The next abusers of Rihanna are likely to be her young, female fans. The New York Times' Jan Hoffman wrote an amazing piece on teen fans of Rihanna and Chris Brown that seems counter-intuitive and will shock many adults:
"While thousands of teenagers have certainly turned on Mr. Brown, many others -- regardless of race or gender -- defend him, often at Rihanna's expense."
The dynamic is easy enough to understand. To teenage girls, the male pop stars are potential dates. The female stars they see as projections of themselves, 'if only they were given a chance', they think to themselves.
They support the female singers on their way up, but turn on them once they date a celebrity or are perceived to be celebrities themselves. After that, to a teenage girl, they are competition.
Over the years as a music publicist I have seen this phenomenon first hand. While in Chicago to meet with NSync, Justin Timberlake was beside himself, literally jumping on the sofa in his dressing room while telling me that he and Britney Spears were back together. Both were just starting out and this was still a well-guarded secret that even a teenage pop star understood. I didn't have to finish the thought, "You know you can't tell anyone," I said.
"Of course not. It will ruin her career," he said.
We were both keenly aware of this fact. Justin's mother, Lynn Harless, was managing a girl band named, Innosense. Their label, BMG, was promoting them as the next Spice Girls. That is, until the news broke that one of the girls in the quintet was dating one of the Backstreet Boys, during the height of their fame. The female audience was ruthless. They threw condoms at the band while they performed and held up signs with vulgar slogans to demonstrate their dissatisfaction.
Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes also understood this odd dynamic with the fans. She famously burned down her boyfriend, Andre Risen's, house after a vicious beating, but preferred to be thought of as crazy than a victim of abuse. She called me after an interview with VH1 in which she discussed the incident, telling me she never wanted to talk about it.
Lisa was one of the smartest and strongest artists with whom I had ever worked. She knew there was no sympathy for abuse victims from young people. Imagine my surprise when she not only reconciled with Risen, but, announced her engagement to him live on JoJo Wrights radio show at LA's KIIS-FM (which she later broke off).
Reaching back even further, Tiffany (yes, from the mall) told me that when she started to date Jonathan Knight of New Kids on the Block, they knew to keep their relationship quiet.
Many young performers have no strong role models, rather, parents more interested in being an entourage to their meal ticket (Nick/Aaron Carter, Miley). Thankfully, this doesn't seem to be the case with Rihanna. However, media reports, if they can be trusted, say she isn't reaching out to her family right now for support, rather, to industry insiders.
That's too bad, because the fans might not be there to support her. Sure, the adults in the media are behind her all the way, but she has to sell music, merchandise and consumer products to an audience who now see her as someone who has damaged their beloved Chris Brown - man of their teenage dreams.
The one who will most likely benefit from this is, in fact, Mr. Brown. The young female fans who buy music and whatever else he is selling, are behind him. It might even roughen up his image for young men.
He is likely to have more to worry about from Jay-Z, than the throngs of adoring young girls - and the money from sales and endorsements will follow the audience.
Rihanna, on the other hand, has two opposing audiences to please. The young people who buy her music and the adults that make marketing, journalism and creative decisions. Oprah has a strong voice, but her audience doesn't buy Rihanna's products.