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Rihanna admits when she got the call to headline this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, she thought twice about the opportunity: “I was like, ‘You sure? I’m three months postpartum. Should I be making major decisions like this right now? I might regret this.”
But the singer said becoming a mom gave her the energy to take on the big event, especially with her 9-month-old son watching on.
“When you become a mom, there’s something that just happens where you feel like you could take on the world — you can do anything. And the Super Bowl is one of the biggest stages in the world, so as scary as that was … there’s something exhilarating about the challenge of it all,” she said. “It’s important for my son to see that.”
The Grammy-winning star said it was also important for her to perform on one of the world’s largest stages to represent “for immigrants, represent for my country, Barbados, [and] represent for Black women everywhere.”
“That’s key for people to see the possibilities. And I’m honored to be here. I’m honored to be doing this this year,” she added.
Rihanna, 34, spoke Thursday at the Phoenix Convention Center days before Sunday’s Big Game and her huge halftime performance. She was interviewed by Nadeska Alexis of Apple Music, the halftime show’s new sponsor who is putting on the spectacle alongside Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company.
She didn’t say which songs from her epic, 18-year catalog she’d perform but said she has been reworking the setlist to make sure the performance is memorable and monumental.
“The setlist was the biggest challenge. That was the hardest part — deciding how to maximize 13 minutes, but also celebrate. That’s what the show’s going to be — it’s going to be a celebration of my catalog in the best way,” she said. “I think we did a pretty good job at narrowing it down.”
Rihanna has been a chart-topping success since releasing her debut single, “Pon de Replay,” in 2005. She has released eight studio albums and logged 14 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, including “We Found Love,” “Diamonds,” “Work,” “Umbrella,” “SOS,” “Rude Boy,” “Only Girl (In The World)” and “What’s My Name?”
Her last album was 2016’s Anti, and she admitted that she’s sort of nervous because she hasn’t “been onstage in seven years.” But she said she’s been working hard during rehearsals, so much so she “totally forgot that my birthday is coming up” on Feb. 20 and she “totally forgot about Valentine’s Day.”
“I am just Super Bowl, Super Bowl, Super Bowl,” she said. “I have yet to sleep. We were working at the venue all last night … [and] somehow I’m here at a press conference right now.”
Rihanna declined to perform in the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show out of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, and at the press conference on Thursday journalists were not allowed to ask the singer questions.
Two young fans were able to ask Rihanna questions though. One asked what was the most important thing Rihanna learned in order to succeed in the industry. Her response: “Stay humble.”
“Because if not, this industry will humble you one way or the other,” she said. “My humility came from my childhood growing up in the Caribbean, growing up in my household with my mom. She’s a very humble woman, her mom was a very humble woman, and I’ve never lost sight of that. That’s very important to me. I often fear the pedestal that the world can put you on, and I always want to feel my feet on the ground — that makes me feel safe.”
Ahead of Rihanna’s performance and the battle between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles at the State Farm Stadium, country music singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem (sign language by Oscar-winning Coda actor Troy Kostur); R&B legend and singer-songwriter Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful” (signed by Colin Denny); and Emmy-winning actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph will sing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (signed by Justina Miles).
Ralph, one of the stars of the breakout TV series Abbott Elementary, about a school in Philadelphia, was proudly cheering on the Eagles on Thursday, even bringing out a purse with the team’s logo on it.
“I had to make sure I had all of the accoutrements. So when I saw that, I said, ‘Yes, we must have the bag,'” Ralph told the audience. “Philly, all the way. It’s a Philly thing.”
When Babyface was asked which team he was rooting for, he said: “I’m going to go with Rihanna.”
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