But some Ottawans were convinced the star was strolling down the ByWard Market, when a Rihanna look-alike pulled the ultimate prank. Fans would insist that they saw Rihanna, dressed in black and trying to hide behind her sunglasses, while flanked by celebrities, paparazzi and hordes of screaming fans.
However, the real Rihanna didn't decide to grace Canadians with her presence this New Year's Eve. It was Ayan Ali, a member of the Somali-Canadian YouTube sketch comedy group The Cool Ciyaal (which means "The Cool Kids" in Somali).
Ayan Ali decided to go the whole nine yards and actually see if she could trick people into thinking she was the real Rihanna, after several people reached out to her on social media telling her she looked like the singer.
"So we thought, Why not take it to the streets and see if we can pull this off?" said Najib Abdulqadir, one of the group's members, in an interview with the Ottawa Citizen. It took several people, including Abdulquadir's mom — who helped the girls rent a luxury Chrysler 300 sedan and chauffeur — to pull off the fake Rihanna prank.
The comedians rounded up people they knew to play bodyguards, a PR woman, a few belligerent fans and two paparazzi to add to the effect. When duped Ottawans tried to get a closer look or snap photos of Rihanna, "bodyguards" made the scene seem all the more realistic by asking them to "step back."
"They were staring at her like, 'Oh my god, is that Rihanna?'" said group member Hodan Hujaleh. "Then they started walking with her through The Bay, and then other people started catching on and it got really hectic once we passed Sephora."
Soon enough, mass chaos ensued: "People were leaving their jobs," recalled Abdulqadir. "People were running out with no jackets on."
The voices of any skeptics in the crowd of 50 or so people were easily drowned out by the wave of Rihanna mania that had taken over the ByWard Market: "One guy who’s like the biggest fan ran outside and he’s like 'No, she’s with her family in Barbados right now!'" said Abdulqadir. "He went right in front of her to take a picture and he’s like, 'That’s not her.' And he ran back in. But everybody was like, 'That’s her. You’re just confused.'"
Comparing Ayan Ali's photo to the real thing, it's easy to see why Canadians got confused. Here's to keeping our fingers crossed that one day the real Rihanna will come party in Canada New Year's Eve. We can dream, right?
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