I mean, is anyone really good enough for Rihanna though?

By Taylor Bryant
Jul 07, 2020 @ 10:30 am
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Dating while Black is like navigating a complex maze. Consciously or otherwise, you approach each swipe, message, and eventual get-together with caution, knowing that the world holds certain beliefs about the group of people you belong to. There’s a chance you might be looked at as undesirable (Black men and women are the least sought after racial group on dating apps) or, on the flip side, fetishized. It’s not impossible to make it out on the other side, but, like a lot of things in life, the odds are stacked against us. 

Now is probably a good time to mention that I’m also a Capricorn. Meaning, in part, that I’m ambitious to a fault (if the stars are to be believed), which adds an extra layer of frustration to my dating woes. Perhaps to avoid inevitable disappointment, for a really long time (read: most of my 20s), I prioritized my career over love, assuming that Cupid would find me when I was well and ready — and preferably earning a decent salary. One duo who helped keep a flicker of romantic hope burning was Rihanna and her billionaire ex-boyfriend, Hassan Jameel. 

The Barbadian bad gal has had many suitors in her lifetime — some of them rumored, others very much public — but almost all were men who, like her, were of the celebrity ilk. So when she started dating an otherwise unknown Jameel back in 2017, the relationship seemed to come out of left field. There wasn’t a lot we knew about the guy, other than the fact that his family has a reported net worth of $1.5 billion. But judging from some invasive paparazzi photos that circulated online, Rihanna appeared to be, um, fulfilled, and she confirmed as much in a 2019 Vogue interview, stating “I’m actually in an exclusive relationship for quite some time, and it’s going really well, so I’m happy."

It was during the couple’s two-and-a-half-year-long relationship that the singer took a step back from her musical career (much to the chagrin of the Navy) and focused her energy on building her empire. Rihanna launched Fenty Beauty, Savage x Fenty, and Fenty in 2017, 2018, and 2019 respectively. In doing so, she not only became the world’s richest female musician, she also redefined what it means for a business to be inclusive, shaking up the beauty and fashion industries first with a groundbreaking foundation range, and then a groundbreaking size range. All the while she managed to foster a (seemingly) healthy partnership. But, as she’s said in the past, it wasn't always easy. “My career is my purpose, and it should never feel like anything other than a happy place,” she says. “I’ve made little things a big deal, like going for a walk or going to the grocery store. I got into a new relationship, and it matters to me. It was like, 'I need to make time for this.' Just like I nurture my businesses, I need to nurture this as well. I’ll shut things down for two days, three days at a time. On my calendar we now have the infamous 'P,' which means personal days. This is a new thing.” 

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When it was announced earlier this year that she had split from Jameel, it was not only the end of the power couple, but, for me, it symbolized something deeper. Their lives being “too different” to “maintain a relationship” was the reason given for the breakup, which is vague PR-talk for “it just didn’t work out.” And though it’s unclear if her career played a part, I found myself in mourning anyway. Not for the relationship itself, necessarily, because, well, there wasn’t much to go off of, but more so for what it represented: A wildly successful, fiercely independent Black woman “having it all” and getting her happily ever after.

That’s not to say Black women are incapable of fairytale endings and fulfilling careers, quite the contrary. I know several personally and, from a celebrity standpoint, Beyoncé and Michelle Obama are two who immediately come to mind. But there’s a certain elusive quality about Rihanna that makes her stand out. She’s talked openly about not looking for a man in the past and, one could argue, she’s at her best when she’s single. Her confident, “savage” behavior has become part of her brand over the years, as we’ve witnessed her evolve from a young “Pon De Replay” singer into a dynamic entrepreneur. And there’s a certain kind of power and freedom— but also a certain kind of intimidation — that comes when a woman knows her worth. Part of that involves a refusal to settle for anything less than what you deserve.

It probably goes without saying that Rihanna will be OK. She has multi-million dollar businesses, an unreleased album the world is awaiting, and … she’s Rihanna. It’s hard to imagine her not finding a romantic partner when and if she wants one. As I enter my 30s and step into my own (significantly poorer) power with a career I’m proud of, I’d like to think the same is true for myself. Like Rihanna’s talked about recently, I’m also open to the idea of having and raising kids on my own if the “right” person doesn’t come along — societal expectations be damned. 

Months before her breakup with Jameel, Rihanna did an interview with Sarah Paulson that’s stuck with me more than a year later. Asking after her relationship, Paulson inquires whether she’s in love, to which Rihanna responds “of course.” Paulson then asks if she’s going to get married. There’s silence on the other end. In hindsight, that hesitation might’ve been more revealing than anyone initially thought. Maybe not. But it's what she said next that I’ve clung to: “Only god knows that, girl. We plan and god laughs, right?