It was a wonderful night.
Jay-Z mingled with fellow tuxedo-clad guests. Beyoncé delicately dabbed her face with the finest of cloth napkins. Leonardo DiCaprio looked off in the distance as someone conversed with him. Kendrick Lamar handed me a microphone (yes, you read that right) and Cardi B’s four assistants gathered her dress to help the “Bodak Yellow” queen make her way through the ballroom full of tables at Rihanna’s third annual Diamond Ball.
In the middle of it all sat a 29-year-old Barbados born woman who needs no introduction, especially following the week she’s had launching an impressively successful (and inclusive) makeup launch and showing her Fenty Puma Spring 2018 collection during New York Fashion Week.
With all that is going on in her life, it’s easy to forget that the Robyn Rihanna Fenty does more than set trends, release party anthems and design coveted sneakers.
But she does—and Thursday night in New York City proved that she does it well. Despite the distracting shoulder rubbing that occurred throughout the slow evening, the ball was dedicated towards celebrating and raising funds for the extensive work of her Clara Lionel Foundation, an organization Rihanna created in 2012 and named in honor of her grandparents.
The foundation focuses on a bevy of issues regarding education, emergency response, and health around the globe, aiming to improve “quality of life for young people everywhere.” Over the past five years, the small but mighty foundation has accomplished that through micro grant programs to financially support schools in Barbados, and contributed necessary equipment to improve cancer screenings on the island.
This year, CLF has gone global. In addition to taking meetings with French President Emmanuel Macron, CLF has partnered with international bike sharing company ofo, bringing bikes to aid accessibility to education for young girls in Malawi—where Rihanna herself visited the country as an ambassador for Global Partnership for Education, Global Citizen, and CLF.
All future initiatives proved to become a reality thanks to the the ball’s host, Dave Chappelle, who bought a $180,000 Retna painting during the auction portion of the evening and the many more that stepped up to the plate to raise over $5 million for CLF to continue its work. The controversial comedian, who described the ball’s ambiance as an orgy he once went to, had the audience simultaneously gasping and guffawing at his remarks about touchy subjects that he handled with the grace you can come to expect from Chappelle—R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and Donald Trump included.
“This is Jenga, and that motherfucker is pulling all the middle blocks,” Chappelle said about the president.
The 44th president made an appearance as well. Barack Obama went out of his way to deliver a video message of support to Rihanna, praising her philanthropy efforts and offering up VIP tickets for an opportunity to join him and Michelle at the Obama Foundation Fall Summit in Chicago. The tickets, which came with Chapelle’s pocket square, sold for $275,000.
The event also honored Angeline Murimirwa with the 2017 Diamond Ball Award, recognizing the Camfed Regional Executive Director for her extensive work towards improving education in Zimbabwe, Ghana, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi.
Lamar and Calvin Harris (both previous collaborators with Rihanna) performed at the end of the night, eliciting dance moves from musicians, designers, models, and actors and providing a rare opportunity to let loose, all for the kids.