Rihanna embraces masculinity and the power to “turn women gay”

Rihanna has been through a lot since she scored her record deal at age 16. Now, at 22, she’s released her fifth album and acted in her first feature film, Battleship, but the in between hasn’t always been so squeaky clean for the pop star. The Grammy winner was infamously abused by boyfriend Chris Brown and chose to take him back for a short amount of time, all in the public eye.

But RiRi has moved on, and continued to put her edgy image and trademark Barbadian vocals behind hits like “Love the Way You Lie,” and “Only Girl in the World.” And what has made her a hit with gay women, specifically, is her fearless individuality. Well, that and her openness in speaking about sexual fluidity. She’s been quoted as speaking about her crushes on Megan Fox and Cheryl Cole, and also made one of the year’s hottest (and lesbian-themed) videos, “Te Amo.”

This month, Rihanna is the cover subject of Interview magazine, and Kanye West is behind the questions. Rihanna opens up about her image and personal style, among other things. Here’s what she said about controlling her own image:

Well, I would say that in the beginning of my career, I didn’t have a lot of input in what I wore and stuff, but it was a very, innocent, girly look. Then after we put out Good Girl Gone Bad, it kind of became a darker, edgier look, and then it got even edgier on the last album [Rated R]. And now it’s just . . . I’m over the whole structured clothing, overly shoulder-padded shit. I like stuff that’s easy without trying too hard. I don’t like stuff that’s too contrived.

And on what she sees happening in fashion this year:

I probably see a lot of menswear, or something extremely, extremely feminine. But I like to play with both. It would have to be so extreme that it’s a look, because I don’t usually like typical ladylike, girly-girly stuff. It would be a look if I were to do it. I always like something that’s a little off, so it’s just not typical or expected.

Kanye must be aware of how Rihanna has fans that appreciate thinking outside of the box, as he also wanted to know how she got the idea to include a pink military tank on stage as part of her last tour.

I love to combine femininity with a kind of extreme masculine edge, and I felt like the tank is just not a typical thing that you think of when you think of a girl — or in any kind of relation to a girl. Then we made it hot pink. We just added that touch.

And he really must have done his research to know that Rihanna has many a female fan that is interested in Rihanna the person as much as they are Rihanna the pop star. (That, or he knows something we don’t know.)

WEST: How does it feel to know that you could have any man in the world? Or woman. How does it feel to know that you can turn straight women gay?

RIHANNA: Is that a real question?

WEST: Yeah.

RIHANNA: Well . . . Thank you. I don’t know how to feel about that. [laughs] I guess that’s flattering.

WEST: But just to have that level of power. How do you deal with it? No one woman should have that much power.

RIHANNA: I try not to depend on it. It’s just a part of what’s happening right now in my life, and I appreciate it. It helps a lot. [laughs]

Many of Rihanna’s counterparts have flirted with similar ideas of possible bisexuality (including Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Ke$ha), but there’s something about Rihanna that gives the impression she’s a little more authentic when it comes to what she puts out for the public to see and hear from her. I could be wrong, but I have yet to feel as if she’s attempting to profit off of pretending to be interested in women.

At any rate, I appreciate Rihanna’s taking control over her image and not being afraid to embrace her masculine side.