Massively talented, attractive, young and in love, the R&B star and the “Umbrella” chanteuse were primed for a long future as one of music’s power couples. With five nominations between them, each were set to make waves at the 2009 Grammys with their separate performances. Instead, they were the talk of the night for all the wrong reasons as news spread that a fight between them had become seriously, horrifyingly physical.
Photos, later leaked by a person Rihanna would describe to Vanity Fair as “a very nasty woman who thought a check was more important than morals,” showed the extent of the damage and a police report filled in the rest. Police said Brown had punched Rihanna repeatedly in the face and arm, even biting her ear. Pulling the rented Lamborghini to a stop, he put her in a headlock causing her to slowly lose consciousness. “I went from being on top of the world, No. 1 songs, being kind of like America’s sweetheart to being Public Enemy No. 1,” Brown recalled years later in his 2017 documentary Chris Brown: Welcome to My Life. “I felt like a f–king monster.” The pair attempted to reconnect before accepting their romance was entirely toxic. “I don’t hate him,” she insisted to Vanity Fair. “I will care about him until the day I die. We’re not friends, but it’s not like we’re enemies.”