Christina María Aguilera was born December 18, 1980 and is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and television personality.
Aguilera was born in Staten Island, New York City, to musician Shelly Loraine Kearns (née Fidler) and United States Army soldier Fausto Xavier Aguilera. Her father was born in Ecuador, and her mother has German, Irish, Welsh, and Dutch ancestry. Her family moved frequently because of her father’s military service, and lived in places including New Jersey, Texas, New York, and Japan. Aguilera alleged that her father was physically and emotionally abusive. To cope with her turbulent household, she used music as a form of escape. Following her parents’ divorce when she was six years old, Aguilera, her younger sister Rachel, and her mother moved into her grandmother’s home in Rochester, a suburb in the Pittsburgh area. Her mother later remarried to Jim Kearns and had a son with him named Michael. After years of estrangement, Aguilera expressed interest in reconciling with her father in 2012.
As a child, Aguilera was drawn to soul and blues records her grandmother bought and would practice singing, which earned her a reputation as “the little girl with the big voice” in her neighborhood. She aspired to be a singer, and won her first talent show at age eight with a rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”. Aged 10, she performed “A Sunday Kind of Love” on the competition show Star Search, and was eliminated during the semi-final round. She performed the song again on KDKA-TV’s Wake Up with Larry Richert. During her youth in the Pittsburgh area, Aguilera sang the US national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, before Pittsburgh Penguins hockey, Pittsburgh Steelers football, and Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games, and the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals. She attended Rochester Area School District in Rochester and Marshall Middle School near Wexford, and briefly attended North Allegheny Intermediate High School before being homeschooled to avoid being bullied.
In 1991, Aguilera auditioned for a position on The Mickey Mouse Club, although she did not meet its age requirements. She joined the television series two years later, where she performed musical numbers and sketch comedy until its cancellation in 1994. Fellow cast members included Ryan Gosling, Keri Russell, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake. After the show ended, Aguilera moved to Japan and recorded her first song, “All I Wanna Do”, a duet with Japanese singer Keizo Nakanishi. In 1998, Aguilera returned to the US to seek a recording contract. She approached RCA Records, who told her to contact Disney instead because they were having financial difficulties. She sent her cover version of Whitney Houston’s “Run to You” to Disney in hopes of being selected to record the theme song “Reflection” for their animated film Mulan (1998). Aguilera was ultimately selected to sing “Reflection”.
After “Reflection”, Aguilera attracted the attention of RCA’s A&R Ron Fair and was signed with the label quickly afterwards. RCA was pressured by the contemporary teen pop craze evoked by Aguilera’s peer Britney Spears, leading to the label rushing production of the album and aligning Aguilera to be part of the teen pop trend. They released the lead single off the album, “Genie in a Bottle”, a trendy pop and R&B track, in June 1999. The single catapulted Aguilera to stardom, peaking atop the US. Aguilera’s eponymous debut album followed in August 1999. The album produced three other singles: “What a Girl Wants” and “Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You)”, and “I Turn to You”, a cover of All-4-One’s song.
Aguilera’s two following studio albums, Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas, were released in September and October 2000, respectively.
Despite the successes, Aguilera was displeased with the music and image her manager Steve Kurtz had aligned her to, feeling unable to control her own image. In October 2000, she filed a breach of fiduciary duty lawsuit against Kurtz for improper, undue and inappropriate influence over her professional activities. After terminating Kurtz’s services, RCA hired Irving Azoff as Aguilera’s new manager.
Aguilera took her first steps in artistic control with a cover of Labelle’s “Lady Marmalade” (1974) with Pink, Mya, and Lil Kim for the Moulin Rouge! soundtrack. RCA executives initially opposed to Aguilera recording “Lady Marmalade” because it was “too urban”, but Aguilera ultimately managed to record the song of her own accord. The collaboration topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks based on airplay alone, becoming the first airplay-only track in history to remain on the chart’s top spot for more than one week. In mid-2001, Warlock Records released Just Be Free, a compilation of demo tracks Aguilera recorded in 1994 and 1995, when she was looking forward to an album release after the end of The Mickey Mouse Club. Aguilera filed a suit against Warlock Records and the album’s producers to stop the release. The two parties came to a confidential settlement to release the album, in which Aguilera lent out her name, likeness, and image for an unspecified amount of damages.
Aguilera sought to assume artistic control with Stripped (2002) and its lead single “Dirrty”, which displayed her sexuality. The second single from the album, “Beautiful”, received favorable response for its empowering lyrics and became an anthem for the LGBT community.
Aguilera scored her second US number-one album with Back to Basics (2006), which drew inspiration from early 20th-century jazz, soul, and blues, and spawned the top-ten singles “Ain’t No Other Man”, “Hurt”, and “Candyman”. Her next three albums, Bionic (2010), Lotus (2012), and Liberation (2018), all experimented with various musical styles and reached the top ten in the US.
Besides solo materials, Aguilera earned chart-topping entries with collaborations including “Lady Marmalade”, “Moves like Jagger”, “Feel This Moment”, and “Say Something”.
Alongside her music career, Aguilera starred in the film Burlesque (2010) and was a coach on six seasons of the singing competition television series The Voice from 2011 to 2016.
To promote Liberation, Aguilera embarked on a US tour, the Liberation Tour, which ran from September to November 2018, and a European tour, The X Tour, which ran from July to December 2019. She also headlined The Xperience, a 25-date concert residency at the Zappos Theater in Las Vegas beginning in May and concluding in March 2020.
In 2019, Aguilera received The Disney Legends Awards for “her remarkable contributions to the Disney legacy”.
Since the start of her career Aguilera’s voice has been compared to that of Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. David Browne writing for The New York Times noted that Aguilera’s vocal performance was highly influenced by Carey and Houston, sharing that “Aguilera has been one of the foremost practitioners of the overpowering, Category 5 vocal style known as melisma”, and “Ms. Carey, Ms. Houston and Ms. Aguilera, to name its three main champions, are most associated with the period from the late ’80s through the late ’90s”.
Aguilera has credited blues singer Etta James as her main influence and inspiration. Other classic artists, including Billie Holiday, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, and Ella Fitzgerald, are also Aguilera’s major influences.
Aguilera mentions Whitney Houston as another influence, having performed many of her songs in her early years during talent shows. She also cites Mariah Carey and Celine Dion as an inspiration, and covered the latter’s songs: “These Are the Special Times” on My Kind of Christmas, and “The Prayer” on the NBC reality singing competition The Voice.
She points out the musical film The Sound of Music and its lead actress, Julie Andrews, as her first inspiration for singing and performing. At the age of six, the film helped Aguilera cope with her violent childhood. Aguilera credits Madonna and Janet Jackson as two biggest inspirations for her image, “for being re-inventive and being brave as strong females, to explore whatever, even if they do get bad press.” During the promotion of Back to Basics, her image was also inspired by the “Golden age of Hollywood” actresses including Marlene Dietrich, Marilyn Monroe, Carole Lombard, Greta Garbo and Veronica Lake. Aguilera is also inspired by her Burlesque co-star, Cher.
Aguilera has reinvented her public image on numerous occasions throughout her career. In the late 1990s, her then-manager Steve Kurtz marketed her as a bubblegum pop entertainer to capitalize on the genre’s financial lure, which earned her recognition as a teen idol. Aguilera introduced her alter ego “Xtina” during 2002 and 2003, which presented an increasingly provocative persona. During this time, she dyed her hair black, debuted several piercings, and participated in several nude pictorials for publications. In 2004, Aguilera embraced a more “mature” image with retro-styled hair and makeup, which was inspired by classic movie stars including Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich and Mary Pickford. This reinvention was named “Baby Jane” in 2006, an alter ego which was taken from the 1962 film What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Aguilera received widespread criticism over her curvy figure from gaining weight in 2012. She later received favorable media attention after a significant weight loss in 2013. In 2018, Aguilera appeared bare-faced without makeup and retouching on the cover of Paper magazine and received widespread praise.
In 2000, Aguilera supported a program called Come on Over and Do Something, which aimed to “encourage kids to get involved in their communities and make a difference.” A year later, she signed a letter from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) to the South Korean government requesting that the country stop its alleged killing of dogs for food. In 2010, Aguilera auctioned tickets for her planned tour for Christie’s A Bid to Save the Earth, which benefited the non-profit environmental groups Conservation International, Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Central Park Conservancy. Aguilera contributed US$200,000 to the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh in December 2003, and was part of the Lifetime Television’s “End violence against women” campaign.
In 2005, Aguilera contributed “Beautiful” to the compilation album Love Rocks, which proceeds benefited the Human Rights Campaign. Aguilera participated in the AIDS Project Los Angeles’ Artists Against AIDS “What’s Going On?” cover project, and became the face for MAC Cosmetics and spokesperson for MAC AIDS Fund in 2004. Singer Elton John featured Aguilera in his charity book 4 Inches, which benefitted the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In the run-up to the 2004 United States presidential election, Aguilera was featured on billboards for the “Only You Can Silence Yourself” online voter registration drive run by the nonpartisan, non-profit campaign “Declare Yourself”. In these political advertisements, shot by David LaChapelle, Aguilera was shown with her mouth sewn shut to symbolize the effects of not voting. In late 2007, Aguilera became the spokesperson for “Rock the Vote”, through which she encouraged young people to vote in the 2008 presidential election. In 2005, Aguilera donated her wedding gifts to American charities in support of Hurricane Katrina victims, and performed at “Unite of the Stars” concert for Unite Against Hunger in Johannesburg, South Africa and for the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund at the Coca-Cola Dome.
In 2008, Aguilera headlined London’s Africa Rising charity concert at the Royal Albert Hall, which raised awareness for finding substantial issues facing the continent. That year, Aguilera appeared on the Turkish version of Deal or No Deal, Var mısın? Yok musun?, and donated proceeds to a charity program for orphans. In 2009, Aguilera became the global spokesperson for World Hunger Relief; she and Bratman traveled to Guatemala with the World Food Programme to bring awareness to issues including its high malnutrition rate, and met with local families and beneficiaries of WFP’s nutrition programs. Aguilera has helped raise over $148 million for WFP and other hunger relief agencies in 45 countries.
In response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake, Aguilera donated a signed Chrysler 300 which was auctioned for relief efforts. She additionally appeared on the Hope for Haiti telethon that January, where donations directly benefited Oxfam America, Partners In Health, Red Cross and UNICEF. She was featured on a public service announcement alongside former boxer Muhammad Ali to raise funds for the World Food Programme’s efforts to bring food to survivors of the earthquake. Aguilera was nominated for a VH1 Do Something Award for her work with the organization and her efforts in response to the earthquake. In 2010, Aguilera was appointed UN ambassador for the World Food Programme. Following Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Aguilera performed “Beautiful” to open the Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together benefit telethon; all proceeds went to the American Red Cross. That year, Aguilera and David Novak received the George McGovern Leadership Award. The following year, Aguilera was honored with the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian of the Year Award.