If you’re looking for Rhianna, you can find her on the cover of the latest issue of Vanity Fair, where she opens up about all the things: her upcoming album, Rachel Dolezal, and — wait for it — Chris Brown.
“I was that girl,” she told writer Lisa Robinson. “That girl who felt as much pain as this relationship is, maybe some people are built stronger than others. Maybe I’m one of those people built to handle shit like this. Maybe I’m the person who’s almost the guardian angel to this person, to be there when they’re not strong enough, when they’re not understanding the world, when they just need someone to encourage them in a positive way and say the right thing.”
Which, of course, led to Rihanna thinking she could change Brown.
“I was very protective of him,” she recalls. “I felt that people didn’t understand him. Even after . . . But you know, you realize after a while that in that situation you’re the enemy. You want the best for them, but if you remind them of their failures, or if you remind them of bad moments in their life, even if you say I’m willing to put up with something, they think less of you — because they know you don’t deserve what they’re going to give.”
“If you put up with it, maybe you are agreeing that you [deserve] this, and that’s when I finally had to say, ‘Uh-oh, I was stupid for thinking I was built for this. Sometimes you just have to walk away.”
So obviously, this interview is profound. First, whatever your thoughts on domestic violence are (and it’s very easy to feel black/white about it if you haven’t been in the situation), it’s huge that Rihanna is sharing her own experiences and her state of mind both now and then. Obviously, Rihanna isn’t and wasn’t stupid for thinking she was built to deal with Chris Brown — and neither is anyone who’s endured violence and abuse at the hands of somebody they love. When when you’re in it, believing you can change a person feels legitimate. It’s a cycle of abuse for a reason, and it’s so helpful and brave that Rihanna opened up about hers.
Although that being said, aside from this feature — which is an amazing piece on the singer and covers basically every aspect of her life — why are we still asking her about Chris Brown? I understand how big a role that narrative had to play, but she’s also more than that relationship.
To profile Rihanna in a cover story (which is detailed, researched, and allows for a bigger picture as opposed to a glimpse) is one thing, but to align her with Brown years after the 2009 incident (and subsequent on-again/off-again relationship) which we tend to do almost any time one of them does anything doesn’t do her justice. It actually doesn’t do any abuse survivor justicebecause it sends the message that you will always be defined by that particular event.
So now, we have Rihanna’s take on it. She told us about it. We now know where her head was at, and why, and who, and for how long, and all of it. So unless she speaks on it again, may this be the last time we ask her any more. The rest of Rihanna’s life deserves its own pages, too.