English Version | Christina Aguilera: The X Factor

11 Mar 2022
By Sara Andrade

She's got the X factor not only for her award-winning talent, nor for the alias by which she's known. Xtina, aka Christina Aguilera, has the X factor because her X marks the spot on everything that's female empowerment while crossing out everything that threatens her – and our own – self-esteem.

She's got the X factor not only for her award-winning talent, nor for the alias by which she's known. Xtina, aka Christina Aguilera, has the X factor because her X marks the spot on everything that's female empowerment while crossing out everything that threatens her – and our own – self-esteem.

Vestido, ANNAKIKI. © Agata Serge

"Gender-based beauty standards are something that warrants continued conversation and change. As a young female artist in the music industry, I certainly had expectations placed upon me by industry executives and fans – and then there were the standards I had for myself.  Now, as a woman with more life experience and children of my own, I am continuously falling in love with my body over and over again - along with the changes I experience. The female body is so beautiful and I’m glad that in the past several years there has been a newfound love for all women.” What better way to kick off an issue dedicated to the body than with Aguilera's words to Vogue Portugal? Her self-confidence is as palpable as her honesty and the two are inseparable: Xtina is an example when it comes to celebrating herself and that's due to the battles she overcome both professionally and personally. To say that she is 41 years old amounting to 30 years in the industry (in 1992, she sang the national anthem in the Stanley Cup finals and, the following year, joined The Mickey Mouse Club) could be perceved as only a time measure, but in the case of Aguilera, it is a benchmark for quality: over more than two decades established as a music icon, she has collected an endless list of awards, among which a handful of Grammys, well-deserved by her eight studio albums, half a dozen compilations, participation in collaborations and an enviable list of #1 singles, achieved largely thanks to her innate talent – ​​after all, the singer has a vocal extension of four octaves (mind you, the absolute voices, that is, the ones of exceptional singers, are those that go beyond three octaves) -, but also thanks to her immense effort and dedication. Along the way, she became the poster girl for mantras like “I am beautiful, you are beautiful, we are beautiful” (a few phrases repeated by thousands, after the release of the single Beautiful, in 2002), instilling, not only through her musical work, but also for advocating new standards for beauty – those that celebrate diversity and the absence of unique standards. And she did so because she never hid her own body issues, thus leading change by example: “Stripped in general was a huge turning point for me, where I embraced all sides of myself coming into owning who I was as a woman for the first time. Creatively, professionally, sexually, vulnerably – I was being open and honest in exploring my strengths and also my insecurities. It was rebellious and real at the same time.  I wanted to shed old skin of what industry standards and stereotypes I was brought up to feel boxed in by, and make new rules for myself + the fans who wanted to come along for the ride. Yes, Beautiful was a big part of that – especially after the ambitious and bold Dirrty. It showcased a softer side and I knew it was a timeless message that anyone could relate to – touching on accepting yourself – even on your worst days, and being unafraid to own your insecurities and turn it into your unique superpower.  Now more than ever it has value regarding conversations on mental health and awareness… being kind and encouraging of yourself in the face of what anyone may say or think about you. It’s a powerful message that surpasses the test of trends and time,” she tells us.

And these times demand more than ever messages like these: in an era of social networks and peer pressure, there is a need for more voices like Christina's, singing the anthem of self-love. “My opinion on why so many people have body issues right now is because of social media. We are constantly presented with photos and videos of what beauty should be – yet often times this imagery is manipulated with visual effects or filters. This can really affect the growth of young adults, which is heartbreaking really. I feel very protective about the way women view themselves and one another. I am continuously encouraging my 7 year-old daughter in particular to value, love & cherish everything that makes her unique; as I know soon enough society and unrealistic beauty standards will have her questioning and analyzing herself. I want to make sure that I prep the groundwork for her now to feel confident and encouraged about who she is and not by anyone else’s standards or opinions. Lord knows I’ve seen first hand growing up in this business what women (especially!) have to mentally go through, and that now more than ever we set new tones & standards of who we are and how we write the narrative for that instead of it being dictated to us.” This is also why Christina doesn't neglect her mental health: “The best way for me to manage a healthy state of mental wellness is to set boundaries in all aspects of my life. I try to make sure and give time to myself, to my family, to my music and my fans. Balancing this can be challenging. Self-forgiveness and reminding yourself that everyday is not going to be and look 'perfect' is OK, but you do what you can and move the compass in the right direction to go forward. Every day can be drastically different, so just because one day feels like a plummet, the next day can pick right back up and change course – so it’s important to try and remember this in the tougher times. Listening to yourself and your needs are vital. The good things is that there are way more resources and information available now that encourage self-love and awareness.” No wonder confidence appears to come naturally to her and that she carries it with pride, because she also knows the cost of achieving it: “I like to think I’ve always been the strong woman I am today – but certainly my strength only is what it is because of the obstacles and hurdles that I was presented with in my life thus far. As I’ve overcome and conquered life’s challenges, I’ve become increasingly proud of my strength.”

It is therefore not completely out of the blue that her new EP, the first release of a project subdivided into three chapters, is entitled La Fuerza. Her new work of original tracks, released in the end of January, draws on her Spanish-speaking roots (her father was born in Ecuador) to create a new list of hits that are both her own and of the names joining Aguilera in the project: “La Fuerza is essentially the first chapter of my 3-part project. Singing about, writing for, speaking of and embodying strength has always been important to me in all of the music I have done, so I wanted to start my new Spanish-language project with that same sense of power that has always meant so much to me. The other chapters will have titles that represent important themes as well!” Collaborations with music names like Becky G, Nicki Nicole and Ozuna punctuate a project in Spanish that succeeds the album Liberation (2018) and brought together a top team, in this long-awaited desire of hers to return to her Ecuadorian roots. It's Christina's second EP, after Justin & Christina (2003) with Justin Timberlake, and only her second in Spanish, after Mi Reflejo, from 2000. “It would be unfair to say that I have a favorite, because all the tracks on La Fuerza are pieces of work that mean so much to me”, she admits. The affection for the new work is palpable, feeling this enthusiasm for the return to new themes now shared with its audience. “All of the writers and producers that I collaborated with for each song have such an immense amount of talent that I’m so proud of everything assembled on the EP.  One track that stands out as particularly dear is La Reina, because it is a sort of tribute, or response, to the incomparable Vicente Fernandez’s rendition of El Rey.” Feedback on the novelty has been more than overwelming, as is the hallmark of her work, with Rolling Stone calling La Reina the best song on the record and Billboard describing the EP as "not just a tribute to the Latin roots of Aguilera, but as a project full of passion, discovery and, of course, a powerful voice.” In the first week of release, it got to the top of the Portuguese Digital Albums, in this comeback that celebrates not only Xtina's new music, but also a new visibility for culture, after two years on pause because of the pandemic - which , in fact, proved to be pivotal to the arrival of this La Fuerza: “The pandemic has been devastating for so many families and industries, however there was certainly a part of that time which had me slow down and focus on things that really matter to me. I took some of that downtime and was fortunate to spend more time with my children, I took up some new hobbies – and I was able to record new music!  I had been talking about recording new Spanish music for so many years, and it was over the past couple of years that I was able to focus on reconnecting with my Latina roots and make the music I had been dreaming of for so long.”

This whole reconnecting thing was not exclusively musical. The time at home also made her re-read the diaries she kept for two decades and which serve as a testimony to her life, very much guided by her career: “I still journal all of the time – however with kids and a busier lifestyle I have less time to dedicated to crafting & collaging than I used to. I love to write and there have been times I’ve gone back to what I’ve written about in the past. I love seeing my growth and re-reflecting on situations that previously affected me one way, and how my perception changed over time. It’s also reassuring seeing how after all of this time I’ve spent in the industry, my core values and integrity haven’t changed very much.  I’m proud that I’ve always been grounded in my intentions through speaking my truth and wanting ‘big-picture’ goals in understanding myself – pushing for further growth and to continue to hopefully inspire through my work.” In fact, little has strained her early maturity as much as the challenges she had to face in the industry: she started at age 12; at 16, in 1998, was already signed by the giant record label, RCA Records, and at 17, she was releasing hit after hit, with Genie in a Bottle or What a Girl Wants forever imprinting a generation and the music industry. The rise was apotheotic and never ceased to be, only making her image evolve from recognized teen popstar to powerful music diva. Was it difficult to start such a long journey so early? “Oh yes, I started veeeery young,” she stresses, “but it was my personal path.  I’ve always led my life with passion and never shied away from speaking on my struggles and strengths. Those times as a child molded my inspirations and creativity. I turned moments of feeling powerless in my childhood into power as an adult. Being an entertainer had always been the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and I continue to find new goals and purpose with my music. The superficial side of this business has always been a turn-off to me, and does not ultimately represent who I am or what I strive for. I’m beyond grateful for all of the experiences I had as a young entertainer.  On my path I’ve met so many incredibly talented people – other performers, creators, businesswomen and thinkers.”, she sums up, gratefully, despite all the difficulties, and adds her appreciation for seeing the changes in the industry and for having had a place in this journey. “I am glad to see more women in the music industry having a voice and running the business side of things,” she says. “When I first started, things were quite particular, traditional and rigid. I did my best to stay true and authentic to my style & music, and I do hope that my ways influenced the current generation of powerhouse females in the industry. Things are certainly better now – will leave it at that.”

Another part of her life that deeply shaped her was motherhood. She doesn't shy away from talking about her children, who “are my everything. They have changed my perspective on this world, and gifted me with a whole new type of love. I cannot imagine my life without them. They are also my greatest teachers. Sometimes the right or best thing for yourself is something you wouldn’t naturally do, but you instinctually find the strength and second nature to do that for your children – which ultimately makes you grow, be better, and learn so much about yourself. They are a constant reminder of compassion, patience and self-awareness.  I have so much respect for any parent and what we all go through to protect our kids with our whole life.  You want to set the best examples.”, Aguilera tell us when we ask about Max (14) and Summer (7). Max is already older than Christina when she started in the arts and entertainment scene. What would the singer do if one of her children wanted to follow in her footsteps? “Absolutely I would let them – however that doesn’t seem to be either of their passions right now, and maybe that’s a good thing, haha!”, she jokes, though some truth is probably felt in her relief. “I will proudly support any pursuits my children have,” she adds, leaving no room for doubt. The family also plays a central role in her inspirations and is also part of the success formula of La Fuerza – the strength on the EP title as much as her own: “The whole experience of making La Fuerza made me fall in love with music all over again. The family feeling it surrounded me with, digging deep in memories and challenging myself in many new ways – while sinking into the familiarity of how joyful and passion-filled Latin music and community is. Justifying and satisfying every reason why its always been important to me to create Latin music now after 20 years, and continuing to explore who I am as a Latina and proud Aguilera.”

It's not just pride in Aguilera, the singer, that Christina is. The passion for herself as a woman, person and fighter, for her body and for her (natural) changes - that body that carries her powerful voice and that served as a shelter during her children's gestation and served her so much as a refuge to deal with all the pressure around – has been constantly renewed: “I’ve fallen in love with my life time and time again. I count my blessings often. It’s interesting that the older you become, you’re able to look back at your life in 5-year increments and start realizing how goals and personal perceptions evolve and change.  I am more self-aware than I have ever been – now at this point in my life.  I feel more genuinely supported and able to be more of myself than ever before. With wisdom you become more aware of your worth and what/who simply shouldn’t be tolerated in your life anymore.  Over time, people disappoint – some change, the ones that matter remain, but I am so content in knowing the circle around me is full of love. I appreciate all I’ve been through, what I’ve come from, and every new day I can explore what’s next.” And that's why Christina also puts the X in the example to follow she has always been.

Translated from the original on The Body Issue of Vogue Portugal, published March 2022.Full story and credits on the print version.

Sara Andrade By Sara Andrade

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