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Better Have My Money – Rihanna and the Beauty Industry

It has been six years since Rihanna released her last album (Anti, 2016), but last year, she still managed to break the bank, and not just any bank! Of course, it wasn’t album sales or royalties that paid so well, and not even a world tour. It had nothing to do with her music, but rather her openness, freshness, and creativity. The Barbadian-born singer is capitalising on her image, and she’s doing it in a thoroughly professional way: she’s not hitting the charts; she’s hitting the beauty industry. Watch and learn!

In 2017, when Rihanna realised her huge potential and created Fenty Beauty, she was very clever in finding her target audience: she wanted to create a cosmetics brand that focused on diversity and variety. For example, Fenty Beauty’s foundations now come in 50 shades, including darker shades that are harder for women of colour to come by, and the same diversity of models is seen in the advertisements. Fenty Beauty’s campaign faces have included such fresh and innovative models as Slick Woods, Halima Aden, and Paloma Elsesser. “Many women felt that there were no product ranges that matched their skin tone. Light, medium, medium-dark, dark were the only ones on offer”, said Shannon Coyne, co-founder of consumer products consultancy Bluestock Advisors. Of course, we all know that’s not the reality. Fenty Beauty became one of the first brands to come out and say, “We want to appeal to a wide variety of people”. After Rihanna’s range, several brands quickly came out with advertising campaigns aimed at women of colour, such as L’Oreal and Make Up For Ever. But Rihanna didn’t stop there: she also embraced the issue of gender diversity, and in her second year came out with the “My Fenty, My Mood” campaign, which surprised the industry and was a huge success. Daniel Kaluuya, who was known at that time for his Oscar-nominated turn in Get Out, walked the red carpet in shades 480 and 490 of Fenty Beaty Pro Filt’R.

The brand is 50-50 owned by French luxury goods conglomerate LVMH, which is headed by Bernard Arnault, the world’s second-richest man. Available in Sephora stores, also owned by LVMH, the products were an immediate success and are, of course, available online. They were launched in 17 countries on the same day, at the same time (regardless of time zone), because Rihanna wanted them to be available to women all over the world at the same time. The not-so-simple marketing strategy finally worked: by 2018 – the first full calendar year – it had generated more than half a billion dollars in annual revenue, outstripping celebrity brands such as Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Beauty.

While sales of cosmetics have slowed down during the epidemic, the online and premium segments have grown, and it’s fair to say that the beauty group’s shares have also performed very well in recent years. Brands such as Estée Lauder and L’Oreal have been hitting all-time highs on the stock market month after month.

And where is Rihanna in this winning streak? Forbes estimates that the brand, which has been running with unprecedented hype, is booming in the market for the most exclusive products, and the company is currently worth $2.8 billion, making Riri by far the richest singer in the world.