IN THE SPOTLIGHT | RIHANNA

Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty, on February 20, 1988 in Barbados, Rihanna signed with Def Jam records at age 16 and released her first album, which sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in 2005. She went on to release more albums and hit songs, including "Unfaithful," "Disturbia" and "Umbrella." Rihanna has also won multiple awards including Grammys, MTV Video Music Awards and Billboard awards.

Singer Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born on February 20, 1988, in St. Michael Parish on the Caribbean island of Barbados. She is the eldest of three children born to Monica Fenty, an accountant, and Ronald Fenty, a warehouse supervisor. Rihanna's childhood was marred by her father's struggles with addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine and her parents' marital problems—they divorced when she was 14 years old. However, since that time, Rihanna's father has managed to conquer his addictions and the pair are now very close. "Now my dad is like the coolest person on the planet," Rihanna says. "He doesn't smothers me. He lets me live my life. And he's been like that a lot, even when I was younger. He would watch me making a mistake and he wouldn't stop me. My dad, he lets me make it and then I learn."
 
           Rihanna also struggled with crippling headaches for several years during her childhood, a condition she attempted to hide from her friends and classmates so that they would not think she was abnormal. "I never expressed how I felt," she remembers. "I always kept it in. I would go to school ... you would never know there was something wrong with me." As a teenager, Rihanna turned to singing as a release from her troubles at home. She formed a girl group with two classmates; when they were 15 years old, they scored an audition with music producer Evan Rodgers, who was visiting the island with his Barbadian wife. Rogers was awed by the precociously beautiful and phenomenally talented Rihanna, to the unfortunate detriment of her two friends. "The minute Rihanna walked into the room, it was like the others two girls didn't exist," he admitted.

 

Less than a year later, when Rihanna was only 16 years old, she left Barbados to move in with Rogers and his wife in Connecticut and work on recording a demo album. "When I left Barbados, I didn't look back," Rihanna recalled. "I wanted to do what I had to do, even if it meant moving to America."

In January 2005, Rogers landed Rihanna an audition for Def Jam Records and its newly minted president, the legendary rapper Jay-Z. "I was in the lobby just shaking," she recalled. However, once Rihanna opened her voice to sing she regained her composure. "I remember staring into everybody's eyes in the room while I was singing, and at that point, I was fearless," she said. "But the minute I stopped singing, I was like, 'oh my God, Jay-Z is sitting right in front of me.'" The hip-hop icon was every bit as wowed by Rihanna's stunning voice and commanding presence as Rogers had been two years earlier, and he signed her on the spot.

 

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