She's lost the assless chaps and embraced her softer side. With a new album, a world tour, and her first film, Christina Aguilera's all grown up.
A Decade of Christina: See Christina's Aguilera's most noteworthy red-carpet looks from the past 10 years, from sultry siren to hot mama.
By Gaby Wood
Top, $675, Bra, $830, Jean Paul Gaultier.
Photo Credit: Peggy Sirota
Christina Aguileras 22-month-old son, Max, is giving me a guided tour of their Beverly Hills home which, on this late fall day, is plastered with Halloween decorations. Green! he shrieks delightedly as a grim reapers head swivels round to reveal flashing emerald eyes.
Aguilera, whose extravagant rock-concert theatrics (three-ring circuses, 10-piece Roberto Cavalli costumes) outshine even Madonnas, is planning a party, complete with tarot card readers, punch-brewing witches, and an insane asylum sexy dancer in a cage.
Still, its hard to know where Halloween ends and real life begins. Aguilera and her husband, Jordan Bratman, bought the house in 2007 from Ozzy Osbourne, whose reality show unfolded in its head-spinningly gothic interior. All the doorknobs are embossed with crucifixes, the guest bathroom (reached via a gold wrought-iron gate) boasts a trompe loeil toilet disguised as a chair, and the centerpiece of the living room is a black lacquer, claw-foot pool table topped with shocking-pink felt. Into this setting steps the 28-year-old multi-Grammy-winning star: one of the most successful recording artists of the past decade, and one of the 20 richest women in the entertainment business.
If it werent for her bleach-blonde hair, I wouldnt have recognized her. Because, besides being petite, she is, it seems, shy. She tells me that she has always been intense and introverted and that, as a result, shes felt like an outsider her entire life. Sia, the Australian singer who cowrote some of the songs on Aguileras new album, Bionic (out this spring), reports in disbelief that Aguilera is under the total misguided notion that she isnt cool; shes hyper-self-critical.
Go behind the scenes of Christina's photo shoot. Plus, check out photos from her 2008 shoot for MC when she was pregnant and naked on our cover!
Its 10 a.m. Aguilera doesnt think shes ever done an interview this early. Normally, she explains, I would have had my lips on. But her signature crimson lips are nowhere in sight. Shes wearing sweatpants and a flowy LAgence T-shirt, and she walks with a dreamy sort of slouch. To escape the morning domestic bustle, we retreat to a pillow-strewn cabana, where John Coltrane is piped through hidden speakers. The previous day, Aguilera began rehearsals for her first film, Burlesque, a musical in which she stars with Cher a woman she has idolized so much that a mutual friend told Cher that Aguilera wanted to drink her bathwater. The acting experience was, she says, kind of like my first day at school. Shes been offered musical roles in the past but has been waiting, because I didnt want to do something that was easy for me. Ive actually had my character rewritten to be tougher and a little more spunky. But its been quite the journey, let me tell you! Almost like training camp.
Not that Aguileras been a slacker, exactly. Last year, she released Keeps Gettin Better, a decades collection of hits, and recorded Bionic. Now she has the movie to shoot and release, and a world tour. And did I mention she has an almost 2-year-old son? Its really important that Im the first thing he sees when he wakes up in the morning and the last thing he sees before bed, she says. Motherhood has inspired her to be lighter in her music. I had a really hard time being light before, she explains. Id get a little weird about it being too cliché. My first record was very clichéd pop what everyone else wanted. While her excellent second album, Stripped, was, she says, inspired by a lot of pain, and her third, Back to Basics, still had some sort of relation to my past, this new album is just about the future...my son in my life, motivating me to want to play and have fun.
Aguilera has documented the torment of her own childhood in her lyrics: the broken child she was as a result of her now-estranged Ecuadoran-born fathers abuse. Music, she says, was a large part of her self-soothing. Growing up, Aguilera was such a big-voiced prodigy the voice of Etta James trapped in the body of JonBenét Ramsey, with slightly less makeup that kids mocked her mercilessly, threatened her mother, slashed the familys car tires. (Eventually, the family had to move.) Not only did she have incongruous technical gifts, but she also brought to the music she sang a kind of heartbreak well beyond her years. She may have first struck celebrity gold as a teeny-bopping Disney princess (who can forget the fortuitous Christina Aguilera/Britney Spears/Justin Timberlake triptych on the sixth season of The All-New Mickey Mouse Club?), but whats given her staying power is her professionalism, a great sound, and a willingness to make herself raw an unusual combination, since the musically raw are rarely professional, and the hyperprofessional are rarely as gifted.
The range of people with whom she has collaborated is a testament to this: Alicia Keys, Missy Elliott, Lil Kim, Diddy, Herbie Hancock, the Rolling Stones, the opera singer Andrea Bocelli. Christina would have been important in music in any era, says Tricky Stewart, one of Bionics producers and the man behind Beyoncés Single Ladies and Rihannas Umbrella. Shes one of the most gifted singers on the planet. Sia tells me over the phone that she calls Aguilera a mad scientist, because shes so technically brilliant, she scrambles my mind. Shell record a vocal track eight times, and she can hear a difference in every one. Anyone who thinks she doesnt have musical chops hasnt worked with her. The kid is a genius.
Read the rest of the interview in the February 2010 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now!