By Florence Mafomemeh
One queen is out, another is in. Singer and entrepreneur, Rihanna was hailed ‘national hero’ on November 30, the day her native Barbados became a republic. On the day that the island officially removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became the world’s newest republic, Rihanna’s homeland decided to honor her during its Presidential Inauguration.
Bestowing the title on the singer, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley praised her for her ‘extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth.’ “On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people, we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.” “May you continue to ‘shine like a diamond’ and bring honor to your nation by your works, by your actions and to do credit wherever you shall go,” Mottley said. The fashion icon was appointed as an ambassador of Barbados in 2018.
At the investiture ceremony for the pop singer, Mottley said the superstar commanded “the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence with her creativity, her discipline, and above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth”.
In an overnight ceremony presided over by Prince Charles in the capital, Bridgetown, Dame Sandra Mason, 72, the island’s governor-general since 2018, was sworn in as president-elect of the nation following a vote in parliament in October. She now replaces the Queen as the head of state.
Expressing surprise and gratitude while accepting the honor, the 33-year-old global superstar said nothing compares to being recognized where you grew up. “This is a day that I will never, ever forget. It’s also a day that I never saw coming.”
The singer said the people of Barbados are the true heroes, and she takes pride in calling Barbados home. “I’m going to be a Bajan till the day I die, and this is still the only place I’ve ever called home. I love Barbados. I love you guys and I pray that the youth continue to push Barbados forward.”
In a speech declaring Barbados a republic, Prince Charles acknowledged the “appalling atrocity of slavery” the Caribbean island suffered.
Addressing her new nation, the new president looked to the future. “Vessel Republic Barbados has set sail on her maiden voyage. May she weather all storms and land our country and citizens safely on the horizons and shores which are ahead of us,” the President-elect said after being sworn in.
The makeup and fashion mogul who is considered Barbados’s most famous citizen attended the event with Prince Charles which coincided with the country’s 55th anniversary of independence.
A statement from the Barbados Government Information Office says that the position gives the Barbadian singer, who also became one of the Caribbean island country’s cultural ambassadors in 2008, “specific responsibility for promoting education, tourism and investment for the island.”
In a move that received a great deal of support in the country, Barbados formally cut ties with the British monarchy by becoming a republic almost 400 years after the first English ship arrived on the most easterly of the Caribbean islands.
Born Robyn Rihanna Fenty in Saint Michael Parish, Barbados to a Barbadian father and an Afro-Guyanese mother, the 33-year-old was raised in the capital, Bridgetown. She was propelled to fame after the American producer Evan Rogers recognized her talents. Her 2007 single Umbrella confirmed her as one of the world’s biggest pop stars, and in 2008 the then prime minister, David Thompson, announced an annual Rihanna Day.
Rihanna became a worldwide star when her distinctive voice hit airwaves across the world, after she was signed to rapper Jay-Z’s record label. She won a Grammy a couple of years later for the single Umbrella featuring Jay-Z, with her 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad selling several million copies worldwide. She’s since won multiple Grammys.
Rihanna joins a select group of 10 other Barbadians including Garfield Sobers, regarded as one of the greatest cricketers of all time and the only other living national hero. Sobers was also present at the ceremony and hugged Rihanna.
Apart from making music, Rihanna is also an entrepreneur and has enjoyed a highly successful business career with her Fenty group of companies. Her Beauty line Fenty has been described by Essence magazine as “a love song to women of color”, in the way it’s inclusive of shades that “all women of color can find themselves in.”
In August Forbes estimated her worth to be $1.7bn (£1.3bn), about $1.4 bn of which comes from the value of her cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty, a partnership with the French fashion giant LVMH. Forbes announced her billionaire status earlier this year, saying she’s “the wealthiest female musician in the world”.
Rihanna, unarguably the “new Queen” of Barbados is now an ambassador, a true superstar, a billionaire, and a National Hero.
The new era for Barbados ends Britain’s centuries of influence, including more than 200 years when the island was a hub for the transatlantic slave trade. The Queen sent the country her “warmest good wishes” for “happiness, peace and prosperity in the future” and said the nation holds a “special place” in her heart.