I’d been anticipating Oprah’s interview with Rihanna since the night two weeks ago when Oprah uploaded a photo of herself riding around (and seemingly getting into it) with Rihanna in Barbados. Rihanna, love her or hate her (that means you, Nivea), seems to speak her mind whether anybody likes it or not. Even if I wasn’t a Rihanna fan, I would have tuned in because I know she usually gives good interview.
Rih Rih was more candid and vulnerable than I expected, a very good thing. In the first 10 minutes, she cried while speaking of her recently deceased grandmother; later she admitted to being lonely at times, faking (at least in the beginning) the confident sexuality she is well known for; and, no surprise, she got emotionally raw speaking of Chris Brown. I appreciated her candor, and that the audience got a peek behind the curtain of the tough-girl façade, one Rih says she puts up so that people don’t think she’s weak and a victim. Um… yeah. We knew that. Her riot-grrl act, as documented via stage performances and her personal Twitter-Instagram, has always been about as believable as a first-grader trying to lie.
I was glad Rihanna showed up for Oprah’s camera as her “work in progress” self. That multidimensional version of her is way more interesting than the bad-girl image that’s become her dominant narrative — so much so that Nivea recently dropped her as a spokeswoman. With Oprah, she was likable, sweet and endearing. On a few occasions, she giggled a bit like a kid, and it dawned on me how often I forget how old she is. She’s so accomplished — 6 Grammys, 11 No. 1 singles (the youngest to achieve that feat) and 50 million songs downloaded — that I sometimes expect her to be more mature than she is. Rihanna’s got a confidence that belies her years, but 24 isn’t exactly the age of anybody’s emotional maturity.
Of course, the part of the interview that set Twitter abuzz was when Oprah asked Rihanna about her relationship with Chris Brown. I get why Oprah asked about it, and why it took up a (too) healthy chunk of the interview. That was a defining moment in both of their careers and lives. But it comes up In. Every. Single. Rihanna Interview. I’m sorry, but my care factory is all out of care. Rihanna isn’t going to throw him under the bus like so many people want her to. And though I can’t recall her admitting it before now, it’s always been because she still loves him. That should have been wholly apparent to anyone (including Brown’s girlfriend).
The bright side of that ugly incident is that it allowed Rihanna, she says, to repair her relationship with her father. The dark side is that anyone who watched this interview should have concluded that her romantic relationship with Brown hasn’t run its course. I’m now convinced they’ll be back together any day now. (Sorry, Karrueche.)
Demetria L. Lucas is the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life (Atria), in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk