One would expect the fifth anniversary of Rihanna’s Diamond Ball, which benefits her Clara Lionel Foundation, to be a big spectacle — especially following the grand Savage x Fenty runway show just a few days prior on Tuesday (Sept. 10).
But instead, Thursday night’s gala felt intimate with its compact red carpet that led to the doors of New York’s iconic Cipriani Wall Street venue and the lush flowers that adorned the walls. For a superstar who has hands tied to various endeavors — from makeup to a clothing line — the charity event had a welcomed sense of calm.
That feeling quickly changed though, as performers Pharrell and DJ Khaled, host Seth Meyers and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley entered the red carpet. Other guests included Normani, 2 Chainz, Megan Thee Stallion, G-Eazy, Karlie Kloss and Cardi B.
“It’s good to support Rihanna’s cause and let her know she’s not alone in what she’s doing — we’re rooting for her,” Rapsody tells Billboard. “But to also see what she’s doing, it inspires us even more. Black women always step up when it’s our time. When nobody else does it, we make sure we do it. We don’t give up no matter how dark it gets, we know the power lies with us.”
One of the major themes of the evening was activism, which drives artists like Kehlani to make changes. “It is finding little ways every single day to give back and impact people who can’t do it for themselves,” the “Nights Like This” singer explains. “Whether you’re speaking up when you’re in a privileged place, donating or organizing with your community. Whichever way you can do it definitely helps.”
Justine Lucas, executive director of the Clara Lionel Foundation, echoes this sentiment. She tells Billboard the vision was always to have great impact in the world, and they’ve continued to build on that five years later. “In 2019, we’ve given out over 13 millions in grants and helped with 60-plus projects around the world,” she explained. “So the impact has been significant and our forward-facing strategy is massive: how do we turn the Caribbean into a climate-resilient zone? We’re actually thinking big picture about a lot of these issues, so it’s really exciting.”
As guests began to scurry inside the venue and press became antsy, a collective roar of excitement could be felt. It was Rihanna of course, who was the last to arrive at 9:22 p.m, donning a black velvet gown and a tousled updo that embodied ‘60s glamour.
But before whisking away with a smirk, she had a message for fellow black women: “My mother is an incredible example of how to fight through obstacles in life. I’m sure her mom taught her that and that’s how I’m going to be. We are impeccable, we’re special and the world is going to have to deal with that.”