WHAT RACE AND ETHNICITY is Rihanna? What is her background and nationality? Is she black, mixed race, African American or Jamaican? The answers may seem obvious to some, but in fact many fans, not knowing what the music diva's heritage or genealogy is, or where her parents are from, turn to the Internet for the stats. Google's search results reveal much about what people do or don't know about the young celebrity and former girlfriend of R&B singer Chris Brown. For example, approximately 50 people around the world Google the question, “Is Rihanna white?” every month. Further, 1,300 people ask, “Is Rihanna black?”, while 390 fans a month ask, “Is Rihanna British?”
RIHANNA'S ETHNICITY AND NATIONALITY In fact, the music star, who has notched over 100m record sales, is West Indian. She was born in Saint Michael, Barbados on February 20, 1988. Of her parents, her mother, Monica Braithwaite, a retired accountant, is a mix of African and Guyanese. (Guyana is located off the northern coast of South America). Her father, Ronald Fenty, was a warehouse supervisor. He is of Barbadian and Irish ancestry.
THE BLACK IRISH The Irish and the Africans have a long history in Barbados. They toiled side-by-side during the era of Anglo-American slavery. The first African captives arrived on the island in 1627, and the Irish came in numbers from 1648, after English statesman and military leader Oliver Cromwell conquered Ireland and deported up to 50,000 Irish soldiers, political prisoners, dissidents and others, selling them on to British plantation owners as slaves and indentured servants. Many of them coupled with Africans, which is why so many biracial Barbadians today have Irish surnames.
MIXED RACE ENVY Throughout the history of the island there have been tensions between blacks with differing skin tones. During Rihanna’s childhood she experienced the same intolerance of her light skin, fine hair and mixed race heritage as many African American stars such as Jennifer Beals and Vanessa Williams before her. In school she was called “white” by some of her classmates. “They would look at me, and they would curse me out,” she told Allure magazine. “I didn’t understand.”
The music star had to learn fast about how to deal with the racial intolerances of cruel classmates. One thing that helped her cope were the experiences of famous mixed race recording artists. “I remember looking up to Mariah Carey,” she recalled. “I identified with her in so many ways. She was biracial. I remember hearing her story and feeling really connected to it.”
After being teased at high school by black pupils, it is no surprise that the adult Rihanna now chooses to self-identify as mixed race, or bi-racial, rather than black, thereby psychologically distincing herself from the aesthetic of her childhood tormentors.
Nevertheless, her self-determining choice has upset some traditionalists within the black community, particularly in America, where any person with any proportion of African ancestry is regarded as black. But Rihanna is part of a new global generation who are unafraid to go against such conventions in declaring their own kind of modern-day racial independence.
RACE AND CONFLICT: English statesman and military leader Oliver Cromwell did more to influence the race and ethnicity of Rihanna's birthplace, Barbados, than any other historical figure. In 1648 he deported 50,000 Irish dissidents to the island, who subsequently mixed with the black population.
MOTHER, FATHER AND DAUGHTER: Rihanna's parents are of mixed ethnicity and nationality. Her father Ronald, top, is of Barbadian and Irish heritage, while her mother Monica, above, is Afro-Guyanese.
*RIHANNA'S ETHNICITY ACCORDING TO GOOGLE SEARCH
The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Rihanna white?” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Rihanna mixed race?” each month.
The number of people worldwide who Google the question, “Is Rihanna black?” each month.
*All figures for “Rihanna's Ethnicity According to Google Search”, supplied by Google. Stats include global totals for laptop and desktop computers and mobile devices.
What Ethnicity And Nationality Is Music Star Rihanna? Black, Mixed Race, American, British, Jamaican? 1,000s Ask Google
A POPSTAR'S HERITAGE: What race and ethnicity is Rihanna? Is she black, white, mixed race, American, British or Jamaican? These are just some of the questions Internet-users type into their browsers every month in their search for information on the music celebrity's background, nationality and parents. Above; Rihanna photographed by Camilla Akrans for US 'Harper's Bazaar'.
THEY SEE HER ON TV, they wonder about her background, her ethnicity and nationality; and so what does Rihanna's global fanbase do? They turn to the oracle that is Google for answers. By Ben Arogundade.