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Why Rihanna’s national honour matters

Published:Friday | December 3, 2021 | 12:06 AM


International pop and R&B superstar Rihanna was declared a national hero in Barbados as the country transitioned to a Republic. Barbados chose to celebrate their most famous living citizen as they commemorated this historic occasion. This was another bold decision made by Prime Minister Mia Mottley and her peers, at a pivotal moment in the country’s history.

Rihanna has always remained true to her Barbadian roots and was appointed as an ambassador in 2008. The decision to make Rihanna a hero was very popular among Barbadians and this is all that matters. I am sure Ms Mottley did not make this decision lightly, she is known for making bold choices for impact and to achieve a vision. Barbados population is approximately 300,000, the odds of another citizen of Barbados achieving the level of success attained by Rihanna in the near or distant future is almost zero. Barbados chose to celebrate Rihanna now.

It might help those who are confused to revisit the definition of hero. A hero is defined as someone who is idolised for courage, outstanding achievements and noble qualities. A hero inspires and is a source of pride to fellow citizens. Rihanna is only 33 years old, she has produced multiple award-winning albums, and achieved international stardom, amassing a net worth of close to US$2 billion. She has promoted her country. Rihanna’s philanthropic work is outstanding, through her foundation she has contributed to education and emergency efforts around the globe; she supported research in the fight against the coronavirus, she has given to multiple causes in Barbados, in particular healthcare and education.


In Jamaica, we may not consider cultural icons as deserving of hero recognition. Bob Marley, for instance, is much bigger in status than Rihanna, with a legacy that has endured decades. He is probably the most renowned Jamaican in the world, dead or alive, and there is no question about his impact. Visitors travel far distances to Jamaica, due to the appeal of Marley, his music and the positive vibes he represented. Our definition of a hero might be limited to those who fight struggles on the ground and in politics. Truth is, heroes come in many forms. It is the impact they’ve made on a country through their work and achievements that really matters.

Barbados has shown us that their highest national honour can be bestowed on anyone in the country, if they feel it is deserving and they can assess the impact. In Rihanna’s own words, “I have travelled the world and received several awards – but nothing compares to being recognised in the soil that you grew in.” Congrats to the people of Barbados on becoming a republic, a significant milestone in their history; and congrats to their newest hero, The Rt Hon Robyn Rihanna Fenty!