Rihanna was awarded the 2017 Harvard University Humanitarian of the Year and came to the Ivy League campus to accept the Peter J Gomes Humanitarian Award.
She was introduced on to the stage by students who praised her charity work.
‘She’s headlined award shows, fashion magazines, and bejewelled flask memes but today we’re writing a different headline: Rihanna the humanitarian,’ said one Harvard undergrad. ‘She empowers kids from Barbados to Malawi so they can shine bright like a diamond too.’
‘The sheer idea of you, your vibe, your lyrics, your fashion choices inspire us all,’ said another Ivy League student. ‘I want to thank you, Robyn, for giving up a piece your life to Rihanna so the rest of us can benefit from her influence.’
Robyn Rihanna Fenty opened her speech in true RiRi style: ‘So I made it to Harvard.’
‘Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good,’ she laughed.
The artist founded the nonprofit the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program in 2012 for students attending college in the US from Caribbean countries. She supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which provides children with access to education in over 60 developing countries. She was recently in Malawi, to see some of the work they are doing.
‘When I was five or six years old, I remember watching TV and I would see these commercials. I was watching other children suffer in other parts of the world. And these commercials would say you could give 25 cents and save a child’s life, and I would think to myself, I wonder how many 25 cents I could save up to save all the kids in Africa. When I grow up and I get rich, I’ll save kids all over the world. I just didn’t know I’d be able to do that when I was still a teenager.’
The Barbados-born singer, actress, and songwriter, who has sold more than 200 million records, showed just why she deserves the award: ‘We’re all human and we all just want a chance. A chance at life, a chance at an education, a chance at a future, really.’
‘I know that each and everyone one of you have the ability to help someone else. All you need to do is help one person. Expect nothing in return. To me that is a humanitarian.’
‘People make it seem way too hard, man,’ she said while the auditorium cheered.
‘You just do whatever you can to help in anyway that you can,’ the artist continued. ‘Make a commitment to help one person.’
And she finished her speech with a reference to her grandmother, Clara, who passed away from cancer and inspired her to start her charity, the Clara Lionel Foundation:
‘My grandmother always used to say: ‘If you got a dollar, you got plenty to share.’
It’s also just been announced that a percentage of proceeds from Dior’s T-shirt emblazoned with ‘We should all be feminists’ (inspired by author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk) will go to the Clara Lionel Foundation.
It retails at UK£490 so get saving!