Global Citizen Festival 2016: Rihanna Isn’t Just a Superstar — She’s a Super Giver as Well
Rihanna’s grandmother is a major source of inspiration for her philanthropy.
This weekend, Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Demi Lovato, Major Lazer, and Metallica are headlining the 2016 Global Citizen Festival in New York City's Central Park. If you can't make it in person, find out how to you can watch and follow along with all the action here.
Rihanna dazzles on stage and the red carpet, but off-stage it’s her heart that really shines.
This year the Grammy winner is performing at the Global Citizen Festival and showing up for equal access to quality education, but she has long been an advocate for education.
In the decade since her first single was released, Rihanna has worked tirelessly on both her music and her philanthropy. Though she is now a household name, she has consistently made it a point to connect with her fans and her roots, and to give back to the global community.
Rihanna rose to stardom at the age of 17 and created the Believe Foundation just a year later. The foundation gave financial, medical, educational, and emotional support to terminally ill children and was among the first of Rihanna’s many charitable acts.
In 2012, after her grandmother, Clara Brathwaite, lost her battle with pancreatic cancer, Rihanna started the Clara Lionel Foundation, which she named for both her grandparents.
Rihanna says her grandmother is a big inspiration for her giving.
“When I think of my grandmother, I think of a very strong woman. I mean very strong, very independent. But the most caring woman … very giving, very selfless; all the women in my family strived to be like her,” she said.
Learn More: Who's Hosting the 2016 Global Citizen Festival
The Clara Lionel Foundation’s mission is to improve education, health, arts and culture in communities around the world. Currently, the foundation provides micro grants to schools in Barbados, Rihanna’s home country, where it has also established the Clara Brathwaite Center for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine. The singer’s foundation also awards scholarships to bright, motivated students from Barbados, Cuba, Haiti, and other countries to attend college in the US.
“To be able to give the gift of an education is actually an honor … Higher education will help provide perspective, opportunities and learning to a group of kids who really deserve it,” Rihanna said. Her charitable work isn’t limited to her own foundation.
Learn More: The Many Ways Kendrick Lamar Is Giving Back
She’s worked with UNICEF on several occasions. She supported UNICEF’s Celebrity Tap Project, part of its larger Tap Project campaign to raise awareness and funds for clean drinking water in developing countries. After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, she partnered with UNICEF again in support of their disaster relief efforts to help the children and their families.
The “Umbrella” singer also helped raise over $50 million to support people living with HIV/AIDS by teaming up with the makeup company MAC and the MAC Aids Fund.
Despite a busy schedule, Rihanna has always tried to directly connect with her fans, using her fame to help them whenever possible.
In a recent tweet she asked her millions of followers to call on Justin Trudeau to take action for health and education — and the internet broke.
Rihanna tweeted Justin Trudeau what a day to be Canadian— Ainsley Jennifer (@ains_phillips) September 9, 2016
Trudeau should be so honoured that Rihanna retweeted and tweeted him. What a Queen.— tyler (@viewzfromty) September 9, 2016
She has been counting on her loyal fans and followers to help her change lives for years. When Hurricane Sandy devastated thousands of people a few weeks before her album “Unapologetic” was scheduled to be released, she asked those attending her album listening party to bring donations of blankets and cleaning supplies. She put the tragedy and lives of those affected by the storm above her career and turned the party into a drive to support Sandy relief efforts.
Learn More: How Demi Lovato Is a Warrior for Change
“It's really difficult to see something so tragic going on and not be able to do anything about it,” she said. Though she was in the middle of promoting her album release, she told the Daily News that “now is the time for us to come together and do whatever we can to aid those in need.”
She has also used her social media influence to help people suffering from leukemia find bone marrow donor matches, by putting out calls for donors in addition to working with DKMS, the world’s biggest bone marrow donor center.
Although she’s used her social media sway mobilize masses to help people, she’s used it to personally connect with and support her fans too. She recently counselled one fan via Twitter direct messages after he reached out to her about his struggles to accept his sexuality. She encouraged him to come out and feel free to be himself. “I’ll be forever supporting you,” she told him.
From connecting with fans in need to starting her own foundations, Rihanna’s heart is as big as her star power. Her next act of kindness is sure to be as great as any new single. She’s a Global Citizen in the truest sense.