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Rihanna dons a sequined Balmain minidress on the July cover of Elle. Photo: Tom Munro

Fashion plate Rihanna is Elle's July cover girl. And, oh, how she shines.

Never one to shy away from straight-of-the-runway fashions or sky-high hemlines, the Barbadian beauty rocks one of Balmain's highly coveted Fall 2010 sequin minidresses on the cover of Elle, along with a half-blonde, half-brunette coif that we must admit we prefer to her current cherry red version.

Perhaps, unsurprisingly, inside the magazine things get even steamier, with the pop star posing in lingerie by La Perla, Blush and 3.1 Phillip Lim, old-fashioned hats and veils, and graphic leopard-printed pieces by Roberto Cavalli and Lanvin. (Watch Rihanna posing for the seductive photo shoot in this behind-the-scenes video).

For her interview, the 22-year-old singer talks about breaking fashion barriers and respecting designers who do the same. "It's clear there are definitely fewer black women in the high-fashion industry," she tells the magazine.

"One of the things I respected most about Gucci was that they did a print campaign with me. I'm a black girl on a fashion spread for Gucci -- that was a big deal. I respect designers who aren't afraid to go outside the box. I went to a Jean Paul Gaultier show, and I saw girls who are thicker than me, beautiful and voluptuous and different ethnicities. That made me so excited. I thought, Okay, I can work that, for sure."

As for the raw and racy art from her aptly tiled "Rated R" album, Rihanna explains what she was going for.

"I wanted pictures that represented strength and fearlessness but still femininity -- a strong woman who can be vulnerable," she says. "Every woman is made up of vulnerability and strength; no matter what race you are, no matter what you've been through in your life. Every woman has that strength that is undeniable, but we also have really big hearts. It's just us."

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Rihanna shows off her animal instincts in a Blush bra with La Perla briefs (left) and a Lanvin trench over 3.1 Phillip Lim boy shorts (right). Photo: Tom Munro

Rihanna has been brave in discussing the highly publicized physical abuse she suffered at the hands of former flame Chris Brown and continues to open up in ELLE, touching on the emotional impact the now-infamous night had on her.

"A year ago, I was very confused. Because he was my best friend," she says of the incident. "All of a sudden, one night changed our whole lives -- not only our friendship, but our lives. I wanted to wake up one day and just not have that pain anymore. I wanted to be with him again or get over him -- it was either-or. I just didn't want to feel the pain, the confusion."

Luckily, it seems that now, with her new outlook on life and her new beau, L.A. Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, she's feeling much more pleasure than pain.

"I have a boyfriend," she tells the magazine. "I'm so happy. I feel really comfortable, and it's so easy. I have such a chaotic life, but at the end of the day, that is just my peace. It keeps me sane, really, talking to him and talking to my family."

To read more of Rihanna's revealing interview with Elle and see additional images from the high-fashion photo shoot, head over to Elle.com and pick up the July issue, on newsstands June 15.

For another "good girl gone bad," check out this young starlet's new album cover.