San Juan, Puerto Rico (AP) — Rihanna smiled under her face mask as she heard her name called in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, but hesitated before she stood up.
Before her, top Barbadian government officials encouraged her to join them at a crucial moment in her nation’s history.
It is the first time in more than 20 years that Barbados has bestowed a national hero honor: The last person to receive the title was former cricket player Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers. A total of 11 people have now been honored since 1998, including a slave who led a rebellion and the first person of African descent to serve in the island’s Parliament.
When Mottley presented Rihanna early Tuesday before the official ceremony, she noted that the pop star came from humble origins and was born less than a mile from where the ceremony was taking place.
She congratulated the singer for “commanding 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.”
Rihanna has won nine Grammys in various categories, including rap, dance and R&B, and is working on an upcoming album. She also owns a lingerie line called Savage X Fenty and has been praised for being inclusive, hiring women and men of all shapes, sizes and colors for her fashion shows.