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A born superstar! 20 precious old photos of Rihanna, witnessing the singer's 35-year transformation
2023/05/13

Rihanna's life in photos shows her remarkable transformation from young island girl to global superstar. Born in Barbados in 1988 as Robyn Rihanna Fenty, she moved to the U.S. at 16 to pursue a music career. Her first album Music of the Sun was released in 2005, propelling her to fame. 

Over 15 years, Rihanna released numerous hit albums and singles, becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time. With a charismatic stage presence and influential style, she won over fans worldwide. However, her journey wasn't without hardship. She endured a difficult relationship with Chris Brown, who assaulted her in 2009.

 

In 2016, Rihanna launched her cosmetics line Fenty Beauty which was praised for its inclusivity. The following year, she debuted her lingerie line Savage X Fenty. These business successes cemented her status as a shrewd entrepreneur and visionary.

Rihanna's relationship with Hassan Jameel began in 2017 but ended in 2020. She started dating A$AP Rocky, and in 2022 the couple announced they were expecting their first child. At the Met Gala, Rihanna revealed her baby bump underneath a sheer pink gown and feathered jacket designed by Giambattista Valli.

The photos capture Rihanna's charisma, strength, and boldness.

From beach in Barbados to the red carpet, each image oozes confidence and passion. Over the years, her style evolved from flirty outfits into more risqué and avant-garde looks. Rihanna lives life on her own terms—an inspiring message for fans across the globe. 

Throughout challenges and triumphs, Rihanna remained dedicated to her music and pursued new creative outlets. By 35, she achieved massive success in music, film, fashion and beauty. The girl from Barbados became a powerful woman reshaping pop culture. Rihanna's extraordinary life serves as a reminder that dreams are achievable for those willing to take risks and work hard to pursue them.

 

Rihanna's Early Years

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Born on Feb. 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados, Robyn Rihanna Fenty first hit the scene in 2005 with her megahit song, "Pon de Replay."

Earlier that year, the young singer auditioned for Shawn "JAY-Z" Carter, who was the CEO of Def Jam at that time. Her star factor was clear to the music mogul, who signed a 16-year-old Rihanna on the spot.

"When I met her that day I knew she was a star," JAY-Z told Howard Stern in a 2010 interview. "Just the way she walked in a room and her confidence .

.. She belt out a tune and I told her, 'There's no way out of this office.' I signed her that day."

Music of the Sun

Jim Spellman/WireImage

Rihanna's first album, Music of the Sun was released on Aug. 29, 2005, and in addition to "Pon de Replay," it featured hits like "If It's Lovin' That You Want," which channeled her Caribbean roots.

The album debuted at No. 10 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and No. 6 on the U.S. Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

'Umbrella' Era

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

Rihanna paired the meteoric debut of her third studio album, Good Girl Gone Bad, in 2007 with an equally earth-shattering transformation.

The "Umbrella" singer traded in her honey-blonde locks for a jet-black pixie and established herself as a cultural trendsetter.

Rock Star Vibes

Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

She would cut her tresses even shorter — and showed off her high cheek bones and chiseled jawline — for a performance at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.

Red Hot

Ray Tamarra/Getty

A red-haired Rihanna had a laugh while on the set of the music video for her megahit "What's My Name?" in 2010.

Switching Things Up

James Devaney/WireImage

Never one to settle on one thing, Rihanna arrived to the Glamour 2009 Women of the Year Honors rocking a honey-blonde pixie.

Toeing the Line

The singer showed off her toned physique in a simple, yet daring Armani dress while on the 2012 Grammys red carpet. That night she performed a medley of her hits and picked up two awards for her Kanye West and Kid Cudi collab, "All of the Lights."

Girl on Fire

Ricky Vigil M/GC Images

The singer set the streets of London on fire in 2012 with an edgy look featuring a leather jacket, fierce thigh high boots and dark shades.

Shine Bright Like a Diamond

Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

RiRi smiled while holding her prize at the 2013 American Music Awards. The singer took home four awards that night — favorite female artist - soul/R&B, artist of the year, favorite album - soul/R&B and favorite female artist - pop/rock — following the success of her seventh studio album, Unapologetic.

At the Ball Game

James Devaney/WireImage

A known basketball fan, Rihanna sat courtside at the the 2013 Chicago Bulls vs. Brooklyn Nets playoff game at the Barclays Center in N.

Y.C.

Pristine Silhouette

Larry Busacca/Getty.

Always a red carpet showstopper, Rihanna attended the "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" 2014 Met Gala decked out in Stella McCartney.

Swarovksi-ed Out

Andrew H. Walker/WireImage

In 2014, RiRi received the CFDA Fashion Icon of the Year Award. And, like a true icon, the singer attended the event wearing a sheer Adam Selman dress that featured a staggering 230,000 Swarovski crystals.

While the dress caused a lot of talk, Rihanna herself was displeased by one factor: the unbedazzled thong she wore underneath. She later told Vogue, "That's the only regret I have in my life."

Basketball Babe

Noel Vasquez/GC Images

Rihanna rocked a pink wig while at the Oklahoma City Thunder vs. Los Angeles Clippers playoff game at the Staples Center in 2014.

Charitable Queen

Jason Merritt/Getty

On Dec. 11, 2014, Rihanna hosted her first annual Diamond Ball. The charitable event benefits the Clara Lionel Foundation, an organization that "invests in climate justice initiatives in the Caribbean and United States and helps communities prepare for and withstand natural disasters." It was named after Rihanna's grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite.

The singer has also spent time working with DKMS, the world's largest non-profit marrow donor center — to help raise awareness for the need for people to come forward to become donors.

Pretty in Pink

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

The songstress stunned in a pink Giambattista Valli gown at the 2015 Grammys. She went home with yet another Grammy that night, for best rap/sung collaboration for her hit "The Monster" with Eminem.

Hitting the High Notes

Trae Patton/NBCU

The "Stay" singer served as a key adviser to all the judges during season 9 of NBC's The Voice in 2015.

Hostess with the Mostest

Mike Coppola/Getty

Rihanna served as one of the hosts for the "China: Through The Looking Glass," the 2015 Met Gala. She wore a jaw-dropping yellow gown by Chinese designer Guo Pei, shutting down the red carpet to make her grand entrance.

Foray into Design

JP Yim/Getty

In fall 2016, the fashionista dove head-first into the design world. She launched her first ready-to-wear collection, Fenty x Puma by Rihanna, featuring upscale street style clothing for men and women.

Royal Reign

Rihanna and Prince Harry. Chris Jackson - Pool/Getty Images

In 2016, Rihanna joined Prince Harry on his visit to Barbados, taking an HIV test alongside him on World AIDS Day.

"I was so excited to find out that it was so easy, and the results come back that quickly —you can find out literally on the spot, your status, and it's very discreet," the pop star said.

"The younger generation coming through want to talk about it, but there's still that stigma. If us getting testing normalizes it and makes a difference, even a small difference, then job well done," Harry said.

Beauty Icon

Karwai Tang/WireImage

Following the success of Fenty x Puma, Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty — an inclusive makeup and beauty brand — in 2017. The brand was so successful it catapulted her into billionaire status.

Floral Bomb

George Pimentel/WireImage

Rihanna served hyndrengea fierceness at the "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garcons: Art Of The In-Between" Met Gala in 2017.

On the Big Screen

Barry Wetcher.

After making her silver screen debut in 2012's Battleship, the singer joined the fierce female cast of 2018's Ocean's 8. She also appeared in 2014's Annie and two episodes of 2017's Bates Motel, and lent her voice to Tip in 2015's animated film Home.

"We all secretly wanted to be her favorite," Ocean's 8 costar Sandra Bullock recalled to the Associated Press of time on set with the singer. "We would be really relaxed and tired in the room, and then she'd walk in the room and all of a sudden we'd be like, 'So Rihanna, Rihanna ...!' "

Pope Fenty

Jamie McCarthy/Getty

The fashion queen turned heads with this pearl- and jewel-encrusted ensemble at the "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" 2018 Met Gala. A replica of that outfit adorns her latest wax figure at Madame Tussauds New York.

Belle of the Ball

Rihanna. Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Rihanna looked fierce while attending the 5th Annual Diamond Ball at Cipriani Wall Street in 2019.

Love on the Brain

John Shearer/WireImage

With things going well for her professionally, RiRi's personal life followed suit.

In 2020, a source confirmed to PEOPLE that the billionaire businesswoman was in a relationship with A$AP Rocky after months of rumors. The two had been friends for over a decade before things got romantic.

The stars giggled their way down the red carpet together at the 2021 Met Gala.

Hometown Hero

Alamy Stock Photo

The Fenty founder was named a National Hero by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley in November 2021.

During a ceremony marking the country's split from the United Kingdom to become its own republic, Prime Minister Mottley stated, "On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you, the designee, for national hero of Barbados, ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty."

She continued, "May you continue to shine like a diamond and continue to bring honor to your nation by your words, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go."

Baby on Board

rihanna/insatagram

On Jan. 31, 2022, the nine-time Grammy Award winner revealed she and A$AP were expecting their first baby.

The couple was photographed out in New York City, where Rihanna debuted her baby bump while wearing a long pink jacket.

She also showcased her growing belly in an Instagram carousel writing, "how the gang pulled up to Black History Month."

Cloud Nine

Rich Fury/Getty for Fenty Beauty & Fenty Skin

Weeks after the announcement, the couple looked over-the-moon happy at an event for Fenty Beauty and Fenty Skin in L.

A.

Bumpin' Along

Kevin Mazur/Getty

The soon-to-be-momma proudly flaunted her bump at an event celebrating the launch of Fenty Beauty at Ulta Beauty.

Hot Mama

Emma McIntyre/Getty

Six months after welcoming her baby boy, the new mom looked fierce at the Savage x Fenty Show Vol. 4 presented by Prime Video.

"Rihanna loves being a mom," a source told PEOPLE on the singer's journey through motherhood.

"She is obsessed with her baby boy."

Parents' Night Out

Christopher Polk/NBC/getty

Ri & A$AP left their adorable tot at home and looked dashing while attending the 2023 Golden Globes decked out in all black.

Halftime Headliner

Rihanna. Apple Music

In September 2022, the singer revealed she would be the headliner of Super Bowl LVII's Halftime Show in February 2023 via Instagram.

With no words or grande paragraph, the Bajan star posted a photo of her hand holding up a Wilson Duke football.

She simply captioned the picture with a period.

The singer has only released one solo — Wakanda Forever's "Lift Me Up" — since 2016; her halftime show is giving fans hope for news of more music and a possible tour.

Regardless, they'll likely be seeing (and hearing) her again in March: the single is nominated for a Best Original Song award at the 2023 Oscars.

Oh, Baby!

Rihanna performing at Super Bowl LVII. Mike Coppola/Getty

Rihanna made quite the impression during her 2023 Super Bowl Halftime Show: not only did she float above the stadium on a suspended stage, but she revealed she's pregnant with baby No. 2! The star cycled through a dozen of her hits and silently confirmed her exciting news in a red Loewe jumpsuit with matching breastplate.

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