A global superstar, she’s the coolest, most controversial and most prolific hit-maker of a generation. She may have released a staggering seven albums in seven years, but being a pop star seems like a sideline – her full-time job is surely partying harder than anyone else ever. So becoming part of her entourage is an opportunity no one could turn down, right?
After spending five days and five nights on her private plane as she whirled around the world to launch her new album on a trip dubbed the 777 Tour, I can assure you that the reality is anything but glamorous.
On board there may have been endless cases of £250 gold-plated bottles of Armand de Brignac champagne, but for the 100-plus journalists and fans who joined her there were also some of the most stressed out, exhausted people ever seen this side of a major national disaster. All of them dancing to RiRi’s tune.
As one of her musicians – who would prefer not to be named – puts it: “The girl is on Rihanna Time and everyone else just has to fit in.”
Her new album is called Unapologetic and Rihanna, 24, makes no bones about the fact that she’s going to do what she wants, when she wants and despite keeping hundreds of people waiting, she’s working to her own timetable.
If she wants to chill in her hotel room in Stockholm while her band waits for two and a half hours backstage, she will. If she hears her fans screaming her name at the E-Werk venue in Berlin, she’ll let them scream for 153 minutes more before stepping on stage.
If she wants to get on her plane four hours after the rest of the crew, then stretch out in her first-class bed, slip on her eye mask and fall asleep for the rest of the flight, that’s what she’ll do. If she wants to party all night long and tear up the next day’s schedule, then you’d better have the Dom Pérignon ready.
Keeping up with Rihanna takes the stamina of an Olympic athlete, the DNA of Keith Richards and the Zen-like gorgeousness of her personal make-up artist, Mylah Morales, who has been at her side for the past seven years.
Mylah laughs: “My secret to working with her is to try and sleep when you can and when she goes out, you stay in.”
A typical day in the life on the 777 Tour (nicknamed by some fed-up cynics on the trip the “666 Tour”) involved getting up at the crack of dawn to sit in car parks or on planes waiting for her to show. It took nine hours to get from Stockholm to Paris (an hour-long journey) because Rihanna wasn’t ready to rock it.
By the time you’ve waited for her to show at the nightly gigs and attended her obligatory after-show parties, you’re left with around two hours to sleep before the early morning alarm goes off and it’s time to move continent.
Imagine that every day of every week of the year, and you have the average Team RiRi job description.
“If you want to work with Rihanna you have to be patient,” says the band member. “Everyone gets ready to go, but no one can do anything until she shows.
“She’s a lot of fun, but it can be tough spending most of your life just waiting around. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t even really sleep because you get pumped up and it’s you who gets the anxiety, while she’s chilling like a bottle of champagne. It can be pretty mind-blowing, but what can you do?”
Her entourage is vast and includes a personal masseur called Lama, a full-time hairdresser Yusef Williams (“Our look we’re working on right now is Street Coco Chanel”) and even someone to carry her sunnies.
It’s all about keeping Rihanna happy – like flying in her personal chef, Kamal Kalokoh, from LA to Toronto after the first day of the tour.
“She doesn’t like to eat on planes,” he says. “She asked for me to come along. I cook at her hotels. She loves carbs, curries and Caribbean food.”
Everyone who works with her stresses that RiRi’s punishing workload is all part of her game. Her stylist, Mel Ottenberg, whose job it was to pack 12 giant bags of clothes for the trip says: “We don’t talk about sleep. You can’t talk about sleep or think about sleep or you couldn’t do this job. I was sorting things out day and night before I got on the plane.
“But working with Rihanna is just exciting. Yes, I admit I am exhausted, but it’s worth the blast of doing this job. Maybe you have to be a bit crazy.”
Maybe you do. In one week trailing in her wake, I lost 5lb, aged several years and gained Michelle Obama-style upper-arm muscles from lugging my bag, as well as tales to keep friends amused for months to come.
But could I be part of her team full-time? You have to be kidding.
7 cities in 7 days
Dressed in a black boxing robe, Rihanna was two hours late on stage for 2,000 fans.
RiRi starts her set at 9.14pm, which was one-and-a-half hours after it was due to start.
After taking the stage in the Swedish capital, RiRi acted as a barmaid for fans until 6am.
Pal P Diddy might have, but none of the on-board journalists have got near to the star since Mexico City.
Rihanna’s late again. Impatient fans boo as she doesn’t start her performance until 11.30pm.
RiRi switches on Westfield’s Christmas lights for £500k, then plays a gig, starting one hour 15 minutes late.
(7) NEW YORK
It’s the final stop (hurrah!) and Rihanna rounds it off with her album launch at Best Buy
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