Christina Aguilera has been called the voice of a generation. Now she’s using that voice in a whole new way—to advocate for herself and focus on what makes her happy.
Over the past 20 years, while Christina Aguilera has been topping the music charts, her voice has been described as soulful and powerful, with just a bit of grit. Interestingly enough, those words also perfectly reflect who she is in her life at this very moment. Having turned 40, the singer says she’s been doing a lot of reflection and is determined to live every moment for herself—and to stop worrying about what others think.
As Christina talks about this goal, a mix of vulnerability and determination shines through. “No matter what I’ve been through—successes, childhood trauma, hardships—I still have a fighting spirit,” she says. “I never want to stop learning and growing to be the best person I can be.”
Christina was just 9 years old when she commanded the stage on Star Search. At 13, she more than held her own on The All New Mickey Mouse Club alongside costars Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears. By 19, she had released her debut album and won a Grammy for Best New Artist. In 2002 came her album Stripped. With empowering anthems like “Beautiful,” everything about the effort seems to message staying true to yourself. More albums followed, as did roles in movies and TV shows. The other role Christina takes very seriously: being “mama bear” to her kids—Max, 13, and Summer, 6.
So, hearing that she has gotten caught up with what others think? It’s a bit surprising. And when we tell Christina that, she laughs—and says that as she’s been more open, she’s been getting this reaction more and more. But then, she’s quick to insist that everyone has their struggles—even world-famous, award-winning singers.
Has life slowed down for you at all in the past year?
Yes. I’d been on the road pounding the pavement for a year and a half. My Vegas residency was wrapping up for a bit right when everything shut down. Before that, I had been bouncing back and forth [touring] in Europe, Mexico, and Vegas. I had taken the kids with me. I’d hit the stage, then come back to the hotel. If the kids were still awake, I’d read them a book after coming off an exhilarating show and then try to wind down before traveling the next day. I felt like a Ping-Pong ball. Then, I was going to be working on new music. So I needed the clock to stop—which is what happened. Some amazing things came to fruition for me.
It was a great time to be hunkered down in my house with my kids. I really got a moment to do little things, like be in my backyard, read books that had been on my to-read list, and go through my old diaries. I have this massive trunk of old diaries that I’ve literally kept from the past 20 years of my life. I was able to catch up on them and do some self-reflecting. It really forced me to be silent and take a look at myself. In some regard, I wasn’t happy with a lot of things, and it’s scary to face those feelings that, under normal circumstances, you don’t have time to face because everyone is going, going, going. That grind is praised, but I think we’re all understanding that having moments to self-reflect and just breathe are crucial. I’ve been working since I was 7 years old. When I’m not working, there’s a heavy amount of guilt that I feel. It’s been embedded in me since I was little—you’re shamed if you don’t want to keep up. As a child [entertainer], you’re all pitted against one another, and other children are all about that grind too. It’s a weird space to grow up in.
Did turning 40 bring up any feelings?
You start asking yourself: “Why am I holding back in certain areas of my life? Who am I really living my life for?” And with age, you figure out that life is too short to waste time thinking about what other people think about you. I’ve realized I am making memories for myself and that I shouldn’t worry about what other people think.
You project such confidence—it’s surprising to hear you’ve ever felt that way.
You know, I’ve been hearing that a lot lately because I’ve been super open and vulnerable. I’ve been approaching all of my writing sessions by being an open book and saying, “Look, this is how I felt.” A lot of people have been like, “Wait, I had no idea you ever felt this way because you’ve always been a pillar of strength with your messages.” Yes, I’ve always been grounded in knowing myself. But even in owning your truth and power, there are moments of weakness. I am not ashamed to say that I have my dark moments.
Are you comfortable sharing any of them?
I experienced a lot of trauma in my childhood—I’ve spoken very openly about it. But I think that was just part of my path. I’ve definitely had struggles in the past with depression and anxiety—it’s a constant battle to overcome a mind that is anxious, a mind that is always second-guessing. I was in a session last night, and I got into my head. Someone told me if I wasn’t feeling it, we could call it. I had been feeling like I wanted to end it, but all it took was someone being supportive for me to be like, “Wait a second, I’m not giving up on myself like that—let’s go, let’s get it!”
You’re back in the studio—can we expect a new album?
I’m months away from anything being announced. I’m simultaneously working on my English record and the follow-up to my debut Spanish album—about 20 years overdue. I’m a perfectionist and want to give everything my best—especially because of the soul-searching I’ve done over the past year and the new perspective I have. I am reinspired and have reconnected with myself. I’ve fallen in love with music all over again, which is a really big thing to say, having spent my entire career in music.
You’ve been in this industry for a long time—how have you seen it change?
When I was first becoming successful, there was a different mentality in terms of what was accepted or not accepted by the press and tabloids. There was no social media, so you didn’t have an outlet to speak out on your own. You had to rely on journalists and how they reported on you. A lot of times, I’d read something and say, “Wait, I didn’t say it that way.” I’d feel betrayed. I was still at an age where I was understanding myself and life. Media, at the time, was also big on pitting women against each other. And there was a bullying mentality going on in the tabloids. It’s tough to look back on.
The tabloids definitely put you through the wringer.
Sometimes you forget how bad it was because it was such the norm. I’m currently in Miami, and the other day, I was outside with my daughter. I was thinking I was under the radar. Then, I saw these pictures of us come out. I was really emotional about it because I’ve really tried to be more private. My previous house was right on the street, and tour buses would drive by and treat you like a zoo animal and talk s— about you. The guy on the microphone would read out whatever tabloid story about me right in front of my son’s bedroom. That’s harassment, and it’s petrifying. Seeing those pictures took me right back there. But then I was brought back to that message of: “Who am I living my life for? Me.”
You must be proud of the success you’ve had in such a tough industry.
I’m proud of my honesty. It’s a really hard thing to stick to in this business, especially when you’ve grown up under a microscope at a time when society was very critical of young women. I’ve had to work through a lot of insecurities in front of everybody. Every setback has catapulted me forward. I think that’s my fighting spirit. And, at the end of the day, living that truth and being honest has always propelled me forward.
Have you always felt secure in your own body?
I think we all have our good days and our bad days in how we feel about ourselves. Entering this business, I hated being super skinny. Once I turned 21, I started filling out a little bit, and I was loving my new curves. I appreciated having a booty. I’ve always said that women are way more interesting to look at than men! I have a hard time looking at the early pictures of myself because I remember feeling so insecure. I would never want to relive my 20s—you’re so in your own head and finding your confidence. As you age, you stop comparing yourself to other people and start appreciating your own body and owning it.
Are there ways you’re trying to instill those lessons in your daughter?
I am really careful if my daughter is there when I am doing photo shoots. I want to make sure that when she sees Mommy in hair and makeup that she realizes that’s not what’s important. If she needs my attention, I stop everything and look into her eyes and listen to her. I want to make sure she understands that this is part of Mommy’s work, but that it’s what I create that matters more. There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to my kids. I just really try to encourage them to be their own selves.
What are some of the ways you take care of your mental health?
I write a lot. Pen to paper has always been grounding and centering for me. Also, getting outside helps—even if it’s just my backyard. Feeling grass under my feet and looking at trees and clouds helps. Yoga has also been instrumental in helping me.
This is Health’s Beauty Issue—what are your favorite beauty rituals?
I find so much joy in the cleansing process—stripping away all the makeup so it’s just clean skin with some moisturizer, and putting a little feel-good spritzer on my face. And I love a beautiful hot bubble bath with all of my ingredients and oils! I really make it like a nourishing soup in there.
What does beauty mean to you?
Accepting yourself is what beauty is really about. As much as I also love being a glam girl and playing dress-up for the camera, when it all comes off, that’s what’s ultimately most rewarding—being able to feel really good about who’s staring back at you in the mirror, because you’re owning all of it.