Rachel Dolezal and Rihanna.
Colin Mulvany—The Spokesman-Review/AP;Dominique Charriau—Getty Images
By Maya Rhodan
October 6, 2015

Pop superstar Rihanna is defending Rachel Dolezal, the former Washington NAACP leader who was accused of presenting herself as black when both her parents are white.

“I think she was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit,” Rihanna said in a recent interview with Vanity Fair. “Is it such a horrible thing that she pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people’s perspective a bit and woke people up.”

Rihanna’s view is a lot more accepting than the response Dolezal faced when news of her racial identity broke earlier this year. Dolezal was blasted by many black leaders as a fraud and resigned as president of the Spokane NAACP chapter amid the backlash. The interviews Dolezal conducted during the controversy left more people scratching their heads than nodding in agreement. But through it all, Dolezal maintained that she identifies as a black woman.

“It’s not a costume,” Dolezal told Vanity Fair. “I don’t know spiritually and metaphysically how this goes, but I do know that from my earliest memories I have awareness and connection with the black experience, and that’s never left me.”

Rihanna appears on the November cover of the magazine.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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