She’s sold more than 7 million albums, won multiple awards, and collaborated with superstars like Missy Elliott, P. Diddy, and Justin Timberlake. Yet, for all her success, Ciara admits she has never felt completely comfortable in her own skin — until now.
Her self-titled fifth studio album (available July 9) showcases a renewed performer who is at ease with both herself and her craft. Nevertheless, it’s the struggles she has endured throughout her career that the singer credits with helping her achieve a newfound sense of self-confidence and part of what has endeared her to many LGBT fans as well.
With her latest single, “Body Party,” currently burning up Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, Ciara spoke with The Advocate about her love for LGBT people, her affinity for ball culture, and why she thinks the hip-hop community will embrace gay NBA star Jason Collins.
The Advocate: Ciara is your fifth studio album. What inspired you to go with a self-titled album at this point in your career?
Ciara: It just felt right. I've been able to tap into and discover so many new things about myself. I'm so much more comfortable in my skin than I've even been in my life and career. More than anything, I'm having more fun than I've ever had and I'm allowing myself to be free in the universe. For me, it's beyond the music. It's about the new experience and the journey.
Do you ever feel the pressure of expectations when you start a new album?
It's so funny, because it's natural for that to come into play. But at the same time, I really try my best to take on the mentality of "Do your best and whatever happens will happen." As long as I know that I give my best every time, I can sleep well knowing that. For me, I know that I'm enjoying what I’m doing. So I'm in good spirits and I just try to maintain that no matter what.
You worked with Nicki Minaj on the track "I'm Out." How did your collaboration with her take shape?
I did a song with her on her album called "I'm Legit" and she returned the favor and hopped on my record. It was organic and one of those things where the timing was perfect. I went to her party and she came to mine.
Why do you think so many gay fans have connected with you since the beginning of your career?
That's a good question, at least for me I can say that I welcome everybody. No one is different from the other. I'm very grateful that I have a diverse group of fans as well. We welcome individuality over here in my world and I think that my fans can see and feel that.
In addition to Nicki, you've collaborated with a number of talented people over the years. Since you have a strong gay fan following, are there any out LGBT artists you’d like to work with in the future?
What I would like to do is collaborate with the gay dance community. I think that would be really fun. You know, like walking at balls and some other cool stuff. I would love to do something like that.
Are you a fan of the New York ball scene?
It's crazy, I've never been able to go! I've only seen stuff online, but I am definitely going to go and I can't wait to have that experience.
So if RuPaul called you up and asked you to appear as a guest judge on Drag Race, you’d do it?
[Laughs] Yes, I would. I totally would!
You're also a huge basketball fan. What do you think of Washington Wizards center Jason Collins coming out of the closet and becoming the first out gay athlete in the NBA?
I think it's cool, because you have to embrace who you are. If you don’t embrace who you are and accept who you are, you won't be able to live a happy life. At the end of the day, we have to live our lives for ourselves. I'm sure he had the biggest sense of freedom when he came out. I'm always happy for a person that can be confident, embrace who they are, and live life how they want to live.
Basketball and hip-hop stars frequently cite one another as inspirations. Do you think the hip-hop community will embrace Jason Collins like it has other athletes?
I don't see why not. At least from my perspective, because I feel like nowadays we're more in tune with individualism. Maybe it's the lens I see things through, but I just feel like we're living in the days of self-expression and we're seeing more of that on many levels. Whether it's the person who you are, what you like to wear, or what you like to do. It's just so cool when you meet people who are different than you are. That can give you a different perspective, a view point on life, or inspire you. I mean, what would the world be like if we were all the same? I think it would be very boring.
You've also been a vocal supporter of antibullying campaigns. However, you’ve experienced a fair amount of bullying yourself since you hit stardom. How do you personally cope with negativity that comes your way?
You have to know that you're going to be faced with people who are going to try to throw things your way. But I feel like people only have as much importance in your life as you give them. If you say something is important, then it's important. If you say it matters, then it matters because you have to live your life for you.
In addition to the new album, you’re gearing up for a brand-new tour. Can you give us any hints about what we can expect to see? Do you have any surprises in store?
Of course, what would I be without any surprises, darling? [Laughs] I'm in the process of putting it all together, but this go-round, with the whole energy kick that I'm on right now, I definitely want to turn things up a notch. I always want to challenge myself, so that never stops. But I always hope that when I do a show, my fans leave thinking they had a good time, a great experience, and were able to feel a little more connected to me. That's what’s most important to me.
Watch the full music video for Ciara's "Body Party" below.