Barbados has declared Rihanna a national hero after removing Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and entering a new era as a republic.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley announced that the 33-year-old Barbadian musician and entrepreneur would be conferred with the honour of National Hero of Barbados to cheers during a ceremony held overnight on Monday in the capital, Bridgetown, to mark the political transition.
Rihanna, a billionaire according to Forbes, was called up before the crowds to be congratulated by Mottley, the leader of Barbados’s republican movement.
“May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your works, by your actions,” Mottley told Rihanna, a reference to her 2012 chart-topping single “Diamonds”.
Mottley said the artist had 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”.
Glittering music career
Rihanna, whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty, was born in Saint Michael in Barbados and grew up in Bridgetown before moving to the United States as a teenager to pursue a career in music.
She has since become one of the best-selling artists of all time, winning top industry awards along the way, and branched out to create cosmetic and clothing businesses in recent years.
In 2018, she was named as “Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary” for Barbados, a role that involves promoting education, tourism and investment on the Caribbean island, which is home to nearly 300,000 people.
A year earlier, a Barbados street she used to live in was renamed Rihanna Drive in her honour.
Her latest recognition makes her the 11th Barbadian to have ever been honoured as a national hero. The only other living person to have received the same award is iconic cricketer Garfield Sobers, who was also present at Monday’s ceremony and hugged Rihanna.
Break with colonial past
Barbados, famous for its idyllic beaches, declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.
It has cast the removal of Elizabeth II, who is still the queen of 15 other realms, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and Jamaica, as a way to finally break with the demons of its colonial history.
It will remain within the Commonwealth, a grouping of 54 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.
But the birth of the republic unclasps almost all the colonial bonds that have kept the tiny island tied to England since an English ship claimed it for King James I in 1625.
It may also be a harbinger of a broader attempt by other former colonies to cut ties to the British monarchy as it braces for the end of Elizabeth’s nearly 70-year reign and the future accession of Charles.
The last time the queen was removed as head of state was in 1992, when the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius proclaimed itself a republic.