Oprah paves way for Rihanna to reunite with Chris Brown
Interview orchestrated to get fans warmed up to a once unthinkable idea.
AP Photo; Harpo Productions, George Burns
When Rihanna invited Oprah Winfrey to her native Barbados for an intimate one-on-one that aired this week on Oprah's Next Chapter, the "Talk that Talk" singer and her PR team appeared to have an underlying agenda: selling Riri and Chris: 2.0.
Sandwiched in between touching anecdotes about the pop star's late grandmother and gifting her mom with a dream home came the highly anticipated Chris Brown segment, one in which it became increasingly obvious the 24-year-old still loves her abusive ex and could very well get back together with him.
"We love each other and we probably always will," Rihanna replied when Winfrey asked about the status of their relationship, noting Brown was now romantically attached while she was single. "That's not anything that we're going to try and change. It's not something you can shut off if you've ever been in love."
In the past any hint of a reconciliation between the exes - who split in 2009 after Brown was charged with brutally beating his girlfriend - has unleashed a fierce backlash from the public and threatened to throw a curve ball in the starlet's sky's-the-limit career trajectory.
Oprah's exclusive seems to be testing the waters again more than three years after the assault, with Rihanna subtly building a case for a second chance with Brown, who she now says was "the love of my life.
"We've been working on our friendship again. Now we're very, very close friends. We've built a trust again," she added.
While Rihanna just can't seem to shake her ex, she's also not willing to lose her status as one of the most successful artists in the business, so enter the PR machine to co-ordinate a smooth transition that will do the least amount of harm to her career should the former power-couple get back together.
While Winfrey has spent much of her time on the small screen crusading against child abuse and domestic violence - and has never shied away from speaking her mind especially when it comes to these matters - the 58-year-old was anything but cautionary this time around with Rihanna, instead asking if the star's "heart does that swooch thing" when she sees her ex.
Winfrey also went soft on Brown while tweeting during the show's broadcast, even referring to the R&B singer on a first-name basis. "This is the real Heart of healing here. Repairing relationship with her father. And seeing the connection to Chris," she wrote.
Just as Rihanna - or the machine behind her - needs fans' approval before openly stepping out with Brown again - Winfrey desperately needs viewers for her struggling OWN network and seems to be compromising her values in order to score big-name interviews.
More and more celebrities appearing on her weekly show seem to have well-scripted answers and Rihanna's sit-down was no exception. Her carefully prepared responses suggested her team was briefed and approved them in advance, the result a stark contrast to the Diane Sawyer interview a few months after the assault in which she repeatedly stumbled over her answers.
While Oprah was busy helping Rihanna build her case for the world to forgive Brown, she failed to mention of all the signs that point to the fact the 23-year-old really hasn't changed his ways.
Not a peep about the chair throwing/window breaking incident during his appearance on Good Morning America last year or the iPhone he allegedly snatched from a fan who tried to take his photo in February or the recent NYC bar brawl with Drake's entourage that has him at the centre of a $16 million lawsuit.
Instead, Winfrey opted to ask: "Is Chris Brown a true love for you?"
While Rihanna says she no longer wants to be seen as a victim - she may find herself playing that role again if falls back into a relationship with someone who clearly hasn't been rehabilitated. The only thing more troubling is that Oprah of all people has pretty much given her blessing.