Official: Rihanna’s “Excellence” in Barbados

The island of Barbados in the eastern Caribbean honors Rihanna as a national hero at a historic moment in this country

San Juan, Puerto Rico-Rihanna smiled under her mask when she heard someone call her name just before dawn on Tuesday, but hesitated before standing up.

Prior to her, senior Barbados government officials encouraged her to join them at a critical moment in her country’s history.

“Honey, you can come,” Barbados Prime Minister Mia Motley told the multiple Grammy winner.

“Therefore, on behalf of a grateful but more proud people, we introduce to you the designated representative of the Barbados national hero, Ambassador Robin Rihanna Fenti,” the Prime Minister said. “May you continue to shine like a diamond, use your language and your actions to bring honor to your country. No matter where you go, you will win glory for your country. God bless you, dear.”

Standing next to Mottley, Rihanna raised her palm to her heart and said thank you before they walked off the stage and hugged each other briefly.

On Wednesday, the singer received an official honor in a separate ceremony. She received a medallion with the outline of Barbados and blew a kiss to the cheering crowd.

“This is a day I will never, never forget. It is also a day I have never foreseen,” she said in a short speech, encouraging young people to continue to push Barbados forward. “I traveled the world and received multiple awards and recognitions, but nothing is more important than being recognized in the soil where you grew up.”

This is the first time that Barbados has awarded the honor of a national hero in more than 20 years: the last person to receive the title was former cricket player Garfield St. Aubrun Sobers. Since 1998, 11 people have been commended, including a slave who led the rebellion and the first person of African descent to serve in the island’s parliament.

Earlier on Tuesday, when Motley introduced Rihanna before the official ceremony, she pointed out that the pop star came from a humble background and was born less than a mile from the ceremony.

She congratulated the singer, “through her creativity, her discipline, and most importantly, her extraordinary commitment to the land where she was born, the pursuit of excellence, thus controlling the imagination of the world.”

Rihanna has won 9 Grammy Awards, including rap, dance and R&B, and is working on an upcoming album. She also owns an underwear line called Savage X Fenty and is praised for its inclusiveness, employing women and men of all shapes, sizes and colors for her fashion show.