She’s talented, stylish and smart, but eight-time Grammy winner Rihanna is also incredibly real, as Vanity Fair’s new Rihanna profile makes very clear. In the profile, the singer spoke candidly about two hot-button topics: Rachel Dolezal and domestic abuse. Of Rachel Dolezal, the white N.A.A.C.P. executive who infamously pretended to be black, Rihanna said she considers her “a bit of a hero.” “Is it such a horrible thing that she pretended to be black? Black is a great thing, and I think she legit changed people’s perspective a bit and woke people up,” Rihanna said. Her remarks didn’t sit well with some of her fans and triggered a backlash on social media. “Let’s leave Rachel Dolezal in the media grave where we left her,” one woman wrote in a post on Twitter. Others expressed exasperation at the fact that Rihanna would label someone a hero who lied about her race for years.
Living life in the public eye, especially when it comes to relationships, isn’t easy and often, Rihanna shuts down. “I’ve had to be so conscious about people — what they say and why people want to be with me, why people want to sleep with me … It makes me very guarded and protective. I learned the hard way.” That “hard way” includes her widely-covered relationship with R&B artist Chris Brown, who abused her. Pictures of her bloodied face were leaked to the press in February 2009, inviting the world into Rihanna’s personal relationship struggle. She said she was “that girl,” the one who could change Brown’s behavior. What made it worse, she said, was reliving it time and time again in the public eye.