Day One of Rihanna's 777 Tour was as close to perfect as it could possibly get. The 150 journalists from 82 countries, and contest winners, were treated like royalty.
We flew in a jet Rihanna chartered, received in our seats a 777 Tour bag of gifts, sipped champagne she personally poured into our cups, received top-notch service from a hand-picked elite group of flight attendants, and traveled to Mexico City to watch the hottest, sexiest female pop star perform the top-selling downloads of the last five years.
If Rihanna had sent us back home the next day, her status of pop goddess would have never been tarnished in some of our eyes. But instead Rihanna agreed to keep the party going for six more days.
Each day was less perfect than the last. On Day Two in Toronto, Rihanna showed up to the baggage claim just like the rest of us, but she traded her couture for Adidas sweats and a baseball cap, no makeup or hair perfectly styled; however, she did on-camera press without hesitation. She took the stage on time that night. But when we boarded the jet headed to Stockholm the next morning, she did not walk down the aisles to personally greet us.
On Day Three in Stockholm, we didn't see her until she took the stage more than two-and-a-half hours late. Though the after party started half past midnight, she didn't arrive until closer to 4 a.m. Rihanna's guests were beginning to feel less royal, a bit slighted.
The morning departure for the flight to Paris was delayed on Day Four. And when 777 Tour passengers did board, we waited on the tarmac for more than an hour, which had now become customary. We complained about her absence as we laughed with our old and new friends on her chartered plane as we ate her food and got tipsy off drinks from her open bar. Rumored technical problems prompted Rihanna to cut her set shot in Paris, and again, she didn't arrive to her own afterparty until after 3 a.m. Well-known hip-hop figures Diddy, Akon, Pharrell, Omarion, and Cassie were in the house, all the way in Paris, but Rihanna still caught our flak.
Another delayed departure happened on the morning of Day Five. We arrived to Berlin several hours later than scheduled. Either in response to suggestions or self-imposed improvements, we were provided catered food backstage as well as adequate workspace and Internet connection needed to write and post our stories. Rihanna performed hours late and again did not acknowledge us. We were livid that she would monopolize our time by bringing us here, yet do so without giving us the access to her that we deemed necessary for our jobs. Though our itinerary projected that we would arrive to London by midnight for Day Six, we did not get to the Berlin airport until 3 a.m. Our level of intolerance for the perceived disrespect had reached its peak. We started shouting our demands. We insisted upon having access to Rihanna. In the chaos, one man streaked. We all laughed hysterically, but we were mad that were driven to this.
Day Six got worse. Everything was taking even longer than normal. Our bus rides from the airport to the hotel never took longer than 90 minutes. We fell asleep and woke up and fell asleep again and still weren't there. There was so much tension in the air that when we pulled up to the fancy hotel, we snapped at the bellmen who greeted us with smiles and unloaded our luggage. As we walked into the lobby, we were no longer discussing our complaints discreetly. The fatigue was weighing heavy on our colleagues who had organized this historical event and for whom we had the deepest respect. They had been kind and generous, and had extended themselves to make this all possible.
Day Seven is happening in New York. It's the most important date, post-Sandy and pre-Thanksgiving, and the final date of the tour. I'm going in with 100 percent positive energy.
Initially, I planned to focus on all the things that went wrong with the 777 Tour. But the more I tried to write it, the more evident it was that I was viewing things from the wrong perspective.
There were some major organizational issues with this 777 Tour, but there was a lot of good. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of us. Every person that I spoke to about this trip congratulated me. They assumed that I must have done something special to have been invited.
I want to apologize to Team Rihanna for anything negative I said about this generous, extravagant gesture you have extended to me. I've been a music journalist for 20 years during which I've accumulated many some proud moments for which I have received recognition. But I've never been invited to be a part of something so lavish and celebratory.
In 20 years, when someone mentions that Rihanna took a select group of 150 journalists from 82 countries to seven countries in seven days, I will be able to refer to my first hand memories. I am thankful for the team, many of whom I have worked with for years, for requesting my presence. It has been a momentous occasion.
- Travel & Tourism