It’s become second nature for me to just close that door and just be O. Rihanna sits across the table from me in the private room at Giorgio Baldi, her favorite restaurant in L. Her hair is reddish, wavy; her face seems free of makeup.She’s even more beautiful in person than she is in her photos.
In 2005, at age 16, she auditioned for Def Jam Records’ then group chairman, L. She remembers that her hair was wavy, parted to one side, and “I had just gotten my first weave.” She recalls sitting in the hallway when she saw Jay Z walk by, and she was so freaked out she made sure he didn’t see her.
According to Ty Ty, “When she walked in the room and started singing, what got my attention was how she looked at you and the tone of her voice.
I was terrified; my knees were shaking.” She’d already been turned down by another label, but Def Jam wanted her, and she—along with her lawyer—stayed in the building for 12 hours, until three A.
M., when she signed what she still refers to as a “great deal.” (Jay Brown laughs and says Ty Ty jokingly told the lawyer that the only way they were getting out of the building without signing was through the window.)Rihanna’s rise happened fast.
They think being a real man is actually being a pussy, that if you take a chair out for a lady, or you’re nice or even affectionate to your girl in front of your boys, you’re less of a man. They won’t be a gentleman because that makes them appear soft. I mean I get horny, I’m human, I’m a woman, I want to have sex. She says that everybody knew what everyone else did and how well every child did in school—you couldn’t hide your failures; you had to face them.
That’s what we’re dealing with now, a hundred percent, and girls are settling for that, but I won’t. But what am I going to do—just find the first random cute dude that I think is going to be a great ride for the night and then tomorrow I wake up feeling empty and hollow? She memorized textbooks (her mother was very strict about grades) and played sports with her two younger brothers, Rorrey and Rajad.
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. 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.
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. She is elegant, funny, straightforward, and downright horrified (and laughs hysterically) at all of the rumors I toss at her.
She’s got 7 billion video views on You Tube, 50.7 million followers on Twitter, 25.4 million on Instagram, and 81.7 million Facebook fans. ’ ” I ask Rihanna if she thinks she’s always going to be a poster child for victims of domestic abuse.