This past February, she agreed to let a judge ease the restraining order against Brown that had been in place since 2009. When a blogger named Sandra Rose criticized the decision online, calling it "a disgrace to the fans who love her," Rihanna snapped back, "I would've sworn he beat YOUR ass, just by how upset you are," she wrote on Twitter. "My fans don't care about a restraining order and neither do I."
"A lot of people get so brave behind the computer screen," she says today. "I get it — she's a blogger, whatever. But when she started jumping to conclusions about my personal decision, it really pissed me off. That's my decision. You don't make that decision for me. It doesn't mean we're getting married tomorrow. It doesn't mean we're gonna be in a relationship, or make up, or even talk ever again. It just means I didn't want to object to the judge."
She says she hasn't heard from Brown, nor does she expect to. "We don't have to talk again ever in my life. I just didn't want to make it more difficult for him professionally. What he did to me was a personal thing — it had nothing to do with his career. Saying he has to be a hundred feet away from me, he can't perform at awards shows — that definitely made it difficult for him. That was the only thing it was going to change, so I didn't care. But you can never please people. One minute I'm being too hard, and the next minute I'm a fool because I'm not being hard enough."
It's sunday now — her first day off in weeks. It's raining in Southern California; Rihanna sleeps in until noon, cooks herself some pasta, watches some TV, watches Due Date for a ninth time. Then for a long time, she just looks out at the downpour.
Eventually, she throws on a black tank top and a pair of five-inch Louboutins and makes her way to a Beverly Hills bar for a vodka-tonic and a chat about the future. She wants to do a fashion magazine, a clothing line. She also has her eye on Hollywood: Next May, she'll appear with Liam Neeson in her first big film, as an ass-kicking Navy weapons expert in the blockbuster adaptation of the game Battleship. She spent three months filming in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in Hawaii, including several 18-hour days on a barge with 350 people and one outhouse bathroom. Recalls director Peter Berg, "There were times I would walk up to her like, 'Are you really handling this?' And she would just laugh at me. She said she was really enjoying not having to drive the ship — not having to be running this huge Rihanna machine." But of course she's always running the Rihanna machine, and all the constituent parts that entails.
"It's not the music industry anymore," says manager Jay Brown, "It's the entertainment industry. The goal is not just to be an artist, it's to be a brand."
That depends partly on making her less of a cipher. "I always felt like there was a big disconnect between me and my fans," Rihanna says. "They knew my name, what I looked like, what I dressed like, what I sounded like. But they were never connected to my personality. They never knew if I was a nice person, if I was a bitch. They never knew me."
Which brings us back to Robyn. To her, "Rihanna" is just a stage, like puberty, that started in a recording studio six years ago and will last however long it lasts. Meanwhile, she still thinks of herself as Robyn. "Robyn is the brick to my foundation," she says. "It's something I hold on to. It's everything I grew up with, my childhood, Barbados, people close to me. Everything that's familiar. People know Rihanna from my music. But if this were to all go away tomorrow, I would always look at myself as Robyn."
A pause. Those eyes.
"But the life of Rihanna is pretty fuckin' awesome."
This story is from the April 14th, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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