The celebrity tell-all interview has become a big yawn lately. A superstar swears they're going to spill all and then, in reality, they give us a few scripted sounding quotes about perseverance and finding strength. Their journey to a better place sounds not one iota like your inner work to go from bad to better to best. Where's the struggle, you wonder, hearing them talk? Where's the self-doubt? Where are the missteps and mistakes on the way to really figuring out where happiness is?
All of those are good questions, but you could have also asked yourself, "Where's Rihanna?" Because in the new issue of Vanity Fair, she gives a cover story interview that sounds familiar to any woman who had ever struggled to extract herself from an unhealthy relationship. And her honesty does more than revive the (tired) celeb tell-all — it could actually be the key to a woman who can’t unlock why she keeps staying stuck romantically.
When Vanity Fair asked her about Chris Brown, Rihanna explains their tumultuous time together — including the very public reconciliation — by saying, "I was that girl...Maybe I’m one of those people built to handle s**t 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."
This isn't glamorous. At all. But it's honest. It's also a dangerous way to feel if the person you're with is abusive, as Brown was. Still, Rihanna said, "I was very protective of him. 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, or 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."
Some may read this and judge her for saying she is partly to blame or calling herself an “enemy.” But more may recognize themselves in this because they have been the woman who thinks she can handle something strenuous because she understands him like no one else can. These are words every woman should read if she thought that she could sacrifice her own well-being — and maybe even safety — for the love of this person.
It's easy to make fun of celebrities. What's much, much harder is seeing that at their lowest they may have been going through something you've experienced. But Rihanna got it together, telling the magazine, “And 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 thinking I was built for this.’”
There’s nothing to judge — and only something to applaud — about sharing what she had to do. But it really only makes a difference if other people follow her example, giving Rihanna a new kind of star power.
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(Photo: Vanity Fair Magazine, November 2015)