Singer Rihanna is typically depicted in the media for the headline-grabbing tabloidy aspects of her celebrity. Just this week, she was lionized for “stick[ing] it to the body shamers” by wearing “a nipple-baring crop top.” And who could forget that see-through dress she wore to the CDF Awards in 2013 that sent the tabloids into a frenzy? Oh, and those feuds with other celebs she gets caught up in from time to time grab headlines too.
But there’s a much softer side to Rihanna that — if you’ve been reading between the salacious headlines — is practically just as apparent as her risque outfits and celebrity feuds. The singer is actually a very warm and down-to-earth person. BuzzFeed noted how gracious she is with her fans and she’s shown tremendous generosity in impromptu situations and has been active with a variety of charitable efforts. And her charitable work is being noticed and publicly acknowledged. Earlier this year Harvard University named her its 2017 Humanitarian of the Year for a “state-of-the-art” breast cancer center at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados, and for founding the Clara Lionel Foundation Scholarship Program “for students attending college in the U.S. from Caribbean countries.”
In January, Rihanna’s efforts for the Clara Lionel Foundation and her role as the Global Ambassador for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) brought her to Malawi on a trip that was organized by Global Citizen and the GPE. Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister who now chairs the GPE board, and Global Citizen co-founder and CEO Hugh Evans joined Rihanna on the visit. She toured a number of schools and met with teachers and educational officials to assess what more can be done to help provide children there with access to quality education.
Global Citizen, whose annual New York City music festival was headlined by Rihanna last year, produced a video chronicling the visit, and it shows the singer inside classrooms and witnessing how kids in Malawi learn. “I’m really here to see it,” she said before setting out on the tour. “It’s one thing to read statistics, but I want to see it firsthand, and find out all that can be done and where to start first.” Though the kids seen in the video are enthusiastic and sometimes learn in a sing-songey way, there’s a real dropout problem as they get older, and that’s caused chiefly by poverty.
Later in the video, Rihanna reflected on the kids she met and an aspect of their learning style that’s close to her heart. “It’s amazing — the way they learn,” she said. “I love that they learn in melody. That’s like my favorite thing, because kids, they adopt melody really, really quickly. And so, if you can use that as a learning tool, I think that’s the most brilliant, brilliant thing.”
A big part of Rihanna’s involvement in the effort is raising funds to improve education resources in Malawi and other underprivileged places around the world. The GPE has set a $3.1 billion dollar goal and Rihanna is calling on fans and supporters to help by donating. Already Canada has pledged $20 million and France $2 million, according to a statement from Global Citizen. Watch the full video below.