The Truth About Rihanna's Military Training

That Rihanna reign just won't let up. Despite her extended hiatus from music with no end in sight, the makeup mogul continues to break barriers as an entrepreneur. 

While many fans have jokingly called Rihanna "the Avon lady" while waiting for her next album, her pivot to fashion and beauty has been much more than that. Through her company, Fenty, Rihanna has revolutionized makeup, skincare, and lingerie with diversity and inclusivity in mind. She even debuted on the Forbes billionaire list in 2022. However, things weren't always so glamorous for the star. When you hear "Rihanna" and "military" in the same sentence, there are two visuals that might spring to mind: her fanbase, the Rihanna Navy, and her acting debut in the 2012 film "Battleship." Surprisingly, the movie hit a little closer to home than fans may have known. 

Rihanna's life pre-fame is mostly discussed in terms of talent shows and beauty pageants, but the singer has a surprising boot camp background. Years before her turn as a chart-topper and makeup mogul, she acquired valuable skills and experiences from her native Barbados that paved the way for her tough-girl image.

Rihanna's training started at 11 years old

It's impressive enough that Rihanna recorded "Pon de Replay" at 16, but she already went through rigorous sub-military training five years earlier. Funny enough, she took orders from a fellow Barbadian singer: Shontelle of "T-Shirt" and "Impossible" fame. In fact, Shontelle was Rihanna's drill sergeant. In a 2009 interview with BBC, Shontelle explained, "We were both in cadets together — it wasn't compulsory or anything. But picture me and Rihanna in combat boots and fatigues crawling through mud and things like that."

By "cadets," Shontelle is referring to the Barbados Cadets Corps, a program for Barbadian teens that sets them up for military success. However, the famously rebellious Rihanna wasn't the best at taking orders even back then. In 2015, she told NME, "We'd have to give trouble in order to enjoy this discipline we were getting. And we'd refuse to do push-ups when we were punished. It was a question of: Why just do it? It was so boring to follow the rules." It sounds like Shontelle had her hands full! Either way, despite Rihanna's disobedience, the skills she learned in training would eventually come in handy.

Rihanna's cadet background helped her prepare for 'Battleship'

Based on the famous board game, "Battleship" took the pop star's cadet training to the big screen. Playing the role of Officer Cora Raikes, Rihanna actually underwent another round of boot camp to get in the headspace of the character.

When it came to the intense physical aspect of training, it didn't sound like Rihanna had changed too much from her cadet days. In a press conference for "Battleship," she told Digital Spy, "Every minute of the training I was thinking about quitting. I was like, I need to get this guy out of my hotel room. He cannot be yelling at me like this in my room, this is scary!"

Unfortunately it was all for naught, as "Battleship" bombed at the box office and with critics. It was nominated for a whopping seven categories at the 33rd Golden Raspberry Awards, with Rihanna herself taking home the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress. Rihanna has never acknowledged the win, but it's safe to say that it didn't discourage her from pursuing future acting opportunities. A few years later she lent her voice to the animated film "Home," and she later appeared alongside Sandra Bullock and Cate Blanchett in "Ocean's 8." While Rihanna hasn't returned to her military roots, they at least led to movie roles, a surprising Shontelle connection, and an impressive fandom name.