Rihanna Defends Chris Brown Reconciliation: ‘I’m Still Going to Do What I Want to Do’

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Rihanna has no apologies. When the pop star made her reconciliation with abuser Chris Brown public in February — she released a duet on the remix of her song, "Birthday Cake" — the backlash was loud, but she wasn't listening. "I respect what other people have to say," the "We Found Love" singer, 24, tells Elle in its May cover story. "The bottom line is that everyone thinks differently. It's very hard for me to accept, but I get it. People end up wasting their time on the blogs or whatever, ranting away, and that's all right. I don't hate them for it. Because tomorrow I'm still going to be the same person. I'm still going to do what I want to do."

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But although she has done things on her terms, when the abuse made headlines in February 2009, Rihanna admits she wasn't thrilled that it put her private life on display for all to see. "I was like, well, f--k. They know more about me than I want them to know," she explains. "It's embarrassing. But that was my opening. That was my liberation, my moment of bring it. I wanted people to know who I am. Whatever they take that to be, good or bad, I just want them to know the truth … I have more freedom the more people know about me. It's like, one less skeleton in the closet, one less burden, one less secret; now you know that, so you can say what you want about it. I don't have anything to hide."

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Rihanna's November 2009 album, Rated R, was laden with a lot of the emotions she was feeling post-Brown. Even her look was harder. The Barbados-born beauty dyed her hair black and cut it into a semi-shaved bob — very similar to the new hairstyle she debuted while promoting her upcoming movie, "Battleship." Although Rated R was very dark and edgy — with song titles like "Stupid in Love" and "Russian Roulette" — it was honest. "I was going through the hardest time of my life," reveals Rihanna. "I was angry, sad, confused, torn. I was still in love. And I needed to talk about it. That was the only way I could get peace, because it was in my head, and I couldn't leave it there."

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Although there have been rumors that she and Brown are secretly back together, Rihanna maintains she's single — and very willing to mingle if there was anyone worthy of her love. "There's just a major drought out there," she tells Elle. "I don't know. I guess I'm challenging, because my job seems to affect every relationship I have or try to have. Even with people I think should get it, you know? That seems to be a big factor; it's always an issue. But I just need to find the person who balances me out, because then things like my schedule won't matter. I've done it before, so I know I can do it again." And when she does find Mr. Right, Rihanna wants to start a family. Kids, she tells the magazine, "are my everything. It could be 20 years from now. I just feel like when the time is right, God will send me a little angel. But first, of course, I have to find a man. I mean, there's a very important missing piece to the puzzle here!"

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Until then, she's content with the company of her girlfriends, including her most famous BFF, Katy Perry. The two pop divas have been pals since meeting in 2009. Rihanna even threw Perry's Las Vegas bachelorette party before she married her now-ex-husband Russell Brand. "I'll tell you, you do not find people like her in this industry," says Rihanna. "She's gorgeous, charming, and so unedited it's scary. That's what intrigued me most when I first met her: She said it like she saw it. I trust people like that. I feel safe around people who tell me the f--ked-up s--t, because I know they'll always tell me the truth."

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