Rihanna is officially a billionaire. According to Forbes, Rihanna is now worth $1.7 billion USD (over $2.3 billion AUD) — making her the richest female musician in the world and the second wealthiest female entertainer on the planet after Oprah Winfrey.
She may top the list of uber-rich singers, but Rihanna’s new financial status doesn’t come as a result of her chart-topping music career. Most of Rihanna’s fortune — an estimated $1.9 billion (AUD) of it — comes from the value of Fenty Beauty, of which she splits 50% ownership with the French luxury conglomerate LVMH. A significant portion of the rest of that money comes from her 30% ownership stake of her lingerie company Savage x Fenty, with her share being valued at an estimated $365.8 million. (Forbes also reports that in February, Savage x Fenty raised $155 million in funding at a $1.35 billion valuation).
In a time when many Black women and darker-skinned women of colour felt like no one was making beauty products for them, Rihanna leveraged her success as an artist and her massive online following (103 million followers on Instagram and 102.7 million on Twitter) to create a beauty brand in 2017 that would cater specifically to this often-ignored demographic. And with genius marketing strategies as well as products that are undeniably good (and won’t break the bank), it’s no surprise that Fenty Beauty is worth an estimated $3.8 billion.
“A lot of women felt there were no lines out there that catered to their skin tone. It was light, medium, medium-dark, dark. We all know that’s not reality,” Shannon Coyne, the co-founder of the consumer products consultancy Bluestock Advisors, told Forbes about Rihanna’s success. “[Fenty Beauty] was one of the first brands that came out and said: ‘I want to speak to all of those different people.’”
While her fans have been clamouring for a new album (ANTI, her last studio album, was released in 2016), the singer has spent the last five years steadily building her businesses on principles of inclusivity, whether it was skin tone (Fenty Beauty first dropped with a whopping 40 foundation shades, a rarity in the industry), as well as body shape/size and disability.
Rihanna’s boardroom skills have earned her high praise from other billionaires. “Everyone knows Rihanna as a wonderful singer, but through our partnership at Fenty Beauty, I discovered a true entrepreneur, a real CEO and a terrific leader,” Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive, and reportedly now the world’s wealthiest person, said about her in a 2019 statement.
As expected, there are some mixed feelings to this announcement as society reckons with the implications of capitalism, this kind of wealth and the costs that come with it. Black capitalism won’t save us. But if there’s anyone who is allowed to be a billionaire, it may just be Rihanna. Her companies aren’t engaging in unethical business, labour and testing practices that have allowed other businesses of this size to amass their wealth and power, and both she and the brand are intentional about uplifting the kinds of marginalised identities who would typically be left out of or exploited by this kind of company.
So, maybe we abolish billionaires, but Rihanna can stay.