Where hasn't Rihanna been in the past two years? The 24-year-old will return to the VMA stage on September 6 for the first time since she and Eminem burned things up with "Love the Way You Lie" in 2010, and her rise has been astounding since then.
Rihanna is currently tied with Drake for the most VMA nominations, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. With the November release of her sixth album, Talk That Talk, which included a coveted feature from Jay-Z, Rihanna solidified the bad-girl image we were exposed to on singles like "S&M," but more importantly, she finally made it clear who she is as an artist.
In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna admitted that she "felt stifled" during her early days at Def Jam, feeling pressure to live up to their expectations of the perfect pop princess. But those days are over.
Over the past year, fans who follow the singer on Instagram and Twitter have gotten a much closer glimpse of her personality and lifestyle through uncensored tweets and photos documenting everything from bikini-clad vacations to tattoo parlor visits. In February, the Good Girl Gone Bad performed the ultimate act of defiance when she released a remix of her hit "Birthday Cake" with none other than her infamous ex, Chris Brown, delivering a guest verse. Despite the feedback, both negative and positive, Rihanna carried on like it was simply no big deal.
Two months later, she landed on Time magazine's list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World, where designer Stella McCartney had this to say about her: "She's one of the coolest, hottest, most talented, most liked, most listened to, most followed, most impressive artists at work today, but she does it in her own stride," McCartney said.
Just a few weeks later, she made her silver-screen debut in the blockbuster film "Battleship" and also became the first person to appear alongside Jay-Z and Kanye West during their Watch the Throne tour run, when they summoned her to the stage in London.
From there, her performances didn't slow down, with sets at BBC's Hackney Festival and appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and the "American Idol" season finale, where she performed "Where Have You Been" sporting dreadlocks. Not to mention her self-described "gangsta goth geisha" getup in Coldplay's "Princess of China" video, which also debuted this summer.
With so much growth in so little time, it's impossible to predict what Rihanna will have in store for her 2012 VMA performance, but it's sure to be a can't-miss event.
The 2012 MTV Video Music Awards will air live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 6, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Head to VMA.MTV.com from now through August 24 to vote for your favorites, or text BNA to 22444 (message and data rates may apply) to vote for Best New Artist all the way through the show!