Rihanna has been declared a national hero by Barbadian prime minister Mia Mottley as the country becomes a republic.
The singer and creator of Fenty was awarded the national honour from her homeland in a televised ceremony swearing-in of the country’s first president.
The historic ceremony broke Barbados’ ties with the British monarchy – the country was first colonised by English settlers in the 1600s – and swore in president Sandra Mason, ending the Queen’s role as head of state.
Mottley announced during the ceremony that Rihanna, also known by her full name Robyn Rihanna Fenty, would be made a member of the Order of National Heroes.
The prime minister quoted the singer’s own lyrics at the ceremony, telling Rihanna: “May you continue to shine like a diamond and bring honour to your nation by your words, by your actions and to do credit wherever you shall go.”
Rihanna appeared moved by the honour, touching her heart and laughing behind her face mask when she was brought to the stage to accept the order.
The singer was previously named ambassador to Barbados in 2018.
“Rihanna has a deep love for this country and this is reflected in her philanthropy, especially in the areas of health and education,” Mottley said in 2018.
“She also shows her patriotism in the way she gives back to this country and continues to treasure the island as her home.”
Dame Sandra, 72, was sworn in by chief justice Marston Gibson at the ceremony in the capital Bridgetown and announced as “her excellency dame Sandra Prunella Mason, president of Barbados”.
The Prince of Wales gave a speech during the ceremony marking the end of the Queen’s role as head of state, acknowledging Britain’s role in the “appalling atrocity of slavery”
He told the new republic: “I shall always consider myself a friend of Barbados”, adding that he will “remain deeply committed to this very special country”.
The island nation has previously begun to unpick its colonial-era homophobia, agreeing to allow same-sex unions despite homosexuality still technically being illegal in the country.
Dame Sandra, now president of Barbados, said in 2020: “The settlement of Barbados was birthed and fostered in discrimination, but the time has come for us to end discrimination in all forms.”
A new charter of Barbados declares: “All Barbadians are born free and are equal in human dignity and rights regardless of age, race, ethnicity, faith, class, cultural and educational background, ability, sex, gender or sexual orientation.”