I don't think I've ever actually heard Rihanna.

Sure, she's a singer—someone who makes their living hocking their vocal chords—-yea, OK, fine, whatever. But unlike MJ or Elvis or Whitney, I can't call up Rihanna's voice in my head and imagine what she'd sound like ordering greasy Chinese at 2 a.m., cussing out the cable guy after waiting for six hours, or maybe reciting Shakespeare. So as I watched the snippet of the pop star's 20/20 interview with ABC's Diane Sawyer, which airs in its entirety this Friday at 10 p.m., I was surprised to actually hear her voice, her real voice. The one Robyn uses when she's not Rihanna and the one we've been waiting to hear since both women (the real one and the one we've imagined) were attacked by her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown—a chatty Cathy if there ever was one.


The voice I listened to this morning was more powerful than the one we've all heard ululating about umbrellas. It cracked from time to time—especially when Rihanna said Chris' name as if he were the Lord Voldemort of domestic violence—but it was clear, crisp and confident, too. Instead of being rehearsed, her answers were real. "I didn't want people to think I fell in love with that person. That's embarrassing," she told Sawyer. "It's completely normal to go back. You start lying to yourself the minute the physical wounds go away," she continued, sounding not like a girl or a victim.

Then toward the end of the teaser video Robyn and Rihanna seemed to merge—a real woman giving some bad-ass advice. "I will say that to any young girl going through domestic violence, don't react off of love. Eff love."

—HELENA "I am strong" ANDREWS

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.