Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

You have to read Rihanna’s powerful speech about humanitarianism


“So I made it to Harvard. Never thought I’d be able to say that in my life, but it feels good.”

With those words, Rihanna kicked off her acceptance of Harvard University’s Humanitarian of the Year award. The pop star was given the prestigious honour on Tuesday in recognition of her extensive charity work – and, ever the consummate performer, her speech didn’t disappoint.

When she was a child growing up in Barbados, Rihanna said, she would see charity appeals on TV and think to herself: “I wonder how many 25 cents I could save up to save all the kids in Africa?”

“I would say to myself, ‘When I grow up, when I can get rich, I’mma save kids all over the world’,” she continued. “I just didn’t know I would be in the position to do that by the time I was a teenager.”


Rihanna set up her first charity, the Believe Foundation, in 2006 at the age of just 18.

Rihanna was signed by Jay-Z to Def Jam Recordings in 2005, at the age of just 17, and started her first charitable organisation – the Believe Foundation, helping terminally ill children – a year later.

Read more: “Women are powerful in numbers”: Taraji P. Henson tells Stylist why togetherness is key

Since then, she has founded the Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program (named after her grandparents), aimed at helping students from the Caribbean attend college in the US, and thrown her support behind the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project, which gives children in developing countries access to education.


"So I made it to Harvard": Rihanna accepting her Humanitarian of the Year award at the prestigious US university.

After Rihanna’s beloved grandmother Clara Brathwaite died from cancer, she also built a state-of-the-art medical centre in Barbados to diagnose and treat the disease.

However, the 29-year-old singer told the crowd at Harvard that it doesn’t take being a multimillionaire to help others.

Read more: Danish aid worker tops list of world’s most inspiring people

“People make it seem way too hard, man,” she said. “The truth is, and what I want the little girl watching those commercials to know, is you don’t have to be rich to be a humanitarian. You don’t have to be rich to help somebody. You don’t gotta be famous. You don’t even have to be college-educated.”

Being a real humanitarian, she said, only takes helping “one person, expecting nothing in return. To me, that is a humanitarian.”

Rihanna continued: “It starts with your neighbour, the person right next to you, the person sitting next to you in class, the kid down the block in your neighbourhood. You just do whatever you can to help in any way that you can.

“And today I want to challenge each of you to make a commitment to help one person: one organization, one situation that touches your heart.”

“My grandmother always used to say if you've got a dollar, there's plenty to share.”

In receiving the Harvard University Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian Award, Rihanna is in esteemed company. Past honourees include Malala Yousafzai, Aung San Suu Kyi, and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – as well as Sharon Stone and Lionel Richie.

Now that’s what we call a dream dinner party.

Images: Rex Features



The most generous countries in the world have been revealed


Alicia Keys on the importance of activism and self-love


Revealed: The surprising sexual benefits of kindness and charity



Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick lined up for new thriller

"A feverish and expertly plotted tale of psychological suspense"

by Nicola Colyer
22 Jun 2017

We bloody love Kate Beckinsale’s hilarious Manspreading Action Plan

She knows exactly what to do when a man spreads his legs

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

This is what Amanda Knox’s Instagram account looks like

The Seattle native has made her feed public

by Anna Brech
22 Jun 2017

Prince Harry is still haunted by memories of Princess Diana’s funeral

‘I don’t think any child should be asked to do what I did’

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

Courteney Cox thanks friends for helping her embrace “natural” face

‘I finally look like myself’

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Jun 2017

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Father's Day celebrations to Lena Dunham's new crop

by Nicola Colyer
21 Jun 2017

Michelle Obama has the best advice for you and your girlfriends

The former FLOTUS does this with her friends every single summer

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

The Voice’s Delta wore a dress on TV, and Twitter lost its s**t

You should have left your boobs in the dressing room, duh!

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

Queen Helen Mirren has a message for sexist Wonder Woman critics

Watch out, dinosaurs

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017

Chrissy Teigen has leaked her own private texts to John Legend

And it hilariously sums up their 10 year relationship

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Jun 2017