Last year was the first in now 26-year-old Rihanna’s career that she didn’t put out an album. Halting a seven-year cycle, she gave us something better: an unfiltered look at her life as she toured the world with a rotating cast of girl friends, pausing for respites in Thailand, New York, and Barbados. Some 12 million gawkers followed her hard work and downtime on Instagram. What they saw was loose and imperfect — Rihanna drunk at home, her nose painted red with lipstick — if not exactly documentary journalism. (She sometimes commissions professional photographers to take her selfies.) The access has hard limits, but to fans she feels “real,” like a friend. It’s hard not to think that Rihanna’s no-bullshit manner didn’t push Beyoncé to release her surprise 2013 masterwork, or to market it as the record where she “dropped that fourth wall” and got real.
Rihanna doesn’t consider herself a role model; most other people wouldn’t call her that either. But if her experiences speak to flawless 32-year-old mothers like Bey, they certainly merit a closer look from Rih’s twenty-something peers.
1. Never apologize for your success. Share your milestones freely.
2. Don’t feel the need to play nice with someone who doesn’t respect you.
When a writer called Rihanna a “poisonous princess” in 2013, Rihanna poked fun at her word choice and fact checked the research.
5. But when they respect you, it’s totally cool to make new friends.
Grimes recently joined Rihanna on the Roc Nation roster. Wouldn’t it be amazing if she wrote songs for Rih’s next album?
6. Hooking up with someone casually doesn’t mean you won’t be their peer down the line.
Rihanna dated Drake a couple years back; now they party together as friends.
7. Don’t let anyone, even your friends and fans, shove you around.
When a fan grabbed her in the UK, Rihanna swung her mic.
8. Let people know when you feel you’ve given them enough.
Rihanna is not here for free concert tickets.
9. Don’t overthink social media.
“I don’t really think about [what I post] too much. Literally, I can be sitting in a car and be bored, so I do a selfie just because I’m bored. Or if my dog is running around in circles and I think that’s funny, I put it on Instagram,” Ri told Vogue earlier this month.
10. Pose for #filtafree pictures proudly.
If any followers are scared, they can call that reverend.
11. If something doesn’t interest you, don’t feel the need to pretend that it does.
12. You can say everything without saying anything at all.
13. Phuck FOMO: it’s okay to sit out some parties.
Rihanna won a Grammy this year, but didn’t attend the ceremony.
14. When you go out, make sure your friends get home safe.
At the end of a night out with Charlamagne Da God in LA, Rihanna called the radio host a car. “Rihanna is the realest n**** in the game since Tupac,” he said.
15. When celebrating a culturally significant holiday, like Crop Over in Barbados, stay out until the festivities are done.
16. The next day, kill your hangover with Chinese takeout.
17. Show up for a big moment wearing what you want, even a doobie wrap.
18. And no matter how far you travel, take pleasure in repping your home block.
21. Change your hair to entertain yourself, not to please others.
“That’s the good thing about a weave. You can do whatever with it,” Rihanna explained.
22. When you want to master a skill, identify a pro you admire and ask for help.
Rihanna hired dancer Secret Moneii to appear in her “Pour It Up” video, then asked for some pointers. “I taught her how to make her booty go up and down separately. She was getting it!,” Moneii said.
23. Don’t bother with expensive jewlery.
“My jewelry’s all fake — from Claire’s. Or I get it from my mom’s boutique in Barbados. Her shop’s called FAB-U-LUS,” Rihanna said.
24. Invest in bodysuits.
The perfect, no-slip base to layer under dresses, sheer tops, and denim.
27. And be a cheerleader when women who are younger than you accomplish something great.
29. Don’t pass up a sure thing.
Rihanna and Eminem have done three singles together. They’re all global monster hits.
30. But never resist the thrill of doing something you’ve never done before.
Meet a baby lion? Go ahead and hug it.
31. You can spend money on others and yourself at the same damn time.
32. But don’t pile up on possessions.
This year, Rihanna moved her home base from Los Angeles to New York. “I’ve downsized. I want a smaller closet. I want simpler. I want to just take it back to what’s important,” she explained.
33. Create a world for yourself where people support each other. Make every day a No Basic Zone.
“My bitches twerk on water. No basic zone! No basics!”