Beyoncé and Rihanna.
They’re arguably the two biggest female stars in urban music, and — aside from maybe Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga — the two biggest female stars in pop music period. Beyonce and Rihanna took two very different roads to superstardom, but both wound up atop the musical heap by 2012. Beyonce was groomed since a pre-teen for superstardom; her career guided by her ambitious father since her days performing as 1/4th of Destiny’s Child. As the group became huge in the early 2000s, Beyonce emerged as the breakout star. Soon she was a red-hot solo superstar, movie actress and wife of the biggest rap star of the 2000s not named Kanye West or Eminem.
Rihanna, on the other hand, had some early moderate success, but had trouble separating herself from other one-named R&B singers popular in the mid-2000s. It wasn’t until she released the aptly named Good Girl Gone Bad album and its mega-hit lead single “Umbrella” that she truly broke through to superstardom. Since then, she’s released an album a year and has been able to remain one step ahead of a seemingly-endless parade of ingénues supposedly coming for her spot.
But these two women have not only taken completely different paths to stardom; they’ve both taken completely different approaches to sustaining that stardom. They are both among the most scrutinized stars on the planet, but while one keeps a tight grip on her personal life, the other one invites and encourages the glare of the spotlight on even her less-than-stellar behavior.
Beyonce has been extraordinarily successful at only allowing the public eye to see the parts of her life that she wants. She posts photogenic pics of her and hubby Jay-Z on Tumblr or inspirational-sounding notes about motherhood or dedications to First Lady Michelle Obama. Her interviews are never controversial; and her baby daughter Blue Ivy may be the most famous baby on the planet, but she has not posed for any magazine covers with the infant, unlike some other stars who can’t seem to wait to put their babies on the front of People magazine.
But Rihanna? She puts everything out there. She posts pics of herself smoking marijuana and flipping off the camera. Not to mention semi-nude pics; and profanity-laced tweets where she engages in heated exchanges with followers on a fairly regular basis. When she announced that she was going to tour seven countries in seven days for seven performances, she invited media “friends” along for the ride. A ride which included plenty of alcohol and candid moments. She’s spoken in several interviews about that infamous assault she suffered at the hands of her on-again, off-again boyfriend Chris Brown. And she isn’t above sharing intimate photos of she and Brown together—despite the outcry it generates for some of her fans and critics.
Beyonce has been a superstar since before she departed Destiny’s Child. That’s over a decade of the spotlight’s glare. By the time she and Jay-Z welcomed their baby into the world, she’d already endured rumors and media scrutiny. She’s earned her silence.
But Rihanna has been savvy in using the media to brand herself the “un-Beyonce.” Bey’s demure and perfect? Rih-Rih’s loud and controversial. Bey’s guarded? Rih-Rih’s an open book.
Or at least, she presents herself that way.
In that respect, Beyonce has taken an approach similar to Janet Jackson in her heyday. Janet was one of the biggest pop stars of the 80s and 90s, but the public hardly knew much about her. She did, after all, manage to hide two marriages during her career.
ButRihanna? She has been more like Madonna; she invites you to look. She knows you want to look. And like it or not, she’s been right thus far. The public is fascinated by every misstep.
If they really are missteps, that is. One can’t help but think she’s logging off with a smirk on her face and laughing all the way to the bank.
– stereo williams