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Rihanna is kicking back in a Los Angeles photo studio, one hand holding a glass of white wine and the other deep into a bag of Cheetos. She’s describing what it was like to shoot an action scene in Battleship, her first film, due out next summer.
The cast was on a barge off Hawaii, and Rihanna, who plays a cadet, serving in the fight against an invasion of alien ships, was worried that her stunt double didn’t look tough enough to pull off the next scene. Her character was supposed to jump off a ship and rescue a big guy. The popstar desperately wanted to do the stunt herself. “I kept going, put me in there!” she says.
Director Peter Berg, reluctant to risk injuring the Last Girl on Earth, initially refused and conceded only after much prodding. “I did it just so she could see how hard stunts are and appreciate a good stuntwoman”, the director recalls. “But she dove off the deck, slammed herself on metal grate, grabbed an actor, and dragged him back to the raft. Then she looked up at me and had this big smile on her face – she did it all better than the stuntwoman”, Berg chuckles. “There’s definitely not a confidence issue with Rihanna.”
Fans of the 23-year old are already full aware of that. In her “S&M” video, they’ve been parading around with a man on a leash. They’ve also watched her get gun tattooed on her torso, and at this year’s Grammys, they saw her strut her stuff wearing nothing but briefs and a bra top. It’s the other side of the flame-haired superstar – the softer, more sensitive side – that fans have yet to experience.
“For me, it’s tougher to be vulnerable than to be tough,” she acknowledges in the lilting Carribean drawl from her native Barbados. As difficult as it might be to shed her armor, the singer insists she is trying
Introducing The Other Rihanna
After the 2009 domestic-violence incident involving her then-boyfriend Chris Brown, it would have been reasonable for Rihanna to retreat and give her wounds – both physical and emotional – time to heal. But instead, she poured her pain into her music and produced some of the most critically praised work of her career, including her searing collaboration with Eminem, “Love The Way You Lie”, about an abusive relationship.
“There was definitely something subliminal happening,” she says. “It was coming out in the way I dressed, the way I did my hair, the way I talked, the way I took my pictures, the kinds of pictures I wanted to take.” She pauses for a moment to reflect. “It was a very aggressive and defensive time, and that allowed me to not start giving a shit,” she says. “I walked around with a very fuck-you attitude.” The fact that she’s now lounging on a couch, dressed in Gucci loafers and a caramel-colored polo-style minidress, hints at how much has changed. “I’ve always been good at masking my emotions. Anytime I didn’t want to deal with how I felt, I’d put up my guard. But I’ve started not doing that.”
One way she’s trying to open up is by sharing more of herself with fans. She told us she recently took over her Twitter account. “I was so against twitter,” she says. “I couldn’t understand how people were supposed to care what I was going at any given moment. Then I started to figure out you can treat it like a giant chat room: I can respond directly to people’s questions. It makes it easier to deal with the flak around you because now people have a sense of who you are.”
Whatever energy she may have put into defending herself she now seems determined to channel into just being real. “She’s always had a thick skin. Growing up, people made fun of her for having really light skin. She would get teased all the time, so she built up walls,” says Melissa Forde, Rihanna’s roommate and best friend since she was 14. “But as she matures, she gets more comfortable with herself.”
The mess with Chris Brown, as awful as it was, gave Rihanna an opportunity to show that she was becoming wiser and stronger. “What intrigued me about Rihanna was an interview I saw her give after her ugly incident with Brown,” recalls Berg. “She was incredibly honest and had a real strength and intelligence. I realized she is much more complex and thoughtful woman than people had given her credit for.”
Hunting For Love
For much of last year, Rihanna dated Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who allegedly ended the relationship due to Rihanna’s hectic schedule. “It can definitely be intimidating to guys to date someone in this industry,” she says. “And it’s really hard to find a guy who doesn’t care about that stuff. Right now it’s easier just having my career to focus on.” So how does the process of dating work when you’re an international superstar? “It doesn’t,” deadpans Rihanna. “I’m turned on to a guy by different things. It could be the way he looks. It could be his intelligence. It’s a really spontaneous thing.”
But even when she does meet a great man, she’s learned to be cautious. “I’m open to love,” she says. “But guys should have to earn it. Because the minute they get it, they want something else. Men are like hunters; they like to chase. So you have to keep em’ guessing.” Suddenly, she erupts into a fit of laughter. “Actually, I’m like that too,” she admits. “I get bored very quickly. So if someone can make me laugh, that’s the best.”
By softening her edges and reconnecting with her sensitive side, Rihanna is hoping to lay the groundwork necessary to let love back into her life. “It’s something I’m working on,” she says. “Melissa always says to me, ‘You need to let your guard down.‘ Because even if a guy texts me or says something and he’s trying to be a slick, I would never entertain it. I think, ‘That’s bullshit. It’s just an act’. And Melissa like, ‘You’re crazy. let your guard down’.” She trails off then surges back with the familiar burst of easy Rihanna confidence. “But I will, it’s going to happen.”