Jan. 22, 2014
BIM in her bedroom with her Picasso drawing. Photo: Rene Cervantes Source: Supplied
WHEN Rihanna first launched her singing career, she may have dreamt about landing the kind of fame and fortune that would allow her to buy a Picasso.
But pop star wannabe Abimbola “Bim” Fernandez, who counts Rihanna as one of her role models, already has an original canvas by the Spanish master hanging above her bed in her Manhattan pied-à-terre, according to the New York Post.
The 24-year-old beauty doesn’t need to aspire to a life of wealth and luxury. She is the daughter of Nigerian gemstone tycoon Antonio Deinde Fernandez, who Bim says is worth a staggering $8.7 billion.
Her privileged background might raise the hackles of many a cash-strapped artist struggling to break into the music industry, but Fernandez insists: “Money can’t buy a record deal.
“It can’t buy good music. You can either sing or you can’t.”
SMH Records clearly thought she fit into the former category. The Charlotte, NCbased label signed her last fall, and Fernandez’s first release, the single “Let’s Take It Naked,” debuts Tuesday at smhworldwide.net.
Bim with her Dad. Source: Supplied
Last week, during her interview and photo shoot with The Post , she flitted energetically about the Hell’s Kitchen apartment she began renting last November at the swanky Mercedes House, which boasts unobstructed views of the Hudson and indoor and outdoor pools.
She is wearing leggings and an Armani sweater. Relaxing in the corner of her couch, she delivers a running commentary on her apartment’s notable decor – besides the Picasso, there’s an original Dr. Seuss painting her mother gave her as a child, a family picture with Kofi Annan and a photo with Nelson Mandela, whom she called “Uncle Mandela,” having known him since she was a kid.
Fernandez didn’t exactly have a normal childhood, even by the standards of high society. While other first-graders from affluent families might have a pony show up for a party, 7-year-old Fernandez enjoyed riding around her parents’ Westchester estate atop an elephant for an African safari-themed bash.
Despite Fernandez’s insistence that she didn’t know she was wealthy as a child, her reclusive 80-year-old father is believed to be one of the world’s richest men, thanks to the diamond and gold mines he owns in the Central African Republic, now rife with sectarian violence. Let’s just say it’s not the type of place you’d want to go on vacation.
He originally started out owning an oil company called Petro-Inett.
“There was a coup in the Congo,” explains Fernandez. “He made his first million, I think, [by] trading – obviously this is before I was born. They would give him oil in return for food, and then he would sell the oil.
“I don’t know if that’s legal, so if it’s not, don’t quote me,” she adds, with a laugh. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. My dad’s a genius.”
Born of royal blood but not money, Papa Fernandez is a retired UN ambassador who now owns four homes: a mansion in Larchmont, NY (where his daughter spends about half of her time), a house in Brussels, a palace in Nigeria and a French hunting chateau that once belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte.
Bim and her family with Nelson Mandela. Source: Supplied
Three private jets fly him between his properties.
But Fernandez says she’s making her own path and launching a career without her father’s help. (Though he does reach into his deep pockets and give her a certain amount of money each month.)
It was after Bim’s mother, Aduke, died last year that Bim finally decided to pursue her dream of stardom and step up her game as a tribute to her mom. She sealed a deal with SMH Records in November, and a reality-TV pilot about her life is in final negotiations for pick-up by a major network, according to her label’s co-owner, Michael A. Smith. The iTunes release of Let’s Take It Naked, a flute-infused, bubblegum dancefloor jam, is expected soon, along with a music video and radio promotion from distributor Caroline Records (a division of the very big deal Capitol Music Group).
“It’s not even that racy of a song!” Fernandez says about the provocatively titled track. “It’s very poppy, like, ‘I think you’re cute! Do you like me? So let’s get naked!’ I want it to be that song where it’s like, ‘Turn that song on! Let’s get ready! Let’s do shots!’ ”
It’s little surprise, then, that Fernandez’s father is not vetting any of this – he’s always encouraged his family to be highly private, don’t-talk-to-the press kind of people.
“He’s terrified because I’m his baby – especially with [me] revealing [my] wealth, and me being alone in the country, he’s terrified of someone kidnapping me and holding me for ransom,” she says. “He also just doesn’t want people taking advantage of me because I have been very sheltered my whole life.”
Born in France in 1988, Fernandez first got interested in music at age 4 – her parents made her perform violin for them in the music room every Sunday. She picked up guitar at age 13 at boarding school, due to a passion for Courtney Love and for the Irish band Blink. Her professional debut would come years later when she moved to New York after a one-month stint at Oxford Brookes University in England. “Everyone was way too snobby – I couldn’t do it,” Fernandez says of her unhappy few weeks there.
Stateside, Fernandez immersed herself in concert culture, befriending members of the pop-punk band Forever the Sickest Kids. They, in turn, introduced her to Gabe Saporta, lead vocalist of Cobra Starship. “I was sitting in their dressing room, and I didn’t know anyone, [so] I was just pretending to fidget through my purse,” says Fernandez. “I had a [black] Centurion AmEx, and it fell on the floor. Gabe picked it up and goes, ‘Whose is this?’ And I go, ‘It’s mine.’ And he goes, ‘Who are you?'”
BIM in her living room with Dr. Seuss print. Photo: Rene Cervantes Source: Supplied
The encounter fortuitously led to a featured role on the track Nice Guys Finish Last from the band’s 2009 album Hot Mess.
Now, four and a half years later, Fernandez is finally getting her chance to be where she’s always wanted – the spotlight. After her mother’s death last May from colon cancer, she’s ready – her philosophy being that every day is precious and you should pursue your goals.
“It gave me the push to try a little harder,” she says. “I definitely, more than anything, think this has happened because of my mom.”
But the road to Rihanna-dom will not come easy. Fernandez is well aware that her silver-spoon background is a gift to her detractors. (SMH Records’ Smith is quick to point out that she hasn’t paid for any of this.)
But that whole socialite thing might be a hindrance, too. Just ask Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian, whose recordings haven’t exactly turned them into Britney Spears.
“I think that, unfortunately, everyone’s perception of socialites has been pretty accurate so far, which is what I want to change,” says Fernandez. “People think I’m exactly like Paris Hilton, that I do nothing, I don’t work for myself, I don’t make my own money, I just spend my dad’s money, and I’m a spoiled brat. I hope they’re not right.”
Stylist: Mindy Saad, mindysaad.com; Stylist Assistant: Maria de Rohan; Hair/Makeup: T. Cooper