictability. Stray from your usual. Rihanna once said of herself, “When I am putting looks together, I dare myself to make something work. I always look for the most interesting silhouette or something that’s a little off, but I have to figure it out. I have to make it me. I think that’s the thrill in fashion.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Splash News, Getty
SEE ALSO: 50 Best Photos Of Rihanna Ever