Rihanna is firmly in control of her life and career—but not of her image, which has veered between club-hopping temptress and poster child for victims of domestic abuse. As the 27-year-old readies her long-awaited new album, she talks candidly about the chasm between her reality and her reputation.
What makes Rihanna special—outside of the music—is that she is someone who is genuinely herself. People connect with her. You are seeing the authentic version of who she is. You can see her scars and her flaws…. She’s gone through things that everyone’s gone through—dysfunctional relationships, things that played out in front of everyone’s eyes—and she’s done a real good job of keeping her life private, but just living her life as a young person … unapologetically. You have to have a tough skin in this business; you’re going to hear some things about yourself that you’re going to think, What?? Are you crazy? — Jay Z.
I honestly think how much fun it would be to live my reputation. People have this image of how wild and crazy I am, and I’m not everything they think of me. The reality is that the fame, the rumors—this picture means this, another picture means that—it really freaks me out. It made me back away from even wanting to attempt to date. It’s become second nature for me to just close that door and just be O.K. with that. I’m always concerned about whether people have good or bad intentions. — Rihanna
Rihanna sits across the table from me in the private room at Giorgio Baldi, her favorite restaurant in L.A. Her hair is reddish, wavy; her face seems free of makeup. She’s even more beautiful in person than she is in her photos. She’s wearing a white crop top, denim cutoff shorts, Puma sneakers, and a flowing Chinese-patterned robe. When she orders three half-portions of pasta dishes (spaghetti pomodoro with basil, gnocchi, and ravioli), I ask how she maintains her curvy but slim figure.
She says, “Legit, I have been in the gym every day this week because I am not willing to give up my food. But I will sacrifice an hour for the gym.”
The 27-year-old woman in front of me is not the provocative, wild hip-hop prom queen, the sexy girl allegedly at the center of a jealous, bottle-throwing brawl in a nightclub, nor the habitué of L.A. and New York hot spots 1Oak and Up & Down. Nor is she the woman who has been described as badass, shocking, naughty, tough—pictured in tabloids and online with various rumored rapper/actor/athlete boyfriends. She is elegant, funny, straightforward, and downright horrified (and laughs hysterically) at all of the rumors I toss at her. And while people may assume that her life is just one big, long, sexy night out on the town, she insists it’s not true. I ask about her bad-girl reputation.
“Honestly, I’ve been thinking lately about how boring I am,” she says. “When I do get time to myself, I watch TV.”