It was the evening of the Grammy Awards 2009, “Music’s biggest night” as it is often called. Rihanna, then 20, should have performed. On the way there, there was an argument with her boyfriend at the time, Chris Brown, also a pop star, 19 years old. It became physical and the police photo leaked: Rihanna with burst lips, bruises, a swollen face. She had no control over whether or not the whole world should see this.
A year later, she and Eminem recorded the hit song “Love The Way You Lie,” a song about abuse in relationships. Chris Brown received a moderate sentence. His career took a dent, but right now he’s had the biggest hit on American radio for weeks.
Even fame doesn’t protect women
Rihanna is just one of many female pop stars who couldn’t protect fame or success from male violence – not that one has anything to do with the other. It just shows: it can really affect any woman.
In the 1970s, Tina Turner experienced domestic violence in her marriage to Ike Turner (common hit: “Nutbush City Limits”). And Phil Spector, one of the most successful producers of all time, threatened his wife Ronnie (part of the girl group “The Ronettes”) to kill her, as she wrote in her autobiography. Years later, Phil Spector actually ended up in prison for the murder of an actress, where he died in January that year.
The difficult step of talking about it
It is not an easy step for pop stars to go public with their experiences. “My second worst nightmare is to be forced to tell the world that I am a domestic violence survivor,” wrote FKA twigs in December 2020 on Instagram. “My worst nightmare is not telling anyone about it and knowing that I could only have helped one person by sharing my story.”
She sued her ex-boyfriend, who is no less than actor Shia LaBeouf (“Transformers”). After the allegations became known, singer Sia also came forward and described LaBeouf as a “pathological liar” who lured her into a relationship with false claims. Word of apology in a first statement was recently followed by the rejection of the allegations in a letter from LaBeouf’s defense lawyers.
The difficult step of going to court
Taylor Swift was on trial in August 2017. A photo was taken while visiting a radio station and the radio DJ patted her. Swift also communicated this to the DJ’s boss. There was an investigation, he was fired – and sued Taylor Swift for millions of dollars. She countered for a dollar – and won.
In the Netflix documentary “Miss Americana” Swift describes very personally how she experienced the process, what it was like for her to be asked why she did not react immediately. “I was so angry that I had to be there. I was angry that this happened to women. I was angry that people are paid to denigrate victims.” And further: “You do not perceive the victory as such, because the process is so dehumanizing.”
The presenter only paid the requested dollar when asked and soon got a new job at the radio. On stage in Tampa, Florida a year after the verdict, Taylor Swift remembered the Denver, Colorado courtroom, also featured in “Miss Americana,” in front of tens of thousands of fans.
“I just think of all the people you didn’t believe or those who are afraid to say something because they think you won’t believe them. I don’t know what turn my life would have taken if people Wouldn’t believe me if I said what happened to me. ” Taylor Swift
In early March, the singer finally had to put up with a derogatory joke on the Netflix series “Ginny & Georgia”, where a dialogue read: “You change men faster than Taylor Swift.” Like many people, the singer had several partners, but has been in a steady relationship for almost five years.
The difficult step of living with it
Welsh singer Duffy (2008 number 1 hit “Mercy”) experienced one of the most harrowing abuse. For years it was quiet around her when she contacted Instagram in February 2020: “I was raped, drugged and held captive for a few days.” A few weeks later she wrote a long text of seven pages (duffywords.com), describing a drama that is unfortunately not a horror novel.
It happened on her birthday, she was held prisoner, then taken to another country by plane, repeatedly drugged and raped. With the help of a psychologist, she managed to leave this experience behind in almost ten years, but also said: “I doubt I will be the person that people have known again.” The perpetrator has ruined more than her musical career.
Duffy came back with an open letter at a later date and contacted Netflix. Their hit movie “365 Days” glorifies the brutal reality of prostitution, kidnapping and rape. In other words: much of what happened to her. She also urged the movie’s viewers to look into the problem. The film can still be seen on Netflix.
The difficult step of making a difference
The list of female pop stars who have been abused by men, psychologically or physically, is long. Justice is fundamentally difficult to achieve and apologies are seldom made, often late. Madonna and Lady Gaga have reported having been raped before their breakthrough. Aaliyah married her musical sponsor, R. Kelly, in 1994 at the age of 15. The marriage was illegal and was annulled. Aaliyah, on the way to becoming a superstar, died in a plane crash. R. Kelly became the greatest R&B singer of the 1990s.
However, he is now awaiting trial for sexual abuse and other crimes in prison. There are 22 charges, one of which is child pornography.
Embarrassment for Janet Jackson – no consequences for Timberlake
Another pop star, Janet Jackson, had to “pay for” the scandal, which was given the almost harmless name “Nipple-Gate”, more or less by crashing his career. It was the Super Bowl halftime show in 2004. In retrospect, there was talk of a malfunction of her clothing when her then duo partner Justin Timberlake accidentally exposed her chest. Since then, such TV shows have been broadcast in the USA with a few seconds delay so that the picture can be stopped if the worst comes to the worst.
Unlike Janet Jackson, the incident had no impact on Justin Timberlake’s career. He only apologized a few weeks ago on Instagram specifically to Britney Spears, his girlfriend at the time in the early 2000s, and Janet Jackson for failing them.