When Tetsuya Nomura first stated that River Phoenix was the inspiration for Squall Leonhart's design and personality, most fans in Japan didn't know why. They didn't realize that Squall and River's birthdays were the same (August 23), that their names were similar, or that River also had a sister named Rain. However, after it was confirmed that Squall was based on someone real, new rumors began to spread about his other designs. Since then, Nomura has gotten into the habit of making statements to stop rumors before they start.
Known to those who worked for Squaresoft at the time, Rinoa was based on a woman that Tetsuya Nomura worked with. The woman not only had a dog like Angelo but her name resembled that of the Japanese drama character Rinoa was loosely based on.
Long ago this website stated that actress/singer Takako Matsu was Rinoa's model – as an April Fools prank. Unfortunately, many people believed the rumor since Matsu was 165cm tall, played the piano and had a song called The Shooting Star! I first saw the actress on a Japanese drama titled Long Vacation, which my older brother had subtitled for AnimeXtreme showings in the late '90s. The TV series was about a pianist and a model, oddly the same side professions my boyfriend and I had at the time.
One year later, Matsu had an iconic role in Love Generation where she played a very spirited and Rinoa-like character who knew there are no guarantees for the future. She was cute but frustratingly hard to understand. As well, her personality was straight and pushy to the point of annoyance. She also had a father who welcomed her home whenever her relationship with a polar opposite boyfriend got too tough. Near the end of the show, her boyfriend also promises to meet her at the top of a valley. A recurring tagline seen during the show is "True love never runs smooth".