Last week, Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation donated $5 million to support COVID-19 relief efforts. A few days later, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thanked her on Twitter for donating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to New York State. Today there’s been another announcement:
This is Rihanna, the leader. This is Rihanna backing up her own words. #PullUp is what she said last month at the NAACP Image Awards during her President’s Awards acceptance speech: “Tell your friends to PULL UP”.
So she did. I’m reading this to mean that she asked Jay-Z to pull up, and now here we have two of the biggest names in music coming together to help the most vulnerable: “undocumented workers, the incarcerated, homeless and elderly populations, and children of frontline healthcare workers in (New York and LA) amid the pandemic”. Which means that she can step to her peers and be able to say to them… I pulled up, when are you about to pull up? And I don’t mean in your yacht.
Rihanna covers the May issue of British Vogue. Most of the headlines today have been about parenthood. If you focus on that though, you miss the details about how she manages her empire – and it IS an empire. I particularly love the paragraph where she and her manager, Jay Brown, check in on the “digital monitor that measures her reach in real time. Imagine the wall-mounted terminals financial traders use to gauge the markets, only this is the market of Riri. According to Brown’s data, in the past seven days her social media following has grown by 0.1 per cent, taking it to 339.7 million, while her Twitter, Instagram and Facebook mentions sit at 734,000, meaning 2.9 billion accounts worldwide currently have eyes on Rihanna”.
Yes, Rihanna Inc is paying attention to all of that. It’s part of the work now, after all. The key is to give it value without letting it consume you. To have an emotional distance from it, as Rihanna clearly does, or is trying to. Because it IS 100% an asset. It is a critical asset. You cannot be a celebrity without it these days. And you cannot be a celebrity who runs a billion dollar company without understanding how to effectively use it to your advantage. There are many celebrities – and civilians – who struggle with it, understandably. Social media can be a toxic place, but somehow Rihanna has been able to figure out how to leverage it and live with it. And… not be a robot!
I don’t know that she even knows. There’s certainly no magic solution to it in this article – no “Rihanna’s keys to success” list. Instead, she’s pretty candid about her struggles. She has anxiety, she said it was the reason she pulled out of the Grammys in 2016. At the time it was said that she was sick and her voice gave out. Now she’s revealing that it’s because she was so nervous she couldn’t breathe. Which, of course, brings us to R9, the album the Navy has been waiting (impatiently) for. You’ll get it when you get it, is basically what she’s been saying all this time. Yes, she is recording. No, she will not tell you if it’s ready. No, there will be no date announcement. But there is music in her life. It’s just on her timeline. And that’s the approach she takes with every part of her business, from the fashion to the makeup to the skincare line. Rihanna says the skincare line in particular is going slowly because, “Skincare, it’s the truth. It either works or it doesn’t. There’s nowhere to hide.”
Right?! It’s so simple. She gets it! Nobody is out here doubting that Rihanna isn’t completely immersed in her sh-t because she IS her sh-t. That’s why she writes all the copy for her products.
Let’s take that back again one time:
She writes the copy. Two times:
“Oh yeah! I write all of the copy for the websites, the product descriptions, product names, the colour names…” she confirms. Doesn’t she have a huge team doing all this for her? “I do have a huge team, but I just don’t necessarily think their tone is mine. I’d feel like a fraud selling something that I can’t stand by.”
Knowing the work, doing the work. And when it’s not work that she can do, she’s the one getting funding to the people who can and telling her friends to pull up.
For more about Rihanna in the new issue of British Vogue, click here.