Just what exactly makes Rihanna smell so good?

She supposedly smells like heaven… and now you can too. The singer and beauty maven’s signature Fenty scent in now available in South Africa

By Ingrid Wood
Fenty eau de parfum © Supplied

“It’s an experience. It’s a memory, encapsulated into a fragrance.”


It was a thread on Twitter a couple of years back that got the discussion going. Rihanna, according to a host of celebrities, smells really good, like heaven in fact. So, when she launched her fragrance Fenty eau de parfum in 2021, so many people jumped at the chance to smell like her that it sold out within hours.

If you’re wondering what Rihanna smells like (aren’t we all?), Fenty EDP has finally hit the shores of South Africa – but be warned, quantities are limited so don’t waste time.

Fenty eau de parfum © Supplied

What does it smell like?

The EDP is a chypre floral fragrance. Chypre refers to perfumes characterised by citrus top notes, florals in the centre, and woody base notes. Here the fresh top notes are tangerine and blueberry, the middles notes are magnolia, rose and geranium, while musk and patchouli make up the base. The vibrancy and freshness come from the flowers and fruit, but there’s also a beautiful spicy element and a rawness which, to me, is what gives it a slightly addictive edge.

A scent of contrasts

Magnolia, which is a lush floral but also very fresh, is the note that Rihanna believes elevates the fragrance. “The middle note of magnolia is actually very conventional – which Rihanna is not. I wanted to break rules as she has done in music,” explains Master perfumer Jacques Cavallier-Belletrud who created the scent. “Rihanna has contrasts. She is a big star but has this humility, a genuineness. There are very few people I have met in my career that are so humble and are so focused on what we were doing together. It was a great experience for a creator like me.”

The starting point was Grasse in France, the world perfume capital, where Cavallier-Belletrud was born and where his father and grandfather also worked as perfumers. “I like to share the place where I create perfumes,” he says. Here they spent a lot of time together, exploring the gardens and talking fragrance. Rihanna was the master of ingredients, selecting about 25 that trigger memories of some of her favourite places – like Barbados, New York, and her hometown of Bridgetown – and Cavallier-Belletrud expertly edited and translated them into what she wanted to express with her perfume.

Fenty eau de parfum © Supplied

Who is it for?

This fragrance is for any men or women who like a scent with an addictive edge. Cavallier-Belletrud focused on creating a beautiful unisex scent that wasn’t constricted by gender or borders – “fruits and florals have no gender”. While it comes off slightly masculine and intense on the first spray, as it settled on my skin, the more feminine aspects came into play, and I think more women will gravitate towards it. But this is undoubtedly a fragrance that reacts with your body chemistry and skin, so everyone seems to pick up something different.

The packaging is also neutral. While the box is a vibrant sky blue, the chic bottle is amber and has soft, rounded edges and a twist-off cap embossed with the brand name. “Brown is my favourite colour. Brown is who I am,” explains Rihanna. “If I’m going to make a fragrance that represents me, even the body language of the bottle needs to marry that. I wanted a rich colour that really represents all genders across all walks of life.”

Fenty EDP is available at ARC while stocks last (R2975 for 75ml).

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