Rihanna Credits Her 2004 Beauty Pageant Victory to Her Military Training

Rihanna is an iconic singer and beauty mogul, rising to fame when she was just a teenager. She cemented her superstar status with songs like “Umbrella” and “Shut Up and Drive,” quickly becoming the hottest pop star on the music scene.

Eventually, Rihanna expanded her brand to include the wildly successful cosmetics line Fenty Beauty as well. These days, she’s doing better than ever, having recently announced that she’s expecting a baby with fellow singer A$AP Rocky. Rihanna has some very interesting credits to her name, including a beauty pageant victory that she scored well before she was a big star. 

Rihanna won a beauty pageant when she was just 15 years old

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Born in Barbados in 1988, Rihanna was an outgoing personality from the start, and never hesitated to take on a challenge. In 2004, when she was 15 years old, the young woman opted to enter a local beauty pageant after being dared to do so by her friend group. Not only did Rihanna do extremely well in the beauty pageant, but she ended up walking away with top honors, receiving the title of Miss Combermere.

According to The Things, it wasn’t just Rihanna’s stunning looks that helped her to win the pageant, but her undeniably outstanding singing voice as well, with the future pop superstar taking the title after performing Mariah Carey’s song “Hero.” Rihanna would later open up about the training that she had received that helped her to dominate the pageant.

What did Rihanna say about her beauty pageant victory?

Rihanna poses for photos wearing mint
Rihanna | Samir Hussein/WireImage

In a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, when Rihanna was just ascending to fame, she recalled how, in her opinion, she was able to win the beauty pageant. Rihanna noted that she had joined the Barbados cadets in order to prove how “tough” she was, training hard and reaching the rank of corporal. The singer revealed that she thinks her military training helped her to do well in the pageant. “I kind of laughed at these stupid pageants,” Rihanna said. “But my friends at school dared me to do it, and my military training came in handy for learning to balance books on my head for the catwalk.”

Rihanna’s drill sergeant recalled training with the pop star

Rihanna’s stint in the beauty pageant world was one and done – and just three years after winning the pageant, she was a star, known and loved all around the world. However, her time in the military is still a subject of fascination for many fans. In 2009, the young pop singer Shontelle, who grew up alongside Rihanna in Barbados, talked to BBC News about the time she spent as Rihanna’s drill sergeant. “We were both in cadets together – it wasn’t compulsory or anything. But picture me and Rihanna in combat boots and fatigues crawling through mud and things like that,” Shontelle said.

As to whether she had to “order” Rihanna around, the singer said “That’s what drill sergeants do. We boss cadets around, we make them do push-ups… especially when they show up on the parade square late.” Although Shontelle has not achieved the same level of chart-topping success that her former military compatriot, Rihanna, she is still singing to this day. Most recently, Shontelle released the song “Remember Me” in March 2020. In her BBC interview, Shontelle didn’t note whether she’s still in touch with Rihanna – but it seems safe to say that both women look back on their military training with fondness.

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