Christina Aguilera: 1980—: Pop Singer Biography
Before her twenty-first birthday, Christina Aguilera claimed multiple platinum records, three Grammy Awards, and record sales well over twenty million copies. A former child actor on the Disney series The New Mickey Mouse Club, Aguilera made her first recording as a fourteen-year-old on a duet with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi. While the song was successful in Japan, Aguilera returned to the life of a high school student in Pennsylvania before gaining a recording contract with RCA Records in 1998. Her first single, "Genie in a Bottle," sold over two million copies in 1999 and its Spanish-language version, "Genio Atrapado," helped Aguilera become a rare crossover success from the pop mainstream to the Latino market. Her first album, Christina Aguilera, was also an immediate hit and eventually sold over eight million copies in the United States alone. Capping off an astounding debut, Aguilera took home the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1999, beating out competition that included her former Mickey Mouse Club cast mate Britney Spears.
Christina Maria Aguilera was born on December 18, 1980 in Staten Island, New York. Her father, Fausto Aguilera, was born in Ecuador but had immigrated to the United States and pursued a career in the military. Her mother, the former Shelley Fidler, was a talented violinist who toured with the Youth Symphony Orchestra as a teenager. During her early years, the Aguilera family followed her father's assignments to Florida, Texas, New Jersey, and Japan. After having another daughter, Rachel, the Aguileras separated around 1986. The following year, Shelley Aguilera moved with her daughters back to her hometown of Wexford, a suburb northwest of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After her mother remarried, Aguilera's family included siblings Casey, Robert Michael, and Stephanie. For several years after the divorce, Aguilera had very little contact with her father.
While growing up in Wexford, Aguilera began entering talent contests; with a voice that was unusually mature for her age, she usually won first prize. In 1988 she entered a regional talent audition for the syndicated show hosted by Ed McMahon, Star Search. Aguilera made it through the audition with a rendition of "The Greatest Love of All," which she performed on the show. Although she failed to win in her appearance on Star Search, the experience helped Aguilera build confidence in her performing abilities. For the next couple of years she was a regular performer of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games of the Pittsburgh Steelers football team and Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team.
Aguilera's next big break came in 1990 when auditions for the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club were announced. The show was a popular series on the Disney Network and included such future adult stars as Kerri Russell and Britney Spears, as well as Justin Timberlake and J. C. Chasez of N'Sync. In her initial audition, producers of the show judged Aguilera to be too young for the series; two years later, however, they called her to join the cast. Aguilera traveled to Orlando, Florida, with her mother to join the cast during her summer break from school in 1993. She returned the following year to complete what turned out to be the final year of The New Mickey Mouse Club in 1994.
While her two years on The New Mickey Mouse Club provided Aguilera with invaluable acting, dancing, and singing experience, it caused turmoil when she returned to school. After a number of incidents spurred on by classmates jealous of her new fame, Aguilera was forced to transfer to a new junior high school in Pittsburgh. She experienced similar problems during high school and was relieved when she was able to complete her secondary education with a tutor while recording her debut album, Christina Aguilera, in 1998.
After her stint on The New Mickey Mouse Club, Aguilera's agent secured an unusual opportunity for the young singer. Keizo Nakanishi, a Japanese singer, was looking for a duet partner to sing on his release "All I Wanna Do." After submitting an audition tape, Aguilera was chosen for the assignment. She recorded her part of the song in a Pittsburgh studio; it was then mixed in with the final recording. The making of the video brought Aguilera to Japan, and she subsequently joined Nakanishi on tour to perform their song in concert. After returning to the United States in 1997, Aguilera worked on a demo tape to help her find a recording contract. Her Disney ties came in handy when the producers of the soundtrack for the studio's Mulan were looking for someone to record a pop version of the film's key song, "Reflection." Aguilera got the job and a recording contract with RCA records in early 1998.
Released as a single in the summer of 1998, "Reflection" became a modest hit on the adult contemporary chart. After completing some promotional appearances for the song, Aguilera entered a Los Angeles recording studio to make her debut album, Christina Aguilera. With a team of veteran songwriters and producers behind it, the album was a sophisticated yet accessible collection of songs that highlighted the power and range of Aguilera's voice. The first single from the album, "Genie in a Bottle," was released in the summer of 1999 and quickly went to number one, selling over two million copies in the process. The album itself debuted at number one on the Billboard chart and eventually sold over eight million copies, another remarkable feat for a new act. Two other singles from the album, "What a Girl Wants" and "Come on Over Baby," also hit the top of the charts in 2000.
Like teen singer Britney Spears, Aguilera endured some criticism as her records sold in the millions. While reviewers acknowledged her impressive vocal abilities—especially in comparison to Spears—images of the sexually provocative teenagers made others question the appropriateness of their videos. The protests peaked around Aguilera's appearance in the video for the 'Lady Marmalade' track for the movie Moulin Rouge in 2001. Aguilera countered the criticism head on; as she told Allure in a May of 2002 interview, "Everybody said, 'Don't do "Lady Marmalade," it's too urban for you!' But I wanted to do it. The girls [Pink, Lil' Kim, Mya, and Missy Elliott] were great to work with—it was like, 'Let's play dress-up for a day!' If you're doing a video for a movie like Moulin Rouge—I mean, it's about a whorehouse—you have to get up there in some fun costumes. I love taking chances."
At the 1999 Grammy Awards Aguilera pulled an upset win over Britney Spears to claim the award for Best New Artist. Her album had only been out a few months at the time of the award, and most expected Spears to walk away with the Grammy. Aguilera herself appeared shocked at getting such recognition just months after her album's release. The following year she claimed her second Grammy Award—this time from the Latin Recording Academy—for her Spanish-language release, Mi Reflejo. Although she had to record the album phonetically because she did not speak Spanish, Aguilera looked at the experience as a chance to reconnect with her father's side of the family. The album was a major success and sold over three million copies in the year after its 2000 release. That year Aguilera released another platinum-selling album, My Kind of Christmas, a collection of holiday standards.
After touring with the Lilith Fair and as the opening act for TLC in 1999, Aguilera headlined her own tour with opening act Destiny's Child in 2000. She went back into the recording studio late that year to record a duet with Ricky Martin, "Nobody Wants to Be Lonely." Aguilera's attorneys were also making court appearances on her behalf to prevent the release of demo recordings that she had made several years earlier. Her court battle was unsuccessful, and Warlock Records released "Just Be Free" in 2001 over Aguilera's objections.
Aguilera won her third Grammy Award at the 2002 ceremonies for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Lady Marmalade." In early 2002 she also put the final touches on her second album of original material with help of producer Linda Perry. Aguilera told Time in a special fall of 2001 edition that the album would be much more emotional and aggressive than her first. "For me, in my heart, I have to move away from [teen pop]," she said. "Even if the label said I had to make another record like that, I don't think I could. Getting older, you just don't want to sing fluffy. You just have more things to say about real life and real people and the bitterness that you get from people."
Christina Aguilera, RCA Records, 1999.
Mi Reflejo, RCA Records, 2000.
My Kind of Christmas, RCA Records, 2000.
Just Be Free, Warlock Records, 2001.
Golden, Anna Louise, Christina Aguilera: An Unauthorized Biography, St. Martin's Press, 2000.
MacDermot, Molly, Christina Aguilera: The Unofficial Book, Billboard Books, 2000.
Allure, May 2002.
Billboard, January 20, 2001.
Time, March 6, 2000, p. 70.
Time Special Issue, Fall 2001, p. 42.
Variety, October 23, 2000, p. 62.
Christina Aguilera Official Artist Website, 2002, http://www.christina-a.com/bio.html
Recording Industry Association of America Website, 2002, http://www.riaa.com
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