In Barbados, The House on Rihanna Drive

barbados rihanna house cover

This one-way street on the outskirts of Bridgetown has two lines of colorful houses just across Spring Garden Highway from the sea.

But it’s the green-and-yellow one three quarters of the way down the road that brings the pilgrims.

Robyn Rihanna Fenty used to ride her bicycle up and down Westbury New Road, before the Grammys and the Platinum records and the fashion empire — before Westbury New Road received its current name: Rihanna Drive.

Willmar’s Bar is an important stop on the journey to Rihanna Drive.

It’s on this very street in the parish of St Michael where one of the most impactful music careers of this century began.

There are two rum shops at the end of the road, and you can’t go to either one without finding a neighbor who was there in the beginning.

Mary Allman, who operates Willmar’s Bar (it’s the white-walled one on the north corner), smiles as she pours a small bottle of Cockspur rum.

“We all watch her,” she says.

In 2017, Barbados‘ government officially changed the name of Westbury New Road to Rihanna Drive, honoring the woman who has become the island’s most famous brand and one who has rather deftly added the title of entrepreneur.

Rihanna’s childhood home.

“My whole life was shaped on this very road,” Rihanna said at the renaming ceremony. “I was just a little island girl riding bikes, running around barefoot and flying kits in the cemetery, but I had big dreams. Dreams that were born and realized right here.”

Today, Rihanna’s biggest fans make the pilgrimage to this street, stopping at the yellow-and-green house and, if they are lucky, spending an afternoon moment or two with the charming Mary.

On a quiet city road, the home instantly reminds of how the Caribbean region has always punched above its weight, how this region has produced some of the biggest stars, the biggest names and the biggest legends the world has ever seen.

It’s no coincidence that Rihanna used to listen to Bob Marley as a child, another Caribbean star that became a global icon.

And yes, Rihanna, who is also a cultural ambassador for the island, does come back here, a ritual of her own, usually twice each year, a neighbor tells me, though she does have a home on the West Coast as well.

She’s the same neighbor who tried in vain to flag me down as our car drove right past the house on our first attempt to find it.

“Everybody knows her,” she says.

“Does she stay here when she comes?” I ask.

“It’s too small for her now!” she says with a laugh.

— CJ