Rihanna & The Diamond Ball.

Rihanna accepts a check for The Clara Lionel Foundation (2014).

Most people know Rihanna’s childhood included economic struggle but it wasn’t because her parents lacked the ability to provide. Both her mother and father had good professions, her mother worked as an accountant and her father was a warehouse supervisor, but it didn’t afford their family a decent quality of life in the British Commonwealth Nation of Barbados.

This reality for Rihanna meant having a drug addicted and abusive father and a mother who directed his abusive attention unto herself. Support for women in abusive marriages was limited, leaving a situation like that behind would have resulted in even worse conditions for her children, so she, like many women, stuck it out to provide the essentials for her family until an opportunity presented itself and she could divorce.

Considering this, it sheds new light on her mother’s support for her daughter. And it highlights her mothers courage to trust Rihanna and move her family to the US to let her daughter chase a dream.

Rihanna (right) with her mother.

Rihanna‘s story provides insight into the drive of the Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF). CLF was founded by Rihanna in 2012 and named after her grandparents, Clara and Lionel Braithwaite. The foundation’s objective is to “improve the quality of life for communities globally”.

If you consider the big picture, its objective is based on what should be the natural evolution of humanity as one society.  In fact a “revolutionary” political candidate, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (28), is running for a New York City office this November, after winning 57.5% of the vote in the primary campaign election against a Veteran incumbent, with a similar idea that “no one should be too poor to live”.

Children smile for the camera for The Clara Lionel Foundation.

Rihanna‘s and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s mindset is a burgeoning philosophy amongst their generation, one that insists basic human rights should have evolved by now. This isn’t about reparations or dismantling capitalism it’s about basic human dignity and the realization that at our level of knowledge and with the resources afforded by the planet – no one, anywhere, should be unable to afford to live.

“You’ve become a powerful force in the fight to give people dignity.”

2017 Quote from President Barack Obama in a tribute to Rihanna.

The CLF “Quality of Life” objective means sharing decades of great human innovations in technology, health and education with each other. As such, CLF supports and funds groundbreaking and effective education, health and emergency response programs around the world.

Rihanna with children sponsored by The Clara Lionel Foundation.

The current programs include The Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, the Clara Braithwaite Center for Oncology and Nuclear Medicine at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Barbados and the Barbados Micro Grants Program.

Students sponsored by The Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program.

Because of the foundation’s work Rihanna received the 2017 Humanitarian of The Year Award by The Harvard Foundation, recognizing her longtime commitment to philanthropy and the burgeoning impact of CLF’s initiatives.

Rihanna for The Clara Lionel Foundation.

CLF raises money through products, donations and the annual Diamond Ball, which is the single largest fund raising event of the organization to date. Last year The Clara Lionel Foundation (CLF) hosted its third annual Diamond Ball in New York City with comedian Dave Chappelle as MC and with performances by Calvin Harris and Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar.

Rihanna's 3rd Annual Diamond Ball Benefitting The Clara Lionel Foundation at Cipriani Wall Street - Inside
Pulitzer Prize winner Kendrick Lamar performing at The Clara Lionel Foundation’s Diamond Ball in 2017.

The 2017 Diamond Ball raised over $5 million thanks to a silent auction which included a meeting with Barack Obama and rare vintage Champagnes from Jay Z‘s cellar, autographed of course. The money went to support CLF’s trailblazing education, health and emergency response programs.

The evening was sponsored by Forbes business listed company Chopard, The Diamond Ball’s first-ever presenting partner, along with Live Nation, Ofo, The Stadler Family, Oilers Entertainment Group Services, Ltd., Critical Mass, Roc Nation, Human and Picture Motion, Universal Music Group, StubHub, Kendo Brands, Puma and Dior.

Fundraising poster from The Clara Lionel Foundation

The guest list included Jay Z, Beyonce, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Lil Kim, Trevor Noah, Future, Fabolous, Young Thug, Victor Cruz, Emily Ratajkowski and Cardi B among many others who helped spread awareness for CLF’s mission.

On August 1, 2018, Rihanna’s Fenty beauty company announced a new partnership to help fund The Clara Lionel Foundation’s critical work with 100% of proceeds going to the foundation.

The Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), and the bike sharing platform, ofo, also announced a partnership to fund scholarships to impact 7,500 girls in Malawi by 2020.

Rihanna with an ofo bike.

The 2018 Diamond Ball, scheduled September 13th in New York City, will be hosted by Issa Rae (creator and producer of Insecure HBO) with a special performance by Band of Outsiders design fan, Childish Gambino.

Donald Glover, AKA Childish Gambino, in Band of Outsiders on Ellen.

The Atlanta TV star and artistic performer made global news and became part of the viral collective with his controversial music video, “This is America”.

“Issa Rae and Childish Gambino were the dream duo for the fourth Annual Diamond Ball and they’re coming!!! We are honored and grateful to have them help us celebrate the Clara Lionel Foundation this year,”

Rihanna said in a statement.

Issa Rae is also known as a controversy starter having worn a custom look by Pyer Moss and a crystal embellished belt with “Every Nigga Is A Star” to host the CFDA awards in New York earlier this year.

The belt was worn over a jumpsuit which featured 180,000 Light Sapphire, Sapphire, Sapphire AB, Cobalt, Capri Blue, Majestic Blue, Swarovski crystals embedded on a blue mesh overlay.

“I’m as fashionable as Kanye West is black. Only when it’s convenient,”

Issa Rae famously said at the 2018 CFDA Awards


Both the Childish Gambino video and the high profile look by Issa Rae each resulted in deep conversations about race and humanity with my friends both black and non-black. The thought of these conversations circle me back to Rihanna’s childhood story and her goals to improve the quality of life for all of humanity.

I wonder if Rihanna considered this when selecting two such controversial celebs for The Diamond Ball this year. Regardless, I look forward to how much my friends and I will unpack in conversation after what I’m sure will be an epic night.

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Nichelle Cole is the founder & editor-in-chief of The Fashion Plate magazine. A respected writer, stylist and influencer, she has been published in fashion magazines around the world.

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