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Rachel Dolezal Is a 'Bit of a Hero,' Rihanna Tells Vanity Fair

by Erik Ortiz /

Former NAACP chapter leader Rachel Dolezal received a barrage of criticism earlier this year after being accused of lying about her race — but she's become a "bit of a hero" to pop star Rihanna.

The singer told Vanity Fair in its November cover story that Dolezal should be praised — not panned —for bringing the discussion of racial identity to the forefront.

Image: Dolezal and Rihanna
Rachel Dolezal and RihannaJohn Brecher / NBC News | James Devaney / Getty Images

Dolezal's biolgical parents in June came forward publicly to say their estranged daughter is white, and had has been misrepresenting herself for years as a black woman.

"I think she was a bit of a hero, because she kind of flipped on society a little bit,” Rihanna told the magazine. "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."

Dolezal, 37, has denied deceiving anyone and insisted her appearance is "not a costume." As the controversy reached its peak, she told NBC News that "I am definitely not white."

"I do take exception to that because it's a little more complex than me identifying as black or answering a question of, are you black or white?" she told TODAY's Matt Lauer.

Related: Rachel Dolezal Scandal Exposes Fractured Family

Dolezal saw a fallout from her professional career as a result of the exposure. The mother of two sons resigned from her position as president of the NAACP's Spokane, Washington, chapter and a part-time teaching position at Eastern Washington University in the Africana-studies program was not renewed.

Image: Rachel Dolezal
Rachel Dolezal on Jan. 16, 2015 (left) and when she was younger.The Spokesman-Review via AP | Family Photo