On Monday night, Barbados celebrated its final separation from the United Kingdom and Queen Elizabeth II’s removal as head of state. One of the newly independent republic’s inaugural acts? Naming Rihanna a national hero.
The timing of Monday’s Pride of Nationhood ceremony was apt, as The New York Times pointed out—the date marked exactly 55 years since the island nation gained its independence from Great Britain. The celebration took place in Barbados’ capital, Bridgetown—where Rihanna also grew up and where a street is now named in her honor. Former governor-general Sandra Mason swears in Tuesday as Barbados’ first president, and the nation will remain part of the Commonwealth.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley bestowed Rihanna’s National Hero title with a nod to one of the singer and Fenty founder’s most recognizable songs. “May you continue to shine like a diamond,” she said, “and continue to bring honor to your nation by your words, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go.”
Rihanna is only the 11th person to receive this honor, according to The Hollywood Reporter, and the second woman.
As meme-able as Rihanna’s official status as a national hero certainly is, the distinction is well earned.
Rihanna has centered her Barbadian roots throughout her career—through her music, her approach to entrepreneurship, and her philanthropy. She’s even served as an ambassador for the nation, yet one more example of the way the singer has put in the work. (Work, work, work, work.) (Sorry—but in my defense, that dancehall-inflected hit is a great example of what I’m talking about!)
Through her Clara Lionel Foundation, Rihanna donated nearly $2 billion in equipment to Bridgetown’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital in 2012—specifically, to the Clara Braithwaite Centre for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine, named for her grandmother. During the early days of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Rihanna pledged $5 million in aid to impoverished countries struggling with COVID, including $7 million in ventilators to Barbados. Later that year, she teamed with now-former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to donate 4,000 iPads to students on the island.
In 2018, Mottley conferred upon Rihanna the fabulously florid title “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary”—a role dedicated to promoting education, tourism, and investment, according to the BBC. Mottley honored the singer’s philanthropic efforts in health and education during the ceremony.
The best news about Rihanna’s newfound status as an official National Hero—capital “N,” capital “H?” It, too, comes with a fun turn of phrase: From now on, Rihanna can formally place “The Right and Honourable” in front of her name. As is right... and honourable. What else is there to say? Pour it up!