For this year’s annual Women Shaping the Future issue, we asked 12 of today’s top musical acts to talk about the women who have inspired them most in their lives and careers. Here, Colombian reggaeton star Karol G talks about how Rihanna helped inspire her to pursue a career in music, and why Rihanna remains her dream collaboration.
With so many women, I’ll like how one dresses, I’ll like how one expresses herself, I’ll like the performance style of another. But with Rihanna, I admire every aspect in a personal way — as a woman, as a businessperson, as a singer, in the aesthetic and the art first, where she comes from, representing an island like Barbados, where she’s gotten with her talent. She’s a woman where in every project, every video, every song, she brings something different. We’ve heard her do the richest, clubbiest music and the most melancholy sounds, songs that are extremely profound, songs that are extremely professional, peak collaborations, historic feats.
In this industry, it’s really easy to lose yourself. While trying to fit in, you can forget who you are and try to please other people. I see her constantly standing by her style, standing by her personality, standing by what she likes. She inspires you to feel great without worrying about what people around you say. Then add to that, as an entrepreneur — when she became a businesswoman with all of her ventures with clothes, her lingerie, her makeup, and now skin products, it’s like, “What’s left?” In every way, she’s an inspiration to me.
The first song of hers that made me go, “Who is she and where did she come from?” was “Pon De Replay.” She looked so young, and I was in school and I saw the success she was starting to have. Later, she released other songs like “Umbrella,” with Jay-Z, and that’s when I started to feel inspired that I could have a future, too. I read the first interviews she did explaining that she came from Barbados, explaining all her culture and her roots, and I felt like, “OK, I come from Medellín, Colombia — maybe I can do it, too.” Those first few songs made me fully fall in love [with her], but with “Umbrella,” it was like, “That’s it. This is the top artist on my bucket list who I want to sing with.” And truly, truly in this moment — I like a lot of artists — the one who I would truly die to collaborate with, my dream collaboration … is Rihanna.
She’s an artist who is really close to her fans. She’s involved in racial justice issues, in the LGBTQ community, in how women should love themselves in their shape, in their form, however they are. She shows how human she is to people, and I think people connect so much to that. It’s not like she’s just an artist who releases music; she’s a person who cares about society, who cares about others, who cares about sending a message. In addition to a video being beautiful, it has to have a background, and that’s why it connects with people and that’s why I like it so much personally.
When you say, “What does Rihanna sing?” You can’t say, “Oh, she does pop.” She’s an artist who’s done every genre, and it’s never looked forced or just because it’s popular. No, she’s a singer making music for everyone — a person expressing through songs and sounds so many feelings that she has inside. In a lot of her videos, like the one for “Stay,” you see her in that bathtub and I swear, I can feel the vibe she’s emoting through the lyrics. She makes you live through it so personally. Sometimes I see artists who are carefully produced — which isn’t bad, that’s valid — and some that are more strategic, but what I see in her that hits me so deep and that I love so much is her naturalness and how organic everything is. Everything she does really represents her.