Los Angeles – A sobbing Rihanna has told Oprah Winfrey she felt protective of boyfriend Chris Brown after he beat her up more than three years ago and was concerned that everyone would think of him as a monster.

The Umbrella singer, in an emotional TV interview set to air today detailing her thoughts about the highly publicised 2009 assault, told Winfrey that the incident had left her confused and ashamed.

“It was embarrassing, it was humiliating,” Rihanna told Winfrey in the interview, excerpts of which were released on Thursday.

“I lost my best friend. Everything I knew switched, switched in a night, and I couldn’t control that.

“It was a weird, confusing space to be in. Because as angry as I was – as angry and hurt and betrayed – I just felt like he made that mistake because he needed help. And who’s going to help him?

“Nobody’s going to say he needs help. Everybody’s going to say he’s a monster, without looking at the source. And I was more concerned about him.”

Rihanna, now 24, was left battered and bruised from the beating in Los Angeles on the eve of the Grammy Awards in February 2009. Brown, 19 at the time and a rising R&B singer, pleaded guilty to assault. He was sentenced to five years’ probation, community service and domestic violence counselling.

He apologised publicly, but his career and public image took a dive. His career has since recovered, and he won his first Grammy award earlier this year for the hit album F.A.M.E.

Rihanna has rarely opened up emotionally in public about the events of that night.

Winfrey, who interviewed Rihanna at the singer’s Barbados home, said in a promotion for the show that she had started with a fixed idea of Rihanna based on her provocative music videos and sexually charged lyrics, but that view had quickly changed.

“I thought she was going to be kind of a badass, kind of a hard-edged rocker, pop woman. Nothing could have been further from the truth,” Winfrey said. (Reuters)