Watching Rihanna talk to Oprah on OWN’s “Next Chapter” special last night, it was almost as though the cameras weren’t even rolling. It took nothing but Oprah to ask Rihanna about herself, her grandmother, and of course, Chris Brown, for her to completely open up in one of the most honest and introspective interviews the “good girl gone bad” has probably given since she talked to Diane Sawyer following the former couple’s domestic incident in 2009.
Though this next statement may come back to haunt me next time I have to write about a rumor concerning these two, what I appreciated about Rihanna candidness was that in my mind she put an end to the Chris Brown speculation. Does she still love him? Are they still dating? Do they still hang out? Has she forgiven him? The answers were yes across the board and it was quite courageous of her to admit those things amidst the scrutiny of her fans, and especially her haters, Breezy’s fans and haters, the general public, and domestic violence organizations who have already bashed her for being honest.
When I listened to Rihanna say she repaired her relationship with her father and was subsequently able to forgive Chris, and her admission that the two of them had forgotten self-discipline and needed something to slow them down, I felt I was listening to a woman who had learned from her experience. A woman who was finally able to make sense of the incident and who knew that Chris’s lashing out was a sign of a much deeper problem that she may or may not have provoked. I felt it was a declaration of who she was at 24 years old in 2012 in relation to Chris brown and their 2009 altercation and I appreciated her bravery in doing so and giving the media no more rumors to speculate about. She laid the truth out there, like it or not.
Of course, there were indeed some people who didn’t like it at all, namely domestic violence organizations. EurWeb picked up two statements on the matter, one from Vivienne Hayes, chief executive of the Women’s Resource Center, who said yesterday:
“Rihanna’s case demonstrates the emotional complexities felt by women locked in abusive relationships. It is common for victims to blame themselves for violence perpetrated by their male partners. Whatever the nature of the argument, [Brown] chose to beat her up. He has to accept responsibility for that choice. And we need to stop society allowing us to normalize such behavior.”
Another woman, Erin Pizzey, an advocate who is credited for pioneering aid for abused women by setting up Britain’s first refuge center for victims, added:
“This sends out a very dangerous message to teenagers that roller-coaster relationships with violence-prone personalities are edgy and exciting. They’re not. The relationship is toxic and unhealthy. Both are in need of help and that is the message that young people should be receiving.”
I wonder if these women skipped past the part in Rihanna’s interview when she said she had no desire to be a role model, not just so she could wile out and live that thug life she tatted on her, but because of the pedestal that comes along with being a role model and the expectation of perfection.
I liken Rihannas reaction to this situation to the reason I believe certain celebrities choose to never come out and declare their homosexuality. Once you do that you’re automatically expected to be a spokesperson for some cause (like same-sex marriage rights) and consequently you are criticized if you don’t. People are expecting Rihanna to say her relationship with Chris is irrevocably broken and that she is the face of domestic violence when in her mind she is the furthest thing from. As she said, she never wanted to be a victim and she never wanted to be defined by this situation . Unfortunately, there’s little she can do to change the media’s obsession toward the latter point but she doesn’t have to relive that incident everyday just because a few nonprofits would like her to. That’s not her platform and we have no choice but to accept that. Sadly in this day and age, there are many other pop culture and entertainment icons teens in potentially violent relationships can look up to for examples of women who have survived abuse and cut all ties with their abuser. Let’s stop putting that pressure on Rihanna.
As the pop singer said in her interview no one was more hurt by the events that transpired after Clive Davis’ Grammy party that Saturday night three years ago and no one will experience the positive or negative consequences of maintaining a friendship with Chris like she will. Though many believe the “once an abuser always an abuser” mantra, if that’s true of Chris Brown, it remains to be seen. The bottom line is Rihanna has to live with her choices and she hasn’t asked anyone else to cosign or support her in doing so. It’s her life, and she has to live it.
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