Effect of an icon
CALL IT the Rihanna effect on Europe, Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean.
The global pop icon, who routinely tells the world she is a Bajan, is doing more than just being a poster child for Barbados when it comes to tourism, its white sandy beaches and perpetual tropical weather.
“Rihanna is indeed having an effect by spreading the word about Barbados, where it is located and what it has to offer,” said Errol Humphrey, a former Barbados ambassador to the European Union (EU) who is now a consultant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in Barbados.
“She doesn’t hide the fact that she is a Barbadian and despite the fact that many people in Europe and elsewhere think she is an American, Rihanna continues to put Barbados on the map.
“But more importantly, what Rihanna has done and is continuing to do about getting Barbados better known, say, in Europe, her success is making more Barbadian artistes confident about their ability to go out there in the wide world and perform at the highest international level and on a consistent basis,” said Humphrey, who represented Barbados in Brussels for about a decade before retiring.
“Since Rihanna has been on the international stage, you have seen more and more Barbadian performers going out there trying to make that step, believing that if she can do it and achieve such success, they can do it too.”
Humphrey, who helped negotiate the European Partnership Agreement, (EPA), signed by the EU, CARICOM and the Dominican Republic, said the singer with a huge following in Europe, North America and elsewhere has shown Bajan and other Caribbean artistes that with hard work, striving for excellence and skilfully using their artistic talent, they can make a breakthrough and remain in the higher echelons of the world of entertainment and cultural industries.
“It is the demonstration effect and the confidence she has given to Barbadians that although they came from a small country, they can reach the top,” declared the retired diplomat, who once headed the Barbados Industrial Development Corporation and was Barbados’ consul general in Toronto.
Humphrey said part of the Rihanna success story was the effective marketing of a product, meaning that in addition to her voice, the ways in which she was being promoted and marketed in North America and Europe by her team of professionals helped catapult her to the top shelf.
“But there is more to Rihanna than just her singing ability and marketing. She has shown Barbadians too that you can’t rest on your laurels; you have to keep delivering, and at the highest possible levels,” he asserted.
“Her message is also to manufacturers and others in Barbados. Her experience has shown that you can’t deliver a good product today and deliver nonsense for the next three days; deliver a good product, after that offer nonsense again. There must be consistency of product quality.
“I would think that entertainers, performers and other cultural artistes need to maintain their game at a certain level,” Humphrey insisted.
“They need to work hard. The Rihanna effect also applies to sport. People talk about the Michael Jordans, Magic Johnsons of this world and so on. They have great talent but they work very hard. If you hear their work regimen, it would be amazing – but that’s what they do, that’s why they are so good.
“If the cultural artistes and sports figures don’t embrace that message, it almost doesn’t really matter what talent they have,” Humphrey added.
The Rihanna effect, he went on, was crucial to Barbados and its neighbours going forward because the EPA between Europe, CARICOM and the Dominican Republic contains provisions that give artistes from the region access, a stage on which to perform and display their talent across Europe, and while many performers have taken advantage of the opportunities, more of them should be reaching out and going across Europe and helping to earn foreign exchange for themselves and their countries.
“Look, it is not just Rihanna and . . . Barbadian artistes. The message is there for everyone.
“First you must have talent. Next, be lucky and be in the right place at the right time; and then when you have the luck and the opportunity, you have to hold on to it – and that means doing what is necessary, being prepared to work hard. Far too many of us get complacent too quickly and that is always a problem.
“The European Partnership Agreement has created the opportunity for our artistes to perform on a much larger stage and we have to take more advantage of the opportunity. We must avoid the trap of becoming too satisfied too easily.
“Performers must be prepared to go the next step by putting in the effort,” Humphrey told the SATURDAY SUN.
“Do you want to be known just in Barbados and the rest of the Caribbean or do you want to be known globally? . . . Each level requires that you raise your game again.”