June 18, 2019

Personal Brand

Queening: What Rihanna's wealth means for the culture

“Pay me what you owe me, don’t act like you forgot...B**ch better have my money…” - Rihanna (2015) B**ch better have my Money

I wake up one morning and I look to my left and my wife is not there and I can hear the above lyrics coming from speakers in the hallway. As I listen closely I can hear it being recited by my ever so innocent wife', who I have grown accustomed to being woken up by her Neo-Soul mix of Solange and Music Soulchild.

I walk into our living room and I see Rihanna’s video streaming on the TV, whilst the Mrs was cleaning and rapping, with further emphasis on the “better have my money”.

I later came to learn that the Mrs was impressed by Rihanna’s honest yet satirical attitude to such a serious matter of being taken advantage of by her male accountants.

Good Girl Gone Bad

Fresh off her legal case against her accountant who allegedly were taking around 22% whilst paying the artists 6% of her revenue, Rihanna released the single with a very cinematic video.

“I read a case about Rihanna's accountant and wondered/ How did the bad girl feel when she looked at them numbers?” - Kendrick Lamar (2017) Fear

She was now the master of her own destiny, having also left her Def Jam record deal. Bad gal Riri was now releasing her music via her own label Westbury Road Entertainment. She also started to build her business empire with a year later launching her beauty brand Fenty Beauty.

“But everyday, hey, wasn't lemonade/ I was afraid, once a ni*** graduate/Would I be okay?/So I prayed and I played/ It's Rihanna, ni***/My constellation in space…” - Rihanna (2017) Lemon

Work, work, work pays off.

Many people were surprised when Forbes announced that Rihanna was the richest female artist in the world, with estimated $600m. The natural question was, ‘even more than Beyonce?” The answer is Yes. Here is why = FMCG.

Beyonce’s estimated $440m is nothing to be sniffed at, yet there is a clear difference between her and Rihanna’s investment portfolio, and that is Rihanna’s greater share in Fast Moving Consumer Goods category through Fenty Beauty.

“Even the girls keep it 200 and trilly [twice as authentic], it’s La Familia…” - JayZ (2015) La Familia

Fast-moving consumers goods are non durable products that sell quickly at relatively low price like food, beverage, cleaning products and cosmetics. Although they have low profit margins, it is estimated to  account for more than half of all consumer spending in the West. The non durable nature also means that customers are always coming back.

It is one of the reason’s I was not surprised at the numbers that were being quoted around the Kardashian’s beauty empire.  The FMCG sector is going under massive disruption and innovation because the traditional channels of distribution that were once monopolised by the global FMCG brands like P&G and Univeler are closing.

Advertising is moving away from traditional media, to social and search, whilst consumers are becoming more conscious and requiring a more personalised beauty stack.


With Fenty Rihanna’s leveraged her celebrity to partner up with high end manufacturers like LVMH to release highly success range of inclusive beauty products. Rihanna was serving underserved market of women, who a lot of of FMCG brands were overlooking.

She could not have timed it any better than now, as the industry is facing unprecedented value creation challenges, and underserved women like my wife are demanding more from the industry. What better ambassador, than bad gal Riri who with the exception of Beyonce has managed to unearth the ‘rude gyal’ attitude in my Mrs.  

“Hundred carats on my name/Run the atlas, I'm a natural, I'm alright…” - Rihanna (2017) Loyalty

You ain’t got the answers Sway

I have heard people make the point of “why not do it by herself?”. I think a lot of people not involved in industries of this scale, fail to realise the level of investment required to manufacture and distribute would have taken all of Rihanna’s net worth and more.

In hindsight, it is what Kanye West was trying to get across to Sway in his not so articulate and somewhat disrespectful manner.

I am going to borrow a quote from Jay Brown CEO of Roc Nation, who said in the interview with CEO Interviews:

“You can’t buy culture, because culture is never for sale. If you already have it, it doesn’t matter because you don’t need it.”

When Unilever acquired Sundial Brands [Shea Moisture] and more recently Walker & Co going into P&G, there was some uproar in the culture of the founders ‘selling out’. But a few months later, we saw that Richelieu Dennis founder of Sundial Brands announce that as part of the deal he was able to secure $100m  to fund Black women entrepreneurs.

This is called Leverage. Now more people of colour could be better served and be inspired to find other problems that these brands are not solving.

Starving artists Syndrome

The fact that Rihanna has made a lot of her wealth through Fenty Beauty, in a very short space of time goes on to highlight that diversification outside of music is important. We also noticed that even with a 23 year career, a bulk of Jay-Z wealth came from Beverage and Tech; almost 4 times his music catalogue.  The speed of Rihanna’s wealth, specially after the financial difficulties in her career is arguably more impressive in comparison.

Doing it all on your own is cool, but there are limits to how big you can scale. Some businesses I have met are fine with that, they are comfortable with owning 100% and being masters of their own destiny. But others who have global ambitions, might have to consider partnerships like Rihanna, Kanye and Jay-Z, and then build up the capital to invest in ventures that are 100% self owned.

“In the land of the free, where the blacks enslaved/ Three-fifth's of a man I believe's the phrase/ I'm 50% of D'USSÉ and it's debt free (Yeah)/ 100% of Ace of Spades, worth half a B (Uh)/ Roc Nation, half of that, that's my piece/ Hunnid percent of TIDAL to bust it up with my G's” - Jay-Z (2018) Whats’s Free

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