Rihanna is one of those rare celebrities who has emphasized her love and respect for her fans. She seems to have a unique understanding of how important a strong fan base is, not only for her record sales, but for her overall success in any endeavor. If you build a foundation like her Navy, then you get boundless support on everything you do — from a sock collaboration and a lipstick line, to sold-out shows and a shoe collection. That is the magic of superfans.
But what is it about the singer that's so intoxicating? What makes her different from the Taylor Swifts and Selena Gomezes of the world? Other artists posses their own equally intense fan groups, but there's something special about the Navy.
For that reason, i-D magazine highlighted a group of eccentric "sailors" in Ri's Navy, and asked them to explain in their own words why they're Rihanna stans.
Among the answers, the most common was that Rihanna just doesn't give a shit, and for that, she is undeniably authentic. She is also a fighter; she rose to the top from humble beginnings and maintains her roots in Barbados.
One fan, Owen, from Pennsylvania, even has a tattoo of her ANTI album cover on his arm. Explaining his deep-rooted commitment to Rihanna, he said, "Whenever I've had any hardships she's gotten me through them with her music, or whenever I've needed a little extra push I remembered that a girl from the islands that came from nothing is now on top of the world."
It's hard to estimate how many people make up Rihanna's Navy, but it may very well rival Bey's Beyhive. The emoji representing each group — anchors and bees, respectively — show up on both of the singers' social media pages, and many fans seem to like both artists. Their album sales are often compared as well.
But beyond her popularity in numbers, Rihanna has served a different purpose for her audience. She actually engages with them. In April, a story emerged that the singer had helped a fan come out after talking to him via Direct Message on Twitter. A fan from Queens, NY, Sebastian, said that kind of compassion is why she is No. 1 in his book.
"Honestly, if it wasn't for her, I wouldn't have gotten through a lot of the things I went through in terms of coming out as gay," he told i-D. "Also just getting through certain situations I had dealing with family problems. She never directly coached me through it obviously, but her music gave me an attitude that translated into real life."
Rebekka Smith, another fan featured in the story, says that while she worships the singer, she herself would be intimated by all the constant attention that Ri receives. "Honestly I would feel a little bit creeped out!," Rebekka told the magazine. "I can just imagine how overwhelming it would be. But also I know that she can feel the support."
And Rebekka is right. The love is indeed mutual. So it seems that's the special sauce to creating a Navy-level community of fans: Be there for them, like they're there for you.