You'd never know it from the swagger she has in the just-released clip for "Wait Your Turn," but as a girl from a modest home in Barbados,
"I was involved in a lot of the writing," Rihanna said. "I put everything I've wanted to say for the past eight months into my music. The songs are really personal. It's rock and roll, but it's really hip-hop: If Lil Wayne and Kings of Leon like my album, then I'll feel good. I would not change anything about it. Even if people don't love it, I made exactly the piece of art that I wanted to make. It's super fearless — which is exactly how I feel right now. I am in a really good place."
She also talked about how she got to that place, beginning with childhood dreams of stardom she never thought would come true.
"I would have never dreamed that my career would be this successful," she said. "I grew up in an average home in Barbados, and we didn't live in the best neighborhood. But I was never aware that we were poor; my mom never made us feel that way. She loved me unconditionally. She made us feel anything was possible and instilled in me such confidence."
Like many budding divas, Rihanna said she was always singing as a kid, "in the shower, to pillows and stuffed animals, my cousins." But, despite her lifelong dream of becoming a star, her mother forbade her to quit high school until she got signed to a recording contract, and even then, mom still made her go to classes.
After a nerve-racking audition for label boss Jay-Z, Rihanna had a hit single in 2005 with "Pon de Replay," which blew up on radio within weeks of her signing, coupled with a warning from Jigga that "this never happens, so don't get used to it." But it did, and Rihanna has since become one of the biggest pop stars on the planet, helped along the way by some other advice Jay gave her that she appears to have taken to heart: "You must be a good person, because good things are happening for you, but you have to stay humble."
In the interview, Rihanna said her family and friends helped her cope with the assault by Brown and the suffocating media crush that followed it, pointing to the leaking of a police photo of her battered face as a particularly low moment. She credits her mother with instilling an inner strength in her that helped her survive the incident and its aftermath. "My mom gave us the tools to survive," she offered. "My parents separated when I was 8 or 9. I helped her raise my [youngest] brother, because my mom was working all the time."
Rihanna says the songs on Rated R definitely sound more mature than her previous efforts, because she feels she's done a lot of growing up since her 2007 album Good Girl Gone Bad. "It [represents] exactly where I am at right now," she explained.
Thinking back to another piece of sage advice Jay once gave about the artistic challenge of getting people relate to her as a human being, Rihanna said she thinks the events of the past eight months might have put that task into sharper focus. "Before, there was an innocence to me," she said of the time prior to the Brown altercation. "It was a perfect image. So the minute I did something imperfect, it was a big deal. I think that's what he was referring to: People forget that after we get to our hotel rooms at night, we take a shower, we watch TV, eat room service and do normal things. Behind it all, we are still human beings."
With so many peaks and goals achieved over the past five years, Rihanna said she has no idea what the next five will bring, but she hopes they will include growth. "I am never satisfied," she explained. "I always want more. I always want to get better. I always want to climb another step."
And, despite the very public split with Brown, who she told ABC's "Good Morning America" was her first love, Rihanna appears optimistic about finding a soul mate. "I hope to find love in the next 10 years — that will be pretty annoying if I am 31 and still have never been in love!" she said. "But yeah, I'd like to be in a great place in both my personal life and my career."