Is Rihanna Barbadian or Jamaican? Jamaican Twitter claims the superstar as their own

Rihanna at Madame Tussauds Wax Museum, London, England. Photo by Daniel Ramirez, CC BY 2.0.

Yes, the superstar singer, Rihanna, is from the Caribbean island of Barbados, but for a while, some social media users wondered whether she was, in fact, from Jamaica.

Despite talk of regional unity, rivalry among Caribbean islanders is real. On social media, this usually boils down to little more than witty banter, point-scoring and humour, especially on quick-fire Twitter. But when Barbadian Twitter users poked fun at the Jamaican dollar exchange rate, Jamaicans did the next best thing — they claimed Rihanna as their own:

Jamaican Twitter users — perhaps feeling a little jaded after a new corruption scandal — happily took up the challenge.

Wanting a bit of fun, they began to rewrite Rihanna’s history, with a lot of help from Photoshop — that allowed Rihanna to allegedly “win gold” for Jamaica in the Olympics, outdoing star track-and-fielder Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce (who really is Jamaican!):

She was also spotted at a KFC:

A well-known Instagrammer even got the Jamaican prime minister involved:

Eventually, the whole thing became so huge that organisations began to play to the online interest it was drumming up —the United States Embassy in Jamaica, for instance, grabbed the opportunity to advertise their college fair:

Small businesses jumped on the bandwagon, too:

Jamaica's party politics naturally had to creep in, prompting one Twitter user to share a photo of Rihanna in party colours (both of the country's political parties claimed her as their own):

One especially popular photoshopped effort was the image of Rihanna on a 500 Jamaican dollar note, in place of national hero, Nanny — a clever dig at Barbadians’ original criticism about the weakness of the Jamaican dollar.

A Barbadian businesswoman based in Jamaica, A. Cecile Watson, shared an imaginary conversation with Rihanna:

Many have been calling on Rihanna to speak up to defend herself against the claim that she is Jamaican. Bajans are disappointed because she hasn’t spoken up and Jamaicans are tickled pink by her silence. And I wondered which side of the argument RiRi was likely to fall.
So I decided to ask her! And did she ever sing! […]

Me: So Riri what have you been up to whilst #RihannaIsJamaican was exploding all over Twitter.
RiRi: Werk, Werk, Werk, Werk
Me: So how did you hear about it?
RiRi: Pon de Replay
Me: What do you have to say to the Jamaicans?
RiRi: Love The Way You Lie

These were not the only musical connections made:

The superstar allegedly won a popular Jamaican dancehall contest:

Let’s face it, Jamaicans asserted, Rihanna is fond of Jamaican music:

One Jamaican singer pointed out, however, that Barbadians were not amused:

The fact that the hashtag even made it onto a Canadian television station (and that even virtual assistants like Siri were completely confused) proved the point that many wanted to make — don't mess with Jamaican Twitter:

Not only did Siri suggest at one point that Rihanna has dual nationality, but Google’s virtual assistant also produced the “fact” that Rihanna was born in Kingston, Jamaica:

Rihanna’s Wikipedia page was also updated for a while to reflect her new birthplace.

Although this raised issues concerning where virtual assistants source their information — and how easy it appears to be to circulate “fake news” via social media by changing “facts”, Jamaican Twitter users didn’t back down. Rather, one noted wickedly:

Another Jamaican, however, pointed to the role of humour for Jamaicans in overcoming difficulties:

Meanwhile, Rihanna just launched a book and will soon debut her new album. She's focused on her fashion line and a month-long breast cancer campaign through her charitable foundation. The Barbadian is much too busy to respond — but maybe she's having a chuckle.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.