Barbados-born musician and fashion mogul Rihanna (born Robyn Fenty) used to sing in the shower when she was growing up. Under the spray, young Rihanna trilled the hits of a group of legendary female songstresses she called “the divas”: Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, and Mariah Carey.
As an adult, Rihanna marched into their rarefied ranks by singing wonderfully danceable tunes of her own, making bold fashion choices (especially during her pregnancy!), and cultivating her amazing talent.
She has also been through painful turmoil, including a widely-publicized domestic abuse incident with her boyfriend at the time, Chris Brown, in 2009.
So, what information is out there about her parents? Here’s what we found out.
Rihanna’s Father Was Abusive To Her Mother
Rihanna’s parents, Ronald Fenty and Monica Braithwaite, have reportedly had turbulence in their relationship in the form of domestic abuse. Rihanna confirmed this in 2009.
According to ABC News, she said, “[My parents] had a very abusive relationship. My dad was the abuser. [He hit her] on numerous accounts. … She never went to the hospital. … He broke her nose one time….Domestic violence is not something that people want anybody to know.”
The pattern of abuse repeated itself in Rihanna’s life when she was physically harmed by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown. In February 2009, he reportedly assaulted her while they were sitting together in a Lamborghini the day before the Grammy Awards.
According to police documents, their spat escalated into violence he committed against Rihanna. A photo of her taken shortly after the encounter shows her bruised, battered face.
She discussed the traumatic incident when she spoke to Diane Sawyer on 20/20. Rihanna sounded anguished when she recalled the violent events of that night. She said, “All I kept thinking all the time: When is it going to stop? When it is going to stop?”
From Rihanna’s description of what occurred that night, Brown was consumed with anger at her. She added, “It wasn’t the same person that says I love you. It was not those… eyes. He had … no soul in his eyes. Just blank. …He was clearly blacked out. There was no person when I looked at him.”
Brown reportedly bit her, punched her, had her in a headlock, and threatened to kill her. Someone heard Rihanna screaming and called 911 to notify the Los Angeles Police Department.
To the surprise and concern of many observers, she briefly got back together with Brown after the assault. She admitted that she didn’t want to dwell on what happened and even worried about Brown.
She finally realized that she needed to safeguard her own well-being and also send an appropriate message to other women who might be caught in an abusive relationship.
“When I realized that my selfish decision for love could result into some young girl getting killed, I could not be easy with that part. I couldn’t be held responsible for going back. … If Chris never hit me again, who is to say that their boyfriend won’t?”
Ronald’s Addiction Led To Their Divorce
Rihanna’s dad’s addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine led to difficulties with his wife and with his daughter. He and Braithwaite separated when Rihanna was nine and split for good when she was 14. Even so, Fenty was still involved in Rihanna’s life.
“I did have a drug problem and [Rihanna] did walk in and see me taking drugs in our house. She was just a little kid and it made her look at me, and other things, differently,” Fenty explained to The Sun.
He continued, “I did not want my children to see me sleeping on the sidewalk so I started making the changes. I had to give up drugs for my family. I still kind of lost them, I split up with my wife. But I still had to do it for myself and eventually I beat it.”
At the time of her parents’ separation, Rihanna’s mom was working a lot, she said, so she had the responsibility of looking after Rajad, her youngest brother. “He was my best friend,” Rihanna said, per The Guardian. “He thought I was his mom!”
Rihanna Is Very Close With Her Mother
Rihanna has voiced effusive praise for her mother. She once lauded Braithwaite as “one of the strongest women I know, if not the strongest.”
She posted this sweet tribute to Braithwaite on Instagram for her birthday in 2019: “Happy Birthday to my sweet beautiful mother. Thanks for teaching me that strength, love, forgiveness, sacrifice, hard work, and helping others in whatever way you can…is what true beauty looks like. Love you and I appreciate you! Thank You God for choosing this wonderful being to be my mom!”
When Rihanna’s beau, A$AP Rocky, interviewed her for Vogue on YouTube, she said that her mother was her number one beauty icon.
“My entire concept of beauty came from her,” Rihanna said. “I was always so intrigued by her. I wanted to dress like her, I wanted to look like her, I wanted to do my hair like her, I wanted to do my makeup like her.” Braithwaite was even an inspiration for Rihanna’s beauty businesses.
Her Relationship With Her Father Has Had Many Ups And Downs
Rihanna’s relationship with her dad has had good moments along with bad ones. When she was a youngster, she “hated him” (per The Guardian). There seemed to be a strong undercurrent of ambivalence that Rihanna had toward him from an early age
In 2009, she said she had not had contact with Ronald for a year and a half after she sent him packing from her North American tour, reportedly due to his alcohol-fueled misbehavior on her bus. “He came on tour and acted a mess again, and we sent him home, and after that he didn’t answer my calls.” Rihanna told The Guardian.
There would be more ruptures in their father–daughter relationship. According to Cosmopolitan, Rihanna was upset with Ronald because he talked to the media about Rihanna’s assault by Chris Brown and was allegedly paid for speaking to them.
“My dad went to the press and just told them a bunch of lies, because he hadn’t talked to me after … that whole thing. He never called to find out how I was doing, if I was alive, nothing,” Rihanna said. “He just never called. He went straight to the press and got a cheque.”
Then in 2016, things between them were apparently on the upswing again when Rihanna bought her father a mansion in Barbados. She reportedly shelled out a cool $1.8 million for the luxurious home in a community whose residents included Simon Cowell and Beyonce and Jay Z.
Three years later, in 2019, Rihanna sued her father and his business partner for, in the words of her lawsuit (per USA Today), “egregiously and fraudulently” claiming that their company, Fenty Entertainment, is somehow connected with Rihanna herself.
When Ronald got COVID-19 in 2020, Rihanna was very solicitous and generous, sending him a ventilator in case he needed it and checking on him daily. Ronald, who reportedly fretted that he might succumb to the virus, was deeply grateful to his daughter for her help and concern, according to The Sun.
“I thought I was going to die to be honest,” Ronald said. “I have to say, I love you so much, Robyn. She did so much for me. I appreciate everything she has done.”
Rihanna has had a rock-solid relationship with her mother all along, but her connection to her father has frayed quite a bit from time to time. However, they seem to have finally reached an understanding, despite their past discord. We hope that as Rihanna charts a new course as a mom herself that she and her dad remain on an even keel.