It could have been the most romantic publicity stunt of the year.
Drake shows up to give Rihanna her award at the VMAs. He delivers a deeply romantic speech and professes his love. They kiss on stage, officially confirm their relationship, and become the next musical power couple.
It could have been wonderful. But that’s not what happened.
At this year’s VMAs, Drake did present Rihanna with her Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. He did make a romantic speech, and he did profess his love, describing Rihanna as 'someone I’ve been in love with since I was 22 years old.' But as he went in for a kiss, Rihanna rejected him. She reached out and pushed his head towards her neck, and turned his grand gesture into a casual hug.
Was it a little disappointing? Sure. Did it hurt the tiny part of us that loves romance and happy endings? Definitely.
But Rihanna made a brave move by rejecting Drake onstage. And she made the right move, too.
Drake shouldn’t have professed his love in a speech about Rihanna’s brilliance. He shouldn’t have tried to kiss her.
It was very clear that the moment hadn’t been pre-planned – after the kiss-turned-hug, you can see Rihanna telling Drake 'that wasn’t funny' – and, while Drake may have considered the move romantic, it wasn’t fair to put that much pressure on Rihanna to respond the way he wanted her to.
But more importantly, it wasn’t the right time.
This was Rihanna’s moment. She was celebrating her career achievements, her success on her own. By using this moment to declare his adoration, Drake followed in the footsteps of men like Qin Kai, who proposed to Olympic diver He Zi, stealing attention from a woman’s moment to make it about him and his feelings.
We get that it’s well-intentioned. But men need to learn that women’s big career moments are not just backdrops for their grand gestures – these moments are significant in themselves.
So, Drake, a lesson: your romantic gestures will be just as romantic at another time or place, when the person you’re in love with isn’t busy doing something big. Let Rihanna have her moment, or get embarrassingly rejected live on stage. Learn from this.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.