Totally unfiltered, relentlessly productive, and obsessed-about by millions—the supernova-hot Rihanna is readying a new studio album and living a mile-a-minute life.
Backstage at the “MTV Video Music Awards” in Los Angeles plays like a very expensive and absurdist version of high school. In a lower corridor of the Staples Center, musical cliques rush between dressing rooms, looking like underclassmen scrambling from homeroom to algebra. Popular girl Taylor Swift floats by in a cream-colored suit, pale, silent, almost an apparition. A Nashville twang rebounds along the hallway concrete—Miley Cyrus, greeting a friend and showing off her newly buzzed, blonde hair. There’s Katy Perry in a plunging black floral dress. There are the teen crushes One Direction. There’s the United States Olympic women’s gymnastics team, here to introduce Alicia Keys. Emma Watson, the actress. Pink, the person. At one point, there’s a commotion, and suddenly Lil Wayne spins by on a green-wheeled skateboard. He’s as tiny as a coxswain, a pair of red headphones clamped over his ears.
Then, through a silver set of doors, Rihanna appears. She’s wearing a sheer red Adam Selman dress with matching leather Balenciaga leggings, and as she steps into the hall, a thick crowd begins to part around her. Her entourage is about ten deep, and Rihanna steps to the front, scanning faces from behind an outrageous pair of Jeremy Scott sunglasses, the temples of which are miniature gold machine guns. Dictator sunglasses. Just days ago, Rihanna cut her hair pixie-short, like Audrey Hepburn’s in Sabrina, but to the public this is still just a rumor, and given the manner in which her stylistic evolutions are breathlessly followed, actually seeing the new ’do feels like a sneak preview of a yet-to-be-unveiled iPhone.
“Spur of the moment,” Rihanna will tell me later. “My hair was supposed to be down to my ass tonight.”