December 18, 2015


I Survived Rihanna's ANTIdiaRy: Inside The NYC Experience

Christopher Polk/Getty Images for WESTBURY ROAD ENTERTAINMENT LLC
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for WESTBURY ROAD ENTERTAINMENT LLC

Seemingly out of nowhere Thursday afternoon (December 17), Rihanna launched a scavenger hunt for fans in the New York City area. The metaphoric pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? The chance to experience an as-yet unlocked room from Rih's eight-room ANTIdiaRy mobile site, the one teasing her still-secretive album, in real life.

The first hint that something was happening came via this Instagram post from official ANTIdiaRy account @iamthekeyholder. A few hours later, the account posted a photo of a business card, alerting fans that New York's financial district was the setting for the real-life ANTIdiaRy room. The next set of clues came via Rihanna Navy members themselves... who had no prior knowledge of their involvement.

A small, select group of Rih fans around the country were surprised with brand new Samsung Galaxy Note 5 phones, arriving at their doorsteps on Thursday. The phones came pre-loaded with photos and voice memos hinting at the location of the New York ANTIdiaRy room, and instructions to share the clues online with the rest of the Navy.

It didn't take long for Rihanna's brilliant fans (including yours truly) to piece it all together and head to 23 Wall Street, an eerily vacant NYC landmark across from the New York Stock Exchange. It's the former headquarters of J.P. Morgan & Co., the most powerful bank of the early 20th century. It's been mysteriously empty for years.

Immediately after work Thursday evening I hopped on the downtown No. 2 subway, excited and anxious to discover what this experience was all about.

When I arrived at the location, there were people queued up between black velvet ropes. I walked up and a tall, stone-faced man dressed in all black approached me and asked in a low, deep voice, "What are you here for?" 

"Um, Rihanna?" I replied, although it came out sounding more like a question. 

He handed me an Oralia Corporation business card, just like the one in the Instagram post, and told me, "Hold on to this—it's your key inside."

It wasn't long before five of us were escorted around the way and up some stairs to the impressive corner entrance of 23 Wall Street. A woman, also in all black, greeted us in a soothing, spooky tone. She asked our names and informed us there was no phone or camera use allowed inside. What was behind those big, ominous doors? We were about to find out.

Our group entered into a large, nearly pitch black room and the doors closed behind us. All we could see was a desk in the center of the empty room, lit by a sole spotlight from above. A woman behind the desk seemed frozen, and we noticed a creepy grin and only her eyes moving as we got closer and sat down.

The woman, who was holding a pen which the light bounced off of, welcomed us, said something about us being perfect for the job, and then, with the pen hidden in her fists, asked, "What color is the pen I'm holding?" One girl timidly guessed, "Bronze?" Another said silver and, remembering the light reflecting off it, I confidently said gold. Gold was correct. She got up and told us to follow her.

This mysterious woman led us down dark hallways and stairwells, lit solely by neon blue lights, like those seen in the Instagram post from earlier Thursday. We were about to enter another room when she stopped, turned around, and told us everyone starting in the corporation works in the basement. She oddly added that the company only succeeds if we work as a team, and forget any personal goals or desires.

In the next room she stopped and pointed to another woman across the room under a dim light. This woman never spoke a word and guided us to yet another woman sitting at yet another desk. She was similarly silent as she came from behind the desk. There was a large, metallic, gold vault. One by one she lined us up and gently pushed us through the narrow doorway.

The gold room had mirror-like walls covered in braille (a common theme of the ANTIdiaRy campaign). There were four men sitting at accounting machines, counting gold coins nonstop. A man entered the room, and in a serious tone, commanded one of the women in our group, by name, to follow him. This happened with each of the accountants and people in my group. I was the last of my group in the room when the final accountant approached me, getting extremely close to my face. I let out a nervous "Hi," and he, like the others, told me to follow him.

The accountant brought me into a secluded side room and we sat across from each other at a small table. He placed a small but semi-heavy twill sack in my hands and started taking coins out, counting them. He made a pile of five and set it aside. Then a pile of three, and set it aside. A pile of four coins, and a few more piles of three. While counting he murmured something extremely eerie: "I'll never leave this place." He continued, "I came here, just like you, and I've never been able to leave."

He stopped counting coins and slowly pulled an ornate, gold key from the bag. With a bewildered look on his face he placed the key in my hands and said, "Take this. This key is yours. There's a chance you can get out, but we have to hurry."

He grabbed my arm, and we rushed out of the vault. He told me he could take me part of the way, but that I'd have to get out on my own. We pushed through what seemed like a fire exit to a set of stairs. "Go! Run!" he exclaimed. I jetted up the stairs, taking two at a time. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed people literally chasing me. My heart was racing—I didn't come this far just to leave here without a damn key!

@106th on Twitter
@106th on Twitter

I ran around a few corners—almost making an actual wrong turn into a very real emergency exit—and finally saw a glass door leading out to the street. I rushed over, pushed it open, and was free! As I caught my breath and walked back toward the subway I noticed two small notes attached to the key. The first was the ANTIdiaRy logo, and the other was this message: "Keep this close to you. Soon I'll tell you what it unlocks." The second tag said: "This is yours alone. DM me @iamthekeyholder with your code." There is a unique code inscribed on the key itself.

I have DM'ed my key's code to @iamthekeyholder, as instructed, but so far have not received any kind of response. So what exactly did I experience? Considering what we saw Thursday night, I think it's safe to assume the ANTIdiaRy room we got to experience in real life was Room 7, the Office. If this is true, it seems we somehow got to "skip" Room 6, the Gallery, which has not yet been revealed on the mobile site.

So, fellow Rihanna fans, what do you think all of this means? What do the keys unlock? What will Rooms 6 and 8 hold? Do people with keys get to hear new ANTI music first?! Nobody knows anything...yet. I will say, this experience sparked a new excitement in me for Rih's long-awaited new project, and that alone makes it worth the wait.