Photo Credit: Rick Diamond/WireImage
In March of 2009, just after Chris Brown assaulted his superstar girlfriend Rihanna, Oprah Winfrey had a strong reaction to the news. During an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show, she looked into the camera and addressed Rihanna directly. "Love doesn't hurt," she said firmly. "And if a man hits you once he will hit you again. I don't care what his plea is."
Last night -- nearly three years later -- Winfrey and Rihanna appeared together for an intimate interview on Oprah's Next Chapter (Sundays at 9 p.m. ET, on OWN). Rihanna talked at great length about her past and current feelings towards Brown, and this time Winfrey's response was more collegial than preachy. Perhaps that's because Rihanna and Brown are no longer together. (Brown was last linked to Vietnamese-American model Karruche Tran.)
Still, Winfrey just nodded solemnly when Rihanna admitted that she still had feelings for Brown. "We've been working on our friendship again," the 24-year-old explained. "We've built a trust again. We love each other and we probably always will and that's not anything that we're gonna try to change. That's not something you can shut off if you've ever been in love. We've worked on it little by little. It's not easy. The main thing for me is that he's at peace."
And Winfrey gave Rihanna the opportunity to describe how she viewed the events of that night. "I lost my best friend," she said. "Like everything I knew switched. Switched in a night…It's not easy to interpret on camera, not with the world watching…It was a weird space to be in, because as angry as I was, as angry and hurt and betrayed, I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help. And who's gonna help him? Everybody's gonna say he's a monster without looking at the source. I was more concerned about him."
In fact, not much has changed since November, when Rihanna appeared on Good Morning America for her first interview after the incident. "I don't hate him at all," she said. "I actually love and care about him and I am concerned about him doing well."
Brown hasn't issued an official reaction to the Oprah interview, but over the weekend, he tweeted a series of photos of himself looking forlorn. And a source close to the "Turn Up The Music" singer told Hollywoodlife.com that he had seen the preview video of the interview.
"Of course he saw it, how do you think he feels?" said the source. "He feels horrible he did that…Watching [Rihanna's interview with Oprah] made him realize he made a big mistake and he’s been paying for it ever since. He’s working hard, in the studio, dancing, doing everything he can to rebuild his name and career and I think he been successful in doing all that. Y’all should be talking about his road to recovery and how he’s been a man and made s–t right. He and Ri are cool, more cool than anyone will know. She forgave the [boy] the minute that s–t went down, so what that say about their relationship?”
It's true: clearly, she has forgiven him. But the rest of the world? Brown's friend is right: In the realm of popular opinion, he is still paying for what he did. He may have to for a long time to come.