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March 3, 2022 30 mins

A former Mouseketeer turned pop diva, Christina Aguilera has come a long way from The Mickey Mouse Club to living her dream of balancing stardom, motherhood, and love. Although she came from a troubled childhood, Christina took control of her life through music and became the definition of pop perfection with the hit “Genie in a Bottle” in 1999. In the early 2000s, she found herself in the middle of a dramatic public feud with Britney Spears and Eminem. Christina was overworked and faced depression, but channeled it into her album “Stripped” with songs such as “Dirrty”, “Fighter”, and “I’m Okay”. Christina continued to bring her raw emotional side through to her fans with the hit “Beautiful” in 2002. She continued to express herself without limits and motivate female empowerment with the relaunch of her career in the 2010s with the album "Not Myself Tonight". Christina’s career continues to be in her hands, and there are still many chapters for her to write.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:02):
She's a pop diva who pushes boundaries. Christina Aguilera started
out as a mousequeteer. She was packaged as the perfect
pop princess. But Christina rebelled against her handlers and got
herself dirty. Then she had to confront traumatic memories from
her troubled childhood. She had an abusive father who cast

(00:24):
a long, dark shadow over her life. But when Christina
dealt with the pain and stripped herself bear, her life
took a beautiful turn. Now the story of the little
girl with the big voice who fought her way to happiness.
Christina Aguilera the story behind the music. She's come a

(00:48):
long way from the Mickey Mouse Club, and it's pretty
clear that marriage and motherhood aventam. Christina Aguilera one bit.
I love exuding sexuality, being proud of it as a woman.
I find the female body beautiful and sexier than the
male's body, to be honest, I mean, you know, come on,
let's be honest. Maybe we can do with the girl.

(01:08):
I don't want to do with the guy. She has
grown up before our very eyes. I'm going Aguilera and
six thirty and time to wake up very right to now,
Christina has evolved into a woman who is firmly in
control of her own creative destiny. That's what I mean.
Supposed to be shiny, don't be the unlucky one best

(01:30):
steps in the way. She is who she is, and
she's unapologetic about it, not trying to be anybody except Christina.
Being young and female growing up in this business, it's
very hard. You have to project bigger and really get
your points across or else you're just gonna get bulldozed
right over and then you're called a ditch for speaking

(01:51):
your mind and making your opinion. Know, And I'm going
to stick up for all women and you know, give
them a voice and saying it didn't even matter what
you say about me, because I'm going to rise above
it and I'm still going to do what I want
to do. Christina Aguilera has been a fighter from the
very beginning. She was born on December eighteenth, nineteen eighty
and Staten Island, New York, where her father was stationed

(02:12):
with the U. S. Army. Christina says her father was
an angry and abusive man who terrorized her and her mother.
It was a lot of chaos growing up. There was
a lot of mental, emotional, verbal, physical abuse. There was
a lot of fights, a lot of yelling and screaming,
and it was really hard for me to see I'd
been choked, I'd been you know, with a you know,

(02:35):
army um shirt and everything, and I had a can
of mace under my pillow, you know, and Christina's petrified
of him. When Christina was five, the Aguileras relocated to
a military base in Tokyo, Japan, and one evening, after
years of witnessing her mother's abuse, tiny Christina decided enough
was enough. I decided to step in between and say,

(02:59):
don't hurt my mom. And uh he then you know,
threw me across the room because I had stood up
for my mom. Her father has denied that he ever
abused Christina, but she says it only worsened as she
got older and it would haunt her for the rest
of her life. My mother, I remember being in such

(03:20):
a helpless situation, and I remember just seeing her being
overpowered constantly by my father, and it really didn't sit
well with me, you know. I think a lot of
Christina's strength comes from not wanting to be powerless like
I was. In the family moved to New Jersey's Fort Dicks,

(03:41):
several hours from Shelley's parents home in suburban Pittsburgh, and
after years of abuse, she was determined to get Christina
and her baby sister Rachel to safety. He was getting
more physical with me the older I got, and my
mom said enough, it's enough, and I said, I needed
the car for tennal appointment. I've packed that car. I
went to the amissary and got some formula with Christina

(04:02):
tugging up, and then we drove home and never looked back.
Upon their arrival in Pennsylvania, Shelley filed for divorce, and
Christina turned to music as an escape from her dysfunctional
family life. This was my sanctuary away from all the
chaos at home and everything feeling unsafe and unstable and

(04:23):
not feeling good. That was my form of release. From
a very young age, Christina was drawn to the emotional
vocals of Billie Holiday and Edda James, singing along to
the classic blues tracks her grandmother played. I really felt
a connection with the pain and the honesty in those records,
in the way that those artists would sing, because she

(04:47):
used the music as her own way of surviving the
pain that was going on during that time kind of
fine tuned her to be able to use it in
a way that others couldn't. On March te nine year
old Christina made her national TV debut on Star Search.
Although she didn't win the competition, she says her moment

(05:09):
in the spotlight fueled her desire to become a professional singer.
All I know is that I love the feeling of
singing and performing on stage. The release it was giving
me was incredible. That's why I gravitated so much towards
performing and throwing myself into music the way I did,
but with added attention became a personal backlash. At school,

(05:32):
Christina had to confront the jealousy and envy of her classmates.
Her talent made her an outcast, and their cruel teasing
became another form of abuse. There was a lot of resentment,
and I think there was a bit of jealousy involved.
They would actually go during shows talent shows, and we
have to watch her equipment to school's equipment, because when

(05:53):
it's her turn, they would have somebody like looked the
other way and unplug her. There were threats that were
made on me and my mom that you know, they
would thrash my tires if I would win a certain competition.
By sixth grade, she was having nightmares. Therapy was involved.
I mean it was crazy. You know, that's how intense,

(06:15):
you know, this where family has to go to therapy
over this. I just remember, I gotta get out of here,
I gotta I gotta go um make my dream happen.
Christina longed to leave school to escape the teasing, and
in the perfect opportunity arose and there was an open
call for The Mickey Mouse Club and it was in

(06:37):
the city of Pittsburgh. We drove out there and went
through a very long day of casting, but I kept
making all the cuts and all the cuts and all
the cuts, and made it through. And then the next
step was just waiting for a call back. A week later,
Christina got the call letting her know that she would
be a Mouseketeer. And in the spring of tweve year

(07:00):
old landed on the set of The Mickey Mouse Club
in Orlando, Florida. These were kids that shared those same
dreams of mine, and I just immediately felt at home.
I remember the first time I've ever met Christina. You know,
she was smaller than the rest of us. Um and
then she opened her mouth and sounded bigger than all

(07:20):
of us put together. For two seasons, Christina worked alongside
future stars Justin timber Lake, Ryan Gosling, Kerry Russell, and
Britney Spears. They got close really quick. You know, she
and Britney were inseparable. I think we all just wanted
to be excellent, you know, at what we were doing,
and we all loved loved it. It was the first

(07:42):
time that I really felt okay. I found my people,
my place, and it felt so good to have that support.
But just as thirteen year old Christina was hitting her stride,
Disney canceled the show. I remember we all got letters
that told us it was over. We were only on
for two seasons, but it felt like longer than that. Um,

(08:05):
considering how close we all got. Oh my gosh, that
was hard for anything. Like wait a minute, I just
found a whole group of kids that were like me,
you know, and like, yeah, I have a picture of
Christina and Brittany hugging each other in kron and it
was sad. Everybody was so just in tears. In thirteen

(08:26):
year old Christina Aguilera had already found herself at a
career cross roads. After two seasons on The Mickey Mouse Club,
the show was canceled and she was sent packing back
to Pennsylvania. There was definite disappointment, but I think we
were also excited to see what was next. Christina's management
got her a meeting with Ron Fair and our Ci,

(08:47):
a executive who was producing the soundtrack for the Disney
film Moula. They wanted an unknown sort of a singer
that could reach the high e above middle c in
a power belting tone. And she came in and shook
my hand and I asked her to sing. She said,
what do you mean. I said, I want you to
sing right now. And I was completely put on the spot,

(09:10):
but always up for the challenge, so I sang my
heart out. She sang that song and it just went
into the pit of my solo and electrified me, and
I realized I am in the presence of one of
the truly greatest artists in recording history. Christina landed the song,
and in December she was offered a record deal with

(09:31):
our Cia. It was a huge deal. I knew that
this was the beginning of a lot more to come.
Her dream was coming true and to hear the the happiness,
the joy in her, in her in her voice. He
was amazing. Full of great expectations, Christina entered the studio
to begin work on her debut album, but she soon
learned from Ron Fair that young artists are not allowed

(09:53):
to control their careers. He he really put the brakes
on me singing to my full potential with that first record,
which was insanely frustrating for me. In the culture of
popular music was shifting toward a vibrant sheen of teen pop,
vocal ability was just one part of the star making machine.

(10:15):
Christina's old friends Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake had already
secured deals of their own, and as far as her
label was concerned, Christina Aguilera was going to be the
next pop princess. Eighteen year old Christina reluctantly played along.
I found Jeanie in a Bottle to be very vocally stifling.
It was very driven by the label. What I was

(10:37):
going to wear to makeup. Everything was under the thumb
and control of the label and what they wanted to
be the perfect package of what was happening in pop.
In the end, Genie and a Bottle did turn out
to be the perfect pop confection. The song shot to
number one on the charts, launching Christina Aguilera's career. Her

(10:57):
second single, what a Girl Wants, hit number one January
of two thousand, and her debut album went on to
sell a staggering seventeen million copies worldwide. The flip side
of feeling a little suffocated creatively was all necessary in
the grand scheme of things. Was I thrilled to be
out there for the first time and living my dream

(11:17):
and being on stage and hearing thousands of fans and
them singing along to the lyrics of your songs. Yes,
I was in heaven. It was a huge whirlwind for
me that I was just kind of thrown into touring
the world. It was just amazing to feel that energy
and be on that stage and and live it, really

(11:37):
live everything that I had only dreamt about. At the
two thousand Grammys, Christina one Best New Artist, beating out
her old friend Britney Spears. It was all happening, and
it was happening so fast that that it got a
little out of control. With newfound fame came a tabloid

(12:00):
feeding frenzy. First, the gossip Rags pity Christina against Brittany,
and then all of a sudden, Britney and Christina hate
each other. It's like, whoa this come from? You know,
I get you have to sell a paper and make
things juicy and more worth the gossip, but there really
really wasn't that deep. Then Christina had to deal with
rude remarks Fred durst Mate about her after the two

(12:20):
thousand v m A. I did it off for the
Nioki man, and that's why I did that with Christina.
Whatever you wish, you guys have not comment. And there
was a public feud with Eminem who spit insults at
her in the Real Slim Shady. I had to laugh
at a lot of it. Some of it, you know,
was so untrue that well actually the more untrue it was,
the more I had a good laugh. You know, you

(12:41):
gotta roll through it, and I mean it only made
me stronger. Coming up next, Christina takes control of her career,
and then she sinks into depression. She confronts painful memories
from her childhood. By the year two thousand, Christina Aguilera

(13:06):
had gone from unknown to superstar practically overnight, riding the
new wave of teen pop. It happens very fast and
before you know it, and Philim swallowed up by it.
But the relentless promotional cycle had left the nineteen year
old in a state of exhaustion. You no time to think,
barely eat. It was just a schedule that was not

(13:28):
good for me at the time because it was too much,
and it was too much too soon. It was just
not being taken care of. I was being overworked. After
a bitter legal dispute, Christina fired her management and hired
industry veteran Irving as Off. He allowed me to finally
take control of my career and have it come from
me instead of somebody else. Eager to shift away from

(13:51):
her teenybop image, Christina team with producer Missy Elliott for
a remake of the Patti LaBelle classic Lady Marmalade, singing
alongside him urging pop Diva's Little Kim, Pink and Maya.
The hyper sexualized video was a stepping stone towards the
new Christina. Pink was astounding. They were all great, but
Christina just owned it. I felt there was a transition

(14:13):
when people saw Lady Marmalade. It was like everything over
the top, big hair, big make up boobs, and that
was my first step in the direction of kind of
being more myself and letting loose and letting things be
big and crazy and fun. Lady Marmalade earned Christina another Grammy,
and the success of the track emboldened to push the

(14:34):
envelope even further when it came to recording her second
studio album, Stripped. I really wanted to make an honest record, vulnerable, powerful.
I wanted it to say everything that I've been feeling
since I was six years old. For her debut, Christina
had played along with her record labels standard pop formula,
but this time around, the year old wanted to do

(14:56):
it her way. I wanted to make a statement and
a bold one, and what better way to do it
than to wear asking's chaps when you're twenty one years old.
In September of two thousand to the public received their
first taste of the new Christina in the outrageously controversial
video for Dirty. That song with the definition of freeing

(15:17):
your inhibitions. It was incredibly suggestive, incredibly sexy. It was
her doing everything possible to distance herself from this pop
bubble gum image. I think it says a lot about
her character and a lot about her courage. That she
had the balls to say, I'm going to be who
I am. It was like doing costumes of their win
and going, you know, I'm going to be who I

(15:38):
am and I'm still going to be in charge and
I was. Christina's fans embraced her bold new direction. When
Stripped was released in October of two thousand two, it
hit number two on the charts, selling more than three
hundred thousand copies in the first week. Dirty had exposed
one side of the new Christina that she would also

(15:58):
reveal a raw, emotional side as she confronted memories from
her childhood that she had been repressing for years. At
that point, I was allowing myself to sort of gather
all my thoughts for the Stripped record, and it was
a lot. It was overwhelming in a in a big way.
It all was bottled up inside me and it all
just like a bottle top coming off. Just it was

(16:22):
a release time for me. And with that release came
a lot of emotions of pain and anxiety and sadness
from my childhood, reeling from the memories of abuse. Christina
found herself sinking into a deep depression. That was in
a very dark place for the recording of Stripped, and
I was doing a lot of things that necessarily weren't

(16:44):
good for myself. I do battle with depression. It's something
that is always there for me, right below the surface,
and it's almost seductive to go to a place of
sadness and dark That darkness was something producer and songwriter
Linda Perry noticed immediately when she met Christina one night

(17:07):
in a crowded Hollywood club and I said, so, I
heard you were working on an album, and she's all yeah,
And I said, I would really use that, that that
darkness that you have, your your dark side, and she
just looked at me, and I just I walked away. Linda.
When I met her, Uh, it was just pure honesty.

(17:29):
I saw something kind of brewing in her, like a
depression and unhappiness, and I think that intrigued her that
I said that, And about a week or two weeks later,
she uh called me up and asked if she could
meet with me in the studio. Linda Perry began to
break down the pop princess, pushing her to confront her emotions,

(17:52):
and Christina went there by writing and recording a song
about her damaged relationship with her father called I'm okay a.
Christina wanted to write the song just to release her
feelings about her father and what she was going through.
It can be overload to feel all of your pain
from the time you were six on and having all

(18:14):
those lyrics and emotions and thoughts and feelings come to
life on paper. She was sitting in the the vocal
room and she just started crying. That came with a
lot of pain, but I was feeling all of it
when I recorded this record. Linda Perry was helping Christina
reach way down inside of herself to find a new

(18:35):
voice built on raw emotion. And one day in the studio,
Linda played a song she had been working on, which
immediately struck Christina to the core. I was having a
really sad day, so I walked in and she just
sat down at the piano just like, what do you
think of this? She started playing Beautiful and singing it,
and I just froze. Beautiful was just a song I

(18:57):
wrote about myself, and I felt really ugly. I felt
like I wasn't happy. It was very insecure. I'm a
very insecure person. As soon as I heard that song,
I immediately connected with it, brought tears to my eyes,
and I knew I had to have this song, and

(19:18):
and I did. Beautiful became the second single off Stripped,
at a landmark moment in Christina Aguilera's career. An anthem
for the abused, powerless, and disenfranchised, it rose to number
two on the pop charts and resonated with a massive
audience to hear her say I am Beautiful, but it
comes from a dark place. You realize how deep she

(19:40):
really is, Like, here's this girl that really isn't perfect,
and she's insecure as well. I really wanted in a
big way for Beautiful to be a comfort to other
people in that place of sadness or pain that they
have been through in their lives. You know, I'm not
the only person that's been through growing up in a
place of chaos or sadness or yelling and fighting and

(20:03):
seeing horrific things at a young age, and I wanted
to be that voice for those people out there and
and fans of mine. With the release of her sophomore album, Stripped,
Christina Aguilera fought to move her career into a new place.
She really took her career into her hands. So I
think the record for her was a big growing period.

(20:24):
She went from a girl to a woman. To the
outside world, Christina was the embodiment of female power and confidence,
but privately, she had been struggling through a dark period
of depression that only started to lift when a positive
new influence came into her life. My Jeordan, he uh
came to me at a time in my life where

(20:46):
everything seemed a bit blurry. We became best friends really
really fast, and it just kind of started to grow
from here. In two thousand two, Christina began dating music
executive Jordan Bratman, and she it's him with pulling her
out of one of the darkest times in her life.
He just kept being there as that one that just

(21:07):
the region and pulled me out of the dark hole
that I was kind of sitting and living in. I
really fell in love first and foremost, I think was
that honesty. She was always you know, she's always just
such such an honest person and and loving and caring,
and I think that that's the part of her that
people might not get the chance to see that I did.
He was the person for the first time that didn't

(21:27):
feed into the drama and the sadness and made me
see the flip side in a very honest and real way.
He blew me away and I felt so special and
so loved like I've never been before. By two thousand three,
Stripped had become a global phenomenon. Christina launched a massively
successful tour with former mousequeteer justin timber Lake. We just

(21:51):
had a lot of fun together. And I think because
we've known each other since we were pre pubescent, I
think that we identified with wow, like looking out far
we've become in a decade. Then, Christina stunned the world
when she reunited with her old friend Britney Spears at
the v m A's and shared a kiss with Madonna
for the first time in years. Christina was enjoying her success.

(22:13):
I was happy. I was actually happy and feeling optimistic
about her future. With her boyfriend at her side, we
were closer than ever and in love. We were in love.
So I was in love, and uh, you know, with
that comes talk of marriage. On Valentine's Day two thousand five,

(22:34):
Jordan proposed to Christina during a romantic getaway in Big Sir, California.
I had a real private candle at dinner set up
and while we were eating her at the hotel just
filled the room with balloons. And at the end of
the dinner he took me back to the room and
it was filled Florida's ceiling with red and pink balloons,
um two of my favorite colors. And I had the
ring to propose toil. I started crying and I didn't

(22:56):
answer it first and sex and what is it? You
know what I was Yes, I said yes, And that
was the beginning of us. On November two thousand five,
Christina and Jordan were married in a festive weekend celebration
in Napa Valley, California. Our wedding was very overwhelming. It
was you know, it was our wedding was done in

(23:17):
in real Christina fashion. It was really over the top.
For Christina. It was the fairy tale moment she had
been waiting for her entire life. I was always praying
for somebody like that for her. I'm just so grateful that,
you know, they found each other. It just meant the
world to me that I really had someone in my
corner to see the good and bring it to life

(23:39):
for me. And how blessed I was and how amazing
things were around me, and we're gonna be for me
coming up there. Christina sends an emotional message to her mother.
In November two thousand five, Christina Aguilera had married music

(24:02):
executive Jordan Bratman after a three year courtship. She says
falling in love gave her an entirely new outlook on life.
He helped me to feel, you know, good about myself
in that way that I mean, look at what you've got,
look at what you've been through. And I felt really
good and really happy about all that I'd overcome. Christina's
optimistic state of mind flowed right into the recording of

(24:24):
her next album. In August of two thousand six, she
released Back to Basics, inspired by the legendary blues artist
who touched her soul as a child. The first single offer,
album Ain't No Other Man, was a modern take on
classic jazz riffs inspired by Marital Bliss. It's all about
you are. Of course, I was happy and I wanted

(24:46):
to sing about it. It was very lighthearted and fun
and about love and our relationship and you know again,
it was just all about being honest. That's home. She
was like in heaven. They were just that, like stupid happy.
By age twenty five, Christina had finally moved past the
sadness of her childhood, and on one emotional track on

(25:07):
the album, she paid tribute to her mother, thanking her
for the strength and courage that allowed them to survive. Oh, Mother,
was a dedication to my mom for in a positive way,
overcoming it herself and taking her children out of that situation.
I really have a lot of respect from my mom
for seeing that and taking us out of situation so

(25:28):
we could at least appreciate what is normal and that,
you know, things just shouldn't be that way. First of all,
you can imagine I heard that. I just said, I'm crying.
Oh my gosh. That was powerful. You know. It was
just the most beautiful thing that I have ever experienced.
And Christina's life would soon come full circle when she

(25:51):
became a mother herself. On January twelve, two eight, Christina
gave birth to a baby boy named Max. That you
were in steady, beautiful baby boy, and I just remember
happiness and relief and joy like I've never felt before,
and holding in for the first time was truly incredible.

(26:12):
And he looked right into my eyes, and I just
felt bonded and I love that I'd never felt until
that moment. I always knew she would be such a
great mom, and to start a family together just a really,
really great moment, and Christina made a vow to give
Max the happy and peaceful upbringing she never had. I
actually wrote a song called the Right Man about Jordan's

(26:34):
and my view on starting my own family and making
sure that I find a man that won't inflict the
same pain as my father did. I wanted a safe haven,
and I knew Jordan's would be a very stable force
in my child's life. Christina Aguilera has literally grown up

(26:58):
in the public eye, going for mouse gueteer to mother.
I've come full circle. I'm a mom, I'm a wife,
I'm a businesswoman, and it's sort of a juggling and
balancing act, but I'm always up for the challenge. After
a two year hiatus devoted to motherhood, Christina relaunched her
career in June two thousand and ten with the release
of her latest album, By On It. So, I definitely

(27:20):
don't choose the safe way of living or expressing myself,
but I wouldn't have it any other way. Motherhood clearly
hasn't teamed Christina's desire to push her artistic limits. Christina's
you know, it's a very sexual person and she loves
making music that reflects that women through the ages have
always been projected and to feel ashamed about their sexuality

(27:45):
or things should be covered and hidden, and you know,
don't do that, or you going to be called a
certain name or this or that. It's just like, no,
We're allowed to be sensual sexual beings and express that
however we feel fit for our else. She's always zigging
when everybody else is zagging, and I think that's kind
of been her thing. She's always committed to being fresh,

(28:06):
and she's matured as a woman, and she still has
fantastical visuals and sonics that she wants to get into
the world. She's a trailblazer and you have to take
notice of that. She blazes a trail wherever she goes.
Christina is clearly a woman who is in control of
her career and her destiny. I've visited my demons in

(28:28):
the past and a lot of the pain from my
childhood and made peace with it, and and now a
mother and in passing on what I've learned. She's showing
by example. However, be strong, however, be you know, don't
be afraid to speak out, even if your voice is quiver,
and speak out, say something. I think a lot of
her past it served to make her very, very strong,

(28:49):
and I'm proudly she feels free to do that. I'm
truly thankful for the darkest times in my life. It's
all about being a fighter and overcoming and I've learned
many lessons. But but yeah, at the end of the day,
I always do what feels right for me and trust
my instincts. I think that's the biggest lesson to be learned,
and there are many more chapters to be lived. Christina

(29:12):
continues to redefine what it means to be a pop star.
She has collaborated with some of music's biggest artists, including
Kanye West, Osuna, and Ariana Grande. Christina released her eight
studio album, Liberation in eighteen, and her upcoming ninth album,
her first Spanish language album since two thousand, is scheduled

(29:32):
to be released in twenty two. Christina and Jordan Bratman
split in twenty eleven, but she found love again on
set while filming the movie Burlesque. She and Matthew Rutler
were engaged on Valentine's Day and welcome their daughter, Summer Rain,
later that year. Christina Has impact on women in the
pop music industry is undeniable. In addition to her years

(29:55):
as a pop star, she's helped mentor the next generation
of performers, ending five years as a coach on NBC's
The Voice. In Time listed Christina among the one hundred
most influential people in the world, and v h one
ranked her as one of the greatest women in music.
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(30:17):
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