beyoncé knew rihanna was a star, even when def jam didn’t
Back in 2005, Rihanna was just Robyn Fenty, a beautiful 17-year-old from Barbados with an unparalleled amount of crop tops and steely determination. In an extract from his newly released memoir, Sing to Me, Epic Records CEO L.A. Reid recalls that he and Jay Z knew she "was going to be a big star someday," from the moment she first auditioned at Def Jam. He says he remembers her "laser eyes."
But — twist! — they almost got it wrong. (Men!) "The funny thing about Rihanna's success was that we signed two girls at that time," writes Reid. (And there's only room for one female star at a record label!) Enter Rihanna's lesser-known one-time rival Teairra Mari, a Detroit-born R&B starlet born just a few months before Rih. While Teairra has since found fame through a recurring role on season two of Love & Hip-Hop Hollywood, her musical career never quite took off. But back in 2005, Reid says, "we thought Teairra Mari would be the big star. We spent more time on her, did more work on her, paid more attention to her."
After a Def Jam showcase, though, featuring both Rihanna and Teairra (as well as Ne-Yo and short-lived girl group "Black Butterfly"), Beyoncé put everyone straight. She approached Reid and told him, "That Rihanna girl, she's a beast." And just like that he says, "a bell went off."
Text Alice Newell-Hanson