EDITORIAL: Accept Rihanna for who she is
IN THE SPACE of three days this week, Barbadian superstar Rihanna was awarded two highly coveted international music awards.
On Sunday in Los Angeles she won her fourth Grammy for Best Dance Recording for her song Only Girl (In the World), and on Tuesday in London she copped the Best International Female Star at the 2011 Brit Awards.
By any measure this is a marvellous achievement for anyone, but it is a distinct honour for this 22-year-old and demonstrates just how far she has progressed in the near seven years since leaving her Westbury Road, St Michael home for the United States.
What makes her Grammy performances even more significant is that it is a rarity for organizers at such globally televised events to have one artiste perform on separate occasions as Rihanna did.
As fellow Barbadians we should be proud of Rihanna and celebrate her success.
Most of all, we need to learn from her entrepreneurship. She ventured into arguably the most competitive industry n the world and was able in one shot to make her mark with her unique brand. Since then Rihanna has been able to maintain her appeal amidst fierce rivalry to the point that she is now one of the most sought after acts in the world.
Of course, some Barbadians and others have difficulties with her music and its sex-laced connotations, her provocative and often revealing manner of dress, and her flirtatious statements.
While we too are at odds with much of these things, it is quite clear to us that Rihanna tailors her music, dress and utterances to an international audience which, judging from her record sales and fan base, embraces her artistic persona.
Late Prime Minister David Thompson made her a cultural ambassador because Government rightly recognized her fachievements. Unfortunately, it does hint at certain expectations which many people assume the appointment should entail.
One is then forced to ask whether it is wise to appoint to such a position someone who justifiably has a personal agenda, the outworkings of which may at some point conflict with the lofty expectations that such an appointment may suggest.
Jamaica’s world record holder Usain Bolt was confronted with these same expectations but last year he called a Press conference and told his fans he did not want such responsibility.
The then 23-year-old said in part: “All of my life I’ve trained hard to run fast. . . . But I’ve never taken any training for role modelship. The job of being a role model to millions has been thrust on me without my permission. I accepted it without realizing the consequences. But now I’m worried that my lack of training in this role will be exposed someday and I’ll become an object of intense media scrutiny, public ridicule, derision and corny jokes. . . . Please remove me off from your high pedestal before I fall from it and hurt myself badly!”
Should Rihanna do like Bolt and say she does not want to be considered a role model and spare herself the intense criticism she is often confronted with here in Barbados, in particular?
We do not think that is necessary. We don’t have to like some of the things Rihanna says, wears and does, but as long as she operates within the law, we should accept her for being who she is and for being proud of her Bajan heritage.