Barbados Ditched Queen Elizabeth and Named Rihanna Their National Hero
Rihanna is now “The Right Honorable Rihanna,” thanks to an honor recently bestowed upon her. The singer and entrepreneur was named a National Hero of Barbados, where she was born. Here are all the details and how Queen Elizabeth was involved.
The Prime Minister of Barbados declared Rihanna a National Hero
On Tuesday, Nov. 30, Rihanna was officially named a National Hero in her home country. Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley presented the billionaire singer with the title during a ceremony held in Bridgetown, the city where Rihanna grew up.
The ceremony also commemorated Barbados formally separating itself from the British monarchy and the United Kingdom. Barbados denounced Queen Elizabeth as its head of state, swearing in Dame Sandra Mason, the current Governor-General of Barbados, as president instead.
Rihanna is the second woman to earn the rare honor
Being declared a National Hero is a tremendous honor. It’s even more meaningful considering the country of Barbados has only awarded 11 other citizens the title in its entire history, and Rihanna is the second woman to earn it, according to Go Barbados.
Prime Minister Mottley sang the Fenty Beauty founder’s praises at the ceremony. “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,” Mottley said. “May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honor to your nation by your words, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go.”
The phrase “shine like a diamond” was a reference to Rihanna’s 2012 hit song “Diamonds,” in which she sings the lyrics, “We’re beautiful like diamonds in the sky/Shine bright like a diamond.”
Barbados’ only other female National Hero was Sarah Ann Gill
Besides Rihanna, the only other woman declared a National Hero of Barbados was Sarah Ann Gill. Gill died in 1866, and she wasn’t given the title of a National Hero until 1998. On Apr. 28, 1988, Barbados celebrated its first National Heroes Day and recognized 10 of its most historically significant people. The date was chosen because it was the centenary of the birth of Sir Grantley Adams, another of Barbados’ National Heroes.
Gill was a social and religious leader in the time of slavery in Barbados. When the Methodist Church sent missionaries to Barbados in the early 19th century, Gill defended and protected them. She adopted their faith, and when white planters managed to eradicate the missionaries from Barbados, she used her home as a church to keep the religion going in her country. Gill faced violence and abuse for her actions, including having her life threatened and shots fired at her home.
She was born with the name Ann Gill, but the Methodist Church gave her the Biblical name Sarah to honor the crucial role she played in establishing the religion in Barbados.