“Beautiful,” Bullied and “Burlesque” — our interview with Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera has been a longtime advocate for gay
rights and now the LGBT community has another reason to adore her: the pop
songstress will make the transition to outright movie star when she shares the
screen with gay icon Cher in the musical Burlesque. Aguilera, in
her first big-screen role, stars as Ali, a small-town girl with a big voice who
comes to L.A. in search of stardom. And as if starring in her first-ever acting
role wasn’t enough, the singer served as executive music producer and wrote
three original songs for the film, including the title track. Aguilera,
accompanied by her Papillon, Stinky, discussed working with Cher, why she’s
been an advocate for the gay community and all things Burlesque
during the film’s recent press junket.

"Beautiful" came out eight years ago and was so inclusive of the gay
community. Now we’re seeing other artists — like Pink, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry,
follow suit. You were so ahead of the curve. And you’ve always been so
supportive of the LGBT community. Could you speak on that?
Christina Aguilera:
I have my own
issues with feeling alienated for my own reasons. As a kid and feeling a little
bullied and like an oddball at times. When people aren’t being heard or seen or
aren’t being treated fairly or equally because of their own individual choices
or who they are, I really stick up for that. It means a lot to me to put it out
there, in my video for "Beautiful," for example. I’m very supportive
of the gay community.

AE: What happened
that you were bullied?
I grew up in
a very chaotic home, first of all, so I came from a little bit of a troubled
past because there was a lot of domestic violence in the home and then at
school, doing what I did and maybe being a little smaller, I was definitely
picked on and I definitely was bullied for the attention that I got. It was
definitely unwanted attention and there was a lot of unfairness about it. I’m
sensitive to that.

AE: Burlesque is your first feature, are you
ready to give up after this?
I’m looking
forward to seeing what’s next for me. It could be a small independent (film) —
at first, that was my goal to start out small and not star in a leading
position whatsoever; just be part of a great film and have a couple lines and
get my feet wet. Boy, that didn’t happen! (Laughs.)

AE: Why did you wait
so long to segue into the movie business?
I know my
comfort zone and I know what my strong points are and my first love was always
music. I’m a huge cinema fan. I was taking my time; I got offered a lot of
scripts and things along the way but until Burlesque
showed up at my doorstep, it really spoke to me. I have a collection of burlesque
books at home that I’ve had for years. I’ve always been intrigued and
fascinated with the topic, the beauty and the art of it and the comedic value
of it. I think it’s just a beautiful, empowering thing for women.

AE: What did you
relate to in your character, Ali? Was it her drive or her journey to L.A.
trying to make it in the business?
: That was
definitely a part of it. I liked her background story; it came from a place of
maybe being inspired by pain — she definitely had her fair share of struggle:
her mother dying when she’s very young, growing up in a lot of foster care
homes and having to grow up quickly taking care of a grandmother. She’s in this
small town being taken advantage of by her boss and finally — a lot of people
talk about their situations and complain but they never do anything about it —
and the thing about Ali that I loved is that she makes the decision to leave
and get out of there and go on her own. That’s really hard. The inspiration of
it all really spoke to me.