What is Rihanna’s real name? Rihanna’s birth name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty. She was born on Feb. 20, 1988, in Saint Michael, Barbados. The pop superstar is the daughter of Ronald Fenty—who’s of Barbadian and Irish descent—and Monica Braithwaite, an Afro-Guyanese former accountant.
Rihanna’s parents divorced when she was 14, partially due to her father’s struggles with substance abuse, and while their troubled marriage undoubtedly made for some unhappy moments, Rihanna found solace in pop and reggae music. She began singing at the age of seven, and by 2003, she’d met influential record execs Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers and taken steps toward signing with Def Jam and shedding her full birth name in favor of the more streamlined Rihanna.
Rihanna hasn’t abandoned her birth name, though. Friends and family still refer to her as Robyn, and in an interview with Rolling Stone, she explained why this is the case. “I get kind of numb to hearing Rihanna, Rihanna, Rihanna,” she told the magazine. “When I hear Robyn, I pay attention.” Where did the middle name Rihanna come from? It’s Arabic for “sweet basil”—which is interesting, as this “Good Girl Gone Bad” and controversy-courting social-media over-sharer isn’t always sweetest of celebrities.
If the question “What’s Rihanna’s real name” seldom comes up, it’s probably because it’s not exactly a guarded secret. When Chris Brown tweeted her birthday wishes in February 2012, he used the name Robyn, so anyone following the ongoing Brown-Rihanna drama—everyone, in other words—is probably familiar with the singer’s birth name. While friends and family call her Robyn and the public knows her as Rihanna, many hardcore fans refer to her as RiRi or Ri.
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