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Columnist: Rihanna visit proves a bust

When Rihanntook stage BarringtHigh School March 22 she praised students for their commitment community service.  | Photos courtesy Matt

When Rihanna took the stage at Barrington High School on March 22, she praised students for their commitment to community service. | Photos courtesy Matt Weidner

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Updated: April 29, 2013 11:00AM

BARRINGTON — The afternoon started with great anticipation with more than 2,000 students waiting for Rihanna to come to Barrington High School.

The visit was the prize for a video that students submitted showcasing their volunteerism and fundraising activities to Rihanna’s “Shine Bright Like A Diamond” song. Out of 52 entries, BHS’s video was named the winner.

It was a unique opportunity for the school, the students and for the charities featured.

BHS senior Ashika Sachdev, a South Barrington resident, sang on the video and also got a ticket to Rihanna’s Friday night concert. Her family was present for the presentation and all were excited to have the chance to see her.

Unfortunately, the afternoon quickly went sour.

The presentation was initially set for 1 p.m., and then moved back to 2 p.m. the evening before. The doors opened at noon and guests were entertained by Rihanna’s personal disc-jockey pending her arrival. The music and energy in the gymnasium were high initially but as each hour passed slowly with generic updates from her staff such as “she’s on her way” or “she’s almost here,” the students started to get restless.

Principal Steve McWilliams gave away concert tickets, CD’s signed by Rihanna and faux diamond purple bracelets — all donated by Rihanna and her staff ­­­— to keep the students attention. The DJ had to create a time-filler after yet another delay by hosting a dance contest and giving away more tickets for the evening’s concert.

Rihanna tweeted once that she was stuck in Chicago traffic. Yet I wondered if she had left on time, would she have been stuck in traffic? No one knew what really delayed her.

I was impressed with the students — they kept their cool, stayed mostly in their seats and kept hoping that she was going to walk in the door any minute.

After waiting for almost three and half hours, my daughter, her friend and I decided to leave. The girls felt that nothing she had to say would be important enough to wait for. Many others were leaving at the same time and the crowd in the gym was getting smaller.

We left then heard 15 minutes later that Rihanna was really in the parking lot. The girls wanted to go back ­— part of it was annoyance that she came just after we left and part was just to see what she would say.

It turned out to be yet another disappointment.

Rihanna was supposed to be there for 45 minutes, yet spoke for only five minutes. There was no apology to the crowd for being late. She then spent a few minutes on the stage greeting each charity organization and taking photos. While that was great for those directly involved, the students in the stands didn’t really get the benefit of the intended visit.

Katherine Goetz, a BHS student who was on the video, was the emcee and seemed to have more energy than Rihanna. And then within 16 minutes, Rihanna was gone.

It was a shame that this exciting afternoon had turned into a bust. It was unfair to the students who worked on the video, the staff at BHS who coordinated the visit and the students in the audience. While some students felt that it was worth waiting for, the students and adults I spoke too felt like I did: it was rude and disrespectful of Rihanna to show up almost four hours late to an event, then cut it short because she had to head back downtown.

For someone who has such global recognition, isn’t there a responsibility to be a role model to her fans, especially when it was a reward to students who are doing the same in their community?

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