Glamour has named Rihanna one of its Women of the Year -- but 2009 has been anything but breezy for the R&B star.
"It has taught me so much," Rihanna says of the assault and its aftermath. "I went to sleep as Rihanna and woke up as Britney Spears. That was the level of media chaos that happened the next day. It was like, What, there are helicopters circling my house? There are 100 people in my cul-de-sac? What do you mean, I can’t go back home?"
The 21 year-old (born Robyn Rihanna Fenty) points out that she was particularly humiliated by photos of her badly bruised face leaking onto the Internet.
"That is not a photo you would show to anybody," she says. "I felt completely taken advantage of . . . like people were making it into a fun topic . . . and it's my life. I was disappointed, especially when I found out the photo was [supposedly leaked by] two women."
And although the musician (her new album Rated R debuts this month) praises the unwavering support of friends and family throughout the ordeal, she's also blunt about her state of mind in those dark days.
"At some point," she admits, "you are there alone. It's a lonely place to be -- no one can understand."
One of her pillars of support? Her mom, who separated from her father when Rihanna was eight. "My mom gave us the tools to survive," she says. "I helped her raise my [youngest] brother, because my mom was working all the time. He's my favorite."
Now considered a fashion icon, she wants to be another kind of hero: "Domestic violence is a big secret," she says. "My story was broadcast all over the world for people to see, and they have followed every step of my recovery. The positive thing that has come out of my situation is that people can learn from that."