Superstar singer and entrepreneur Barbadian Rihanna, 33, was named the 11th National Hero of Barbados by Prime Minister Mia Mottley at a ceremony on November 29, 2021, to celebrate the nation removing British Queen Elizabeth II as the nation’s head of state and its new status as a republic. This is the first time in two decades that the country has bestowed the title of National Hero. Among the dignitaries attending the ceremony was Prince Charles of England.
In the ceremony, Prime Minister Mottley said that Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty displayed “visionary and pioneering leadership” in her service to Barbados before quoting from the singer’s 2012 recording “Diamond,” adding “May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation.” In her presentation, the Prime Minister noted that Rihanna had been born of humble origins less than one mile from the location of the ceremony.
While Barbados has been an independent nation since 1966, the move to become a republic launched over 20 years ago. The Parliament of Barbados succeeded in electing its first president in history in October 2021 with a two-thirds majority vote, and the government became a republic on Tuesday, November 30, 2021, the 55th anniversary of its independence. It was celebrated by swearing in Sandra Mason as its first president. Queen Elizabeth II sent her congratulations in a letter in which she noted the significance of Mason becoming the first President of Barbados. The Queen, who visited the country in 1966, added that she was pleased her son Prince Charles was present at the ceremony and said the people of Barbados had a special place in her heart.
Also on November 30, 2021, Rihanna received a medal at a separate ceremony attended by a cheering crowd. She accepted the honor by saying she would never forget the day and that the honor was totally unexpected. She made her remarks in a speech encouraging young people to continue pushing Barbados forward and added that although she has traveled throughout the world and been honored several times and received numerous awards, none of it compared to being recognized by her own country.
The flag, coat of arms, and national anthem of Barbados will not change in the new republic, specific references will be altered, said Suleiman Bulbulia, a columnist at the Barbados Today newspaper. For example, the terms “crown” and “royal” will no longer be used in titles or designations. In the new era, any citizen of Barbados can now hope to become Head of State, he added.
Prior to Rihanna, the last individual to be named a National Hero in Barbados was Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers, a cricket player. Other National Heroes include Errol Barrowand, its first Prime Minister, and Bussa, the leader of a slave revolt.
In addition to receiving the title of National Hero, Rihanna was also named one of the wealthiest female entertainers in the world in 2021 by Forbes magazine. Forbes estimated her net worth to be $1.7 billion, most of it stemming from Fenty Beauty, the star’s cosmetic brand.
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