How Rihanna Became a Billionaire

How Rihanna Became a Billionaire

Robyn Rihanna Fenty—better known to fans worldwide as Rihanna—started her career as a pop star but has since become a CEO, businesswoman, and the wealthiest female musician in the world. As of 2023, Rihanna’s net worth is $1.4 billion. She built her fortune through her Fenty Beauty makeup line, lingerie company Savage X Fenty, and numerous other business ventures and partnerships.

Her Early Music Career

Rihanna was born in Saint Michael Parish on the Caribbean island of Barbados in 1988. She had a difficult childhood, marred by her father’s alcoholism and crack addiction. Rihanna’s big break came in 2003 when she was introduced to American record producer Evan Rogers through mutual friends. Impressed by her voice, Rogers helped Rihanna record a demo tape sent to various record labels. She was signed to Def Jam Records at age 16.

In 2005, 17-year-old Rihanna released her debut studio album, Music of the Sun, which was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It produced two singles: “Pon de Replay” and “If It’s Lovin’ that You Want”, both charted on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Over the next decade, Rihanna would drop seven more hit albums and dominate the music charts:

  • A Girl Like Me (2006)
  • Good Girl Gone Bad (2007)
  • Rated R (2009)
  • Loud (2010)
  • Talk That Talk (2011)
  • Unapologetic (2012)
  • Anti (2016)

Rihanna has sold over 60 million albums and 215 million digital tracks worldwide. She has earned 14 number-one singles and 31 top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her music videos have been viewed over nine billion times on YouTube.

Some of her most popular and acclaimed songs include:

  • “Umbrella”
  • “Don’t Stop the Music”
  • “Only Girl (In the World)”
  • “We Found Love”
  • “Diamonds”
  • “Stay”
  • “Work”

Rihanna has won nine Grammy Awards, 13 American Music Awards, eight People’s Choice Awards, and two BRIT Awards, among many others.

In 2012, she earned her first fashion icon award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She began branching into acting, with roles in films like Battleship (2012) and Ocean’s 8 (2018).

So by 2017, Rihanna was already an incredibly wealthy pop icon worth an estimated $230 million. But she was about to make business moves to catapult her into billionaire status.

The Launch of Fenty Beauty

In 2017, Rihanna partnered with French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) to launch her cosmetics brand, Fenty Beauty. She reportedly owned 15% of the company, while LVMH owned the remaining 85%.

Rihanna envisioned creating an inclusive, diverse makeup line for all skin tones. She debuted Fenty Beauty in September 2017 with an initial collection of 40 foundation shades, vastly exceeding the typical 10-20 shades that most makeup brands launch with.

“Makeup is there for you to have fun with. It should never feel like pressure. It should never feel like a uniform. There are no rules with makeup,” she told reporters at the brand’s launch.

The products, packaging, and marketing campaigns featured models with different skin tones, genders, sizes and backgrounds. The message was clear—Fenty Beauty makeup was for every woman.

The initial collection also included a range of lip glosses, highlighters and contour sticks that quickly won over consumers and beauty influencers. Rihanna promoted the launch relentlessly, communicating directly with fans over social media.

The products sold out repeatedly in the early days. Thanks to viral posts on Instagram and YouTube, items like the Pro Filter Foundation and Killawatt Highlighter became cult favourites.

By the end of 2017, Fenty Beauty was generating over $100 million in annual revenues—a figure that most brands fail to hit after four or five years.

For comparison, Kylie Jenner’s popular Kylie Cosmetics lineup took two years after launch to reach an estimated $100 million in revenues. Fenty Beauty achieved it within weeks.

In 2018, Rihanna continued to expand Fenty Beauty’s product range and global distribution. The brand also won awards, including “Invention of the Year” and “Best Makeup Brand” from Allure, Teen Vogue and Refinery29 editors.

Time Magazine named Fenty Beauty one of the 25 best inventions of 2017, praising its inclusivity.

By 2020, just three years after its launch, Fenty Beauty was valued at $2.8 billion, reportedly bringing in over $550 million in annual revenues. Rihanna’s net worth skyrocketed along with it.

LVMH does not break out Fenty Beauty’s exact sales. However, its latest financial report stated that Fenty Beauty doubled its revenue in 2022 compared to the previous year, thanks to even wider distribution networks and hot new product launches.

Today, Fenty Beauty ships to over 150 countries and is available online and in stores globally, including Sephora, Harvey Nicholls, Boots and more. Some estimate it could soon be making over $3 billion annually as it continues expanding.

Savage X Fenty Lingerie

Shortly after Fenty Beauty took the world by storm, Rihanna set her sights on dominating another industry—lingerie.

In May 2018, she launched her lingerie line called Savage X Fenty with lead investment from private equity firm Marcy Venture Partners. Rihanna reportedly owned 30% equity in the company initially.

The brand was born from Rihanna’s frustrations shopping for the perfect bra. She felt excluded by Victoria’s Secret and wanted to make sexy, affordable lingerie for women of all shapes, sizes and backgrounds.

“I wanted to include women that aren’t usually represented in the media: women of different body types, different races, different ages, different backgrounds,” she explained.

Like Fenty Beauty, the Savage X Fenty product line debuted with an extensive size range, available from XS to 3XL. The marketing imagery and runway shows featured sexy designs modeled by women with diverse body types.

Within weeks, it became clear that Rihanna had another smash-hit brand on her hands. Savage X Fenty’s online revenues soared past expectations.

The company made smart moves like partnering with online lingerie retailer Bare Necessities to expand its e-commerce distribution. It also leveraged Rihanna’s fame and social media following to preview product collections and create buzz.

In 2021, Savage X Fenty moved into physical retail through a collaboration with U.S. mall owner Simon Property Group. The brand opened five retail stores in malls across America, with more locations planned.

According to the company, online sales also continue growing 50 to 200% year-over-year. Savage X Fenty has become one of America’s fastest-growing lingerie labels.

Like her beauty company, Rihanna continues using Savage X Fenty’s marketing and fashion shows to challenge traditional notions of sexy and empower diverse body types.

Women’s Wear Daily reported, “Its positioning as a game-changing brand in the lingerie space has already led sources to speculate that it could one day knock Victoria’s Secret off its perch.”

In February 2023, news broke that Savage X Fenty raised $310 million in fresh funding, valuing the company at over $3 billion. Given Rihanna owns 30% of the business, her stake alone is worth around $1 billion on paper.

Other Endeavors

Aside from Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty, Rihanna has invested her time and money into numerous other business endeavors over the past decade. They have also contributed to her soaring net worth.

2015, for example, Rihanna played a pivotal role in promoting Puma sportswear as the brand’s creative director and global ambassador. She helped design collections of apparel and shoes for the German activewear label under the label “Fenty X Puma”. She worked with them until late 2018.

Between contracts with companies like Puma and Dior, it’s estimated that Rihanna earns millions in annual endorsement and sponsorship deals and uses her fame to promote significant brands.

Rihanna also owns a 30% stake in Jay Z’s music streaming service Tidal, reportedly worth $120 million. She makes money from her extensive music catalog, generating royalties there along with streaming services like Spotify.

The pop icon also earns income from occasional acting roles, executive producing, charitable foundations and more. While smaller than her two blockbuster brands, these other endeavors contribute millions in cash and equity to Rihanna’s wealth.

Rihanna’s Billionaire Milestones

In August 2021, Forbes officially declared Rihanna a billionaire for the first time. Just 12 months later, in 2022, her net worth had grown to $1.4 billion, with Forbes ranking her as the 21st richest self-made woman in America.

  • At 34, she became the youngest self-made female billionaire in U.S. history (edging out Kylie Jenner).

In 2023, billionaire Rihanna made history again by becoming the first Super Bowl halftime performer. She also confirmed she is pregnant with her second child.

As Rihanna passes these financial and cultural milestones, her influence as an entrepreneur and designer grows. Yet she remains intimately involved in running Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty from headquarters in Los Angeles.

While she has not released a new album since 2016, Rihanna’s CEO role leading two tremendously hot brands ensures her star power and wealth accumulation are only getting started.

Key Takeaways From Rihanna’s Wealth Creation

Rihanna’s journey transforming herself from music star to mogul billionaire reveals several vital lessons:

  • Have a Big Vision: Rihanna thought on a grand scale from day one with both companies, determined to disrupt entire industries. She had a bold vision to use marketing, products and passion to create inclusivity and empowerment.
  • Spot Market Gaps: She zeroed in on underserving markets and excluded women of color, plus-size women, and others. Rihanna seized those gaps to unleash products and marketing that broke barriers.
  • Move Swiftly: Both Fenty Beauty and Savage X Fenty shocked the world with rocketing revenues almost immediately after launching. Rihanna didn’t waste time but capitalized fast once products proved popular.
  • Stay Hands-On: Despite her fame, Rihanna has stayed intimately involved in her brands. She attends product development meetings, shoots promos, engages constantly on social media and more. Her personal touch is critical.

Rihanna says she feels most passionate about making women feel confident and assertive everywhere. That passion shines through in her brands—and has amplified her business success dramatically.

“Women are forces of nature. We are strong, but we have doubts. This collection celebrates our strength and gives us the tools to keep the doubts away,” Rihanna says about Savage X Fenty.

And that, in the end, is why Rihanna has triumphed so spectacularly as both an icon and an entrepreneur. She created beauty and lingerie products “by women, for women”. Her passion resonates fiercely with fans, translating into billions in revenue and her mega-fortune.

At just 34, Rihanna is only beginning to make her mark on music, beauty, fashion and culture. Undoubtedly, she will continue breaking records and boundaries as both artist and CEO in the years ahead.

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Mandy B

Founder | Owner | CEO | Creative director | Writer

A dutch entrepreneur

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