By Emilie Bickerton
PARIS, FRANCE - Pop star Rihanna is back, blonde and out to have fun after "getting all my emotions out" on new album R Rated. But her guard is still up if tagged as a victim of domestic violence.
At a press conference to promote the album it was strictly off limits to even mention the controversy dogging her since February, when R&B boyfriend Chris Brown brutally attacked her in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
The shocking police photo of the singer's bruised face - Rihanna is also a model and fashion icon - was leaked to the press, and earlier this month the star said returning to Brown after he had bitten and scratched her during the attack had been a mistake which arose because she was "so far in love."
Well, she's not in love anymore. R Rated was recorded when she was in a "dark" mood, and did a lot of "venting" in the studio. Some tracks allude to the doomed relationship, especially the single Wait Your Turn.
Rihanna played the pop diva at the Paris get-together on Thursday, breezing in late and refusing point-blank to answer personal questions.
But she was all smiles when it came to talking about fashion, a favourite subject of the Glamour magazine woman of 2009 who has modelled for Gucci and Cover Girl.
Her tip for Parisian ladies this winter is "sexy lingerie", because even when you're all "bundled up you can still be cute when you take it off".
Asked if she thought she scared men away she laughed and suggested, in her rusty, deep voice that maybe "they just don't know how to approach me, so prefer not to".
Rihanna is a breath of fresh air in the size zero fashion world, freely admitting that although her "genetics say I should be low carbs", the junk food is still on the menu. "I'm just not a very disciplined eater".
Her fourth album in four years, which is out on November 23, includes three features: with ex-Guns 'N Roses guitarist Slash, the rapper Young Jeezy and will.i.am.
Explaining how the track Photographs came about, she says she heard the tune at will.i.am's studio and even though it was meant for the Black Eyed Peas she said "this song belongs to me!" No surprise she got her way.
Though the 21-year-old has gone blonde, and is into creams and whites at the moment, R Rated is the opposite: angry, heavy, combative.
It is more hard rock than chilled-out melody, and Rihanna's vocals have a strong, metallic quality on most tracks.
The Barbados-born singer says she wanted to bring some of her roots to the music this time, and really worked to "put my little twang to it".
As for the future, it's a tour next spring, and she plans to take up the guitar (once she's mastered the drums), but "my nails are too long" she admits, and "it will have to wait before I'm ready to give these up".
Rihanna is not just talking about manicures.