When she burst onto the scene as Jay-Z’s young R&B protégé, Rihanna could have easily been mistaken as just another pop princess. Beautiful, marketable and talented, Robyn Fenty was good but, in retrospect, she wasn’t really that memorable. While “Pon De Replay” and “SOS” were catchy as all get out, let’s be honest: Were they musical game changers? Not really.
Slowly but surely, however, things began to change. Her mainstream music took on more of an edge, while her physical appearance strayed away from carefully manicured sex appeal and ventured into a more rough-around-the-edges sensuality that was equally as appealing, but a hard left from what some of her other musical contemporaries were doing.
We’d be remiss to not mention the personal tumult that defined a portion of Rihanna’s journey in the public eye. But we will not underestimate Rihanna so much as to think that a single incident would define this tough chick. Did it influence her? We’re sure it did. Did it singularly define her? Not a chance.
As Rihanna has progressed throughout the years she has taken ownership of her career and her identity, developing into an artist who isn’t afraid to push boundaries or challenge conventional standards of beauty. While she still has one of the most enviable figures around, her quirky, edgy and, often times, unusual style puts into tangible form both a devil-may-care, rebellious attitude. One of our favorite recent statements: Rihanna heading to a recording session in fuzzy kitten heels and pajamas. Most other artists would be looked at sideways for pulling such a stunt. But for Rihanna, it’s just another day at the office, and everyone seems comfortable with that.
Rihanna has shirked what is expected when it comes to female musical artists and blazed her own trail. Through her style and music, she has challenged conventional gender roles, tackled tough issues like domestic violence, and yet has still become one of the most successful musicians of her time.
All of this boils down to one question, however: Why has Rihanna become such the cultural tour de force that she has? While it’s difficult to zero in on a single answer, here is what we think: She has been unabashedly herself. At no point in her recent, post-debut history has she ever seemed to do something just for headlines or a shameless boost in record sales. More than most artists, Rihanna’s personality shines through in everything she does, making her not only an anomaly in the music world, but a young woman every can relate to, fuzzy kitten heels or not.