Barbados Prime Minister, Cardi B and More Stars Celebrate Rihanna at Diamond Ball

Rihanna and Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley -September 12, 2019 - Getty-H 2019
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"Her legacy is going to be global, but I think it's also going to very much be colored by her Barbadian upbringing and the values that she received while she grew up and was nurtured in our country," Prime Minister Mia Mottley said of the singer and her philanthropic work.

Thursday night marked Rihanna's fifth annual Diamond Ball, held at New York's Cipriani Wall Street, where models, musicians, actors and more notable names came out in droves to celebrate the milestone event profiting the superstar's Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF).

Though a Givenchy Haute Couture-clad Rihanna certainly stole the spotlight, one of her guests commanded similar attention: Barbados' Prime Minister Mia Mottley.

Mottley — who made history in 2018 as the first woman to be elected prime minister of the Caribbean nation (where Rihanna was born and raised) — was honored with the 2019 Diamond Ball Award for breaking barriers. Throughout Mottley's 25-year career, she has been a stalwart advocate for education in Barbados, as well as championing causes which empower youth and women.

However, when talking to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the charity gala, hosted by Seth Meyers, Mottley sidestepped her own achievements to focus on Rihanna's contributions to their beloved island. Barbados is one of the areas that receives assistance from CLF — founded by Rihanna in 2012 and named after her grandparents Clara and Lionel Braithwaite — which benefits impoverished communities across the globe, with an emphasis on health, education, arts, culture, emergency response and combatting climate change.

"It's so special what she's been able to do. Barbados is a place where we believe in helping those who cannot help themselves or who are not strong enough to carry themselves. And Rihanna has been able to exhibit that so beautifully in all that she's done. She carries with her the DNA of the country," said Mottley. "When we became an independent nation [in 1966], our prime minster at the time said that we should be friends of all satellites of men. That requires a nobility of spirit, that requires an ability to also recognize that you are as strong as the weakest among you. That's what Rihanna represents for us."

According to the politician, Rihanna's impact on her country will be "written about in history books." Mottley elaborated, "Her legacy is going to be global, but I think it's also going to very much be colored by her Barbadian upbringing and the values that she received while she grew up and was nurtured in our country. And she is still very much a part of it. How she speaks and how she behaves is as Barbadian as you get."

While Barbados was spared the devastation of Hurricane Dorian in its category five state this month, nearby Bahamas was ravaged by the storm, damaging over 13,000 houses, overturning cars and tearing down power lines as hundreds hunkered down in schools, churches and shelters. CLF immediately responded with emergency grants.

"We really want to shift the culture around emergency response. Climate change is here and it's going to cause an increase in the number of natural disasters that occur, so we're really focused on how we help communities build back better and be more resilient to withstand storms in the first place," CLF executive director Justine Lucas told THR, adding that Rihanna is "super hands-on" in the organization's operations. "This is really close to her heart. She's just as involved in this as she is with all of her brands and everything else that she's got going on."

Speaking about other institutions within Rihanna's empire, singer-songwriter Kehlani and Power actress Naturi Naughton applauded the multi-hyphenate for promoting inclusivity both with her cosmetics company, Fenty Beauty, and her lingerie line, Savage x Fenty.

"The people that she is servicing, they are no longer the last thought. It isn't her being reminded that she has to do this, that she needs to make any last-minute additions to placate a certain community," said Kehlani, who took in Savage x Fenty's larger-than-life show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Tuesday. "Rihanna's so inclusive when it comes to color and size. The people that are typically not represented in fashion and beauty are the first people she's thinking of. That's so dope."

Naughton, who also attended the presentation, added, "I was looking at all these women of different sizes, shapes and colors walking down the runway and performing and it was just so amazing. Rihanna has really made every type of woman feel so welcome in spaces where we didn't feel that way before."

Inside the Diamond Ball, other famous faces feted Rihanna and her influence, including Cardi B, Normani, 2 Chainz, G-Eazy, Megan Thee Stallion, Karlie Kloss, Shanina Shaik, Slick Woods, YG, a recently de-jailed A$AP Rocky and Twitter's Jack Dorsey, among others. During the event's auction portion, Cardi B shelled out $111,000 for a rare signed photo book of Rihanna, curated by Nikolai and Simon Haas, that features 1,000 images of the "Work" songstress and came with a custom-built marble stand. Later on, Rihanna showed Cardi B appreciation by visiting her table and bending down to give her a warm embrace. 

In addition to Prime Minister Mottley, writer and civil rights activist Shaun King received the Diamond Ball Award on Thursday night, which concluded with back-to-back performances from Rihanna's close pals and collaborators Pharrell Williams and DJ Khaled. Rihanna even surprised the crowd by joining Williams onstage to sing their 2017 track "Lemon" live for the first time together. 

This year's Diamond Ball raised more than $5 million. "My grandmother taught me that it only takes one person, doing one thing, to help someone else," Rihanna said at one point during the evening. "It doesn’t matter if it’s one dollar or a million. It’s about the collective joining forces to make a difference and that is why I am so thankful for all of you tonight."