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When we first met Rihanna in 2005 she was a pigtail-rocking 17-year-old just getting her start in the music biz. My, how things have changed.

Over a decade later, Bad Gal Ri is an unstoppable brand and household name with almost 10 billion VEVO views — a clear nod to her ever-evolving talent, not only on the radio but in front of the camera.

If you ask us why MTV decided to present Rihanna with their prestigious Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at this year’s VMAs, we’d say it’s because she handed us her pain, triumph, and all-inclusive life story in a way most artists haven’t dared — and did so through visuals.

Since introducing herself to the world in 2005, RiRi has unapologetically self-actualized and the proof (along with tons of to-die-for fashion) lives in her music videos. Join us on a 12-year trip down memory lane below and tune into the MTV VMAs this Sunday, August 28 at 9 p.m. EST.

Pon De Replay: When we first met Rihanna, she was introduced as the beautiful island teen with killer dance moves and a tomboy steeze.

SOS: Still abiding by the restrictive rules of her record label, Rihanna upped her sex appeal for her 2006 video “SOS,” but stood within the bounds of what her label thought was appropriate. This would soon change.

Umbrella”: Having had enough of not being herself, RiRi showcased a whole new look that included a dark, asymmetrical bob and smoky eyes. She nabbed bossman Jay Z for her “Umbrella” video and even played a french maid pin-up girl of sorts.

Rehab”: Rihanna’s transformation continued throughout 2008. As you’ll see in “Rehab,” RiRi cut her hair shorter and rocked more tats. She played with the idea of telling musical stories, nabbing Justin Timberlake as the leading man for this love tale that’s raked in over 178 million VEVO views.

Russian Roulette: After her love affair with Chris Brown turned tragically violent in 2009, Rihanna purged her pain on Rated R, her fourth studio album. Not only did she sing out her deepest, darkest thoughts, she completely unraveled in the videos that followed.

What’s My Name: Enter Drake. In 2010, RiRi started having fun again, bringing the color back into her life with Rated R cut “Rude Boy” and “What’s My Name” off her follow-up album Loud. We’ll never forget RiRi pulling off bright red hair.

“Man Down”: Rihanna put her life as a sex symbol on full display in her popular video for “S&M.” She also tackled the taboo topic of rape in “Man Down,” another short film of sorts widely scrutinized by critics who felt she condoned and promoted gun violence in the visual.

“Diamonds”: Rihanna achieved a stillness and comfort in her skin that is envied across the world. Her videos were becoming more visual art, as “Diamonds” featured a much more stripped down version of the singer. The same can be said of “Take Care,” where RiRi enjoyed the company of Drake.

“Pour It Up”: Unapologetic is the perfect description of RiRi at this stage in her career. She beat the boys at their own game with this video featuring her favorite strippers. She even hit the pole herself. It was ratchet, sexy, and fun — everything Rihanna.

“Bitch Better Have My Money”: RiRi stepped her storytelling up in the visual for “BBHMM,” creating a whole buzz around the video’s premiere by kidnapping fans.

“Work”: In 2016, Rihanna has really embraced all the things that make her, her. In her visuals, you’ll notice the singer really getting back to her island roots, baring all, turning up her killer fashion, and still encompassing some darkness.


Still Reigning: How Rihanna Unapologetically Evolved Into A Music Video Mastermind  was originally published on