Last night on an hour-long special, Oprah Winfrey interviewed Rihanna in the singer’s native Barbados. The pair tooled around in a jeep, visited Rihanna’s childhood home (where the singer squeezed a baffled small child), and gifted a massive mansion to the star’s mother, who reacted with far less enthusiasm than Oprah is used to. Oprah asked Rihanna about being comfortable with her sexuality and her early career, but the meat of the interview was devoted to The Chris Brown Question. In case you can’t find OWN on your channel guide, here’s what Rihanna said about the 2009 assault that permanently changed the arc of both young artists’ careers:
“I was hurt the most. Nobody felt what I felt. It happened to me. And it happened to me in front of the world. It was embarrassing, it was humiliating, it was hurtful. I lost my best friend. Everything I knew, switched. Switched in a night. And I couldn’t control that. It became a circus and I felt protective. I felt like, the only person I hate right now is him. It was a weird confusing space to be in. As angry as I was, as angry, hurt, and betrayed, I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help. And who’s going to help him? Nobody’s going to say he needs help. Everybody’s going to say he’s a monster without looking at the source. I was more concerned about him.”
At this point, Oprah interjected, “That is really powerful. You just shocked me. Because in that moment I would have never thought that what you were thinking about was protecting him.
“We’ve been working on our friendship again and now we’re very, very close friends. We built a trust again. We love each other and probably always will, and that’s not anything we’re going to try to change.”
Oprah asks The Question on Everybody’s Mind: Are they dating again?
“No, he’s in a relationship of his own, I’m single, but we have maintained a very close friendship ever since the restraining order’s been dropped. And it has not been easy. It’s not easy. Yes I did [see him in St. Tropez], we went to a mutual friend’s party on a yacht. It’s awkward because I still love him. My stomach drops and I have to maintain this poker face and not let it get to the outer part of me. I have to maintain that, suppress it. I think he was the love of my life. He was the first love and I see that he loved me the same way. We were very young and very spontaneous. We ran free, we ran wild. We were falling on love and going at a really rapid pace and we forgot about ourselves as individuals, we forgot about our personal discipline. We needed something to shut that off, show us what we were missing, what we were taking for granted. The main thing for me is that he is at peace. I’m not at peace if he’s a little unhappy or still lonely. I care. It actually matters that he finds that peace.”
After a cut to a commercial break where a weepy Rihanna yelps, “I am not a crier, what is this!” we return…
“I have forgiven him. It took me a long time. I was angry for a long time. I was resentful, I was dark. It was coming out in my music, it was coming out in my clothes, it was coming out in my attitude. I didn’t like that feeling. It was heavy. Repaired my relationship with my dad. I was so angry with him. I thought I hated Chris, and I realized it was love that was tarnished and looked like hate. Because it was ugly, it was angry, it was inflamed, it was tainted. I realized what it was, was I had to forgive him because I cared about him still. And the minute I let go of that I started living again.
“I have to move on. I can’t tell people how to feel about it. They’re entitled to feel angry because it wasn’t a good thing that happened. But I have (forgiven him). I felt like, if I forgive him I just become a statistic, this weak victim who was hurt. So I just got really strong, I put up a guard. I swept it under the rug, until it started peeking out.
Rihanna on a few other topics:
On frustrations early in her career:
“I feel like I was really protected, really guarded with myself. I felt like they were giving me a blueprint… the marketing people at the label. They had an idea of what they wanted me to be without figuring out who I was and then working with that. I felt stifled, because I don’t even know who I am at 16, 17 years old.”
On being named the Sexiest Woman Alive by Esquire:
“Inaccurate but flattering… I thought it was cute.”
On what she wants her fans to know about her:
“I want them to feel comfortable knowing I have flaws, as well. I’m super duper afraid of the pedestal that comes with fame.”
Her answer to Oprah’s Who-inspired question, “Who are you?”
“That’s a really good question. I love to have fun. I love to be spontaneous. I’m intrigued by things that are a little adventurous, a little unknown. I’m very black and white when it comes to my business, but I do allow a grey area in my personal life. I want people to feel good.”