The sun hides behind the dunes of the Arabian desert, during that magical time of day when the yellow sand seems to be replaced by a river of gold dust. Barefoot but wearing a bohemian Saint Laurent dress, with her long, black hair flowing in the wind, all eyes are on Ciara, looking statuesque as a figure from a Renaissance painting. The moment is powerful, suspended in time, even poetic. But hold your horses – literally. A slight sense of panic sets in as two muscular stallions join the singer on set, reminding the Grammy winner of an unlucky episode that took place three years ago. While vacationing with her family and friends on a tropical island, an innocent horseback-riding excursion on the beach turned into a nightmare when Ciara’s horse lost control. “It’s funny because growing up I loved horses, and I always admired their beauty. When my ride decided to take off and gallop in another direction, I saw my entire life flashing in front of my eyes,” the star recalls.
Originally published in February 2019 issue of Vogue Arabia.
Even so, what is a little equestrian challenge for someone who, for the past 15 years, has survived one of the toughest industries in the world? A solid and growing legion of fans (the entertainer counts 20.9 million followers on Instagram), number-one hits, awards, and a happy family… You name it, Ciara has it all.
This year, after the launch of her single “Level Up” and two more songs released for her fans – “Freak Me” and “Dose” – the magic will repeat itself, as the American songstress will drop her seventh studio album, which, in her own words, is one of her “best works ever.” “I’m super excited and my vision for this project is to inject love into the world with dance,” she explains. This is not like any other album, as most of the work in studio was done while Ciara was eight months pregnant with her second child, daughter Sienna, the result of her marriage to NFL quarterback Russell Wilson. “There was something really special about that. Being a mother of two made me feel even more confident, inspired, and fearless,” she shares when asked if motherhood reshaped her as an artist. “I am an only child, so I always had a strong desire to have siblings, and that triggered my will to have more kids. They are an extension of my legacy and they keep me young. Motherhood definitely gives you a new conscience. My kids help me to feel motivated and keep things in perspective.”
While on set, I can’t help but notice Ciara’s athletic figure – with her toned body and strong legs, running up a dune makes for the perfect image. She tells me than even when not on tour, she makes sure that her fitness levels are always stable. “I try to stay consistent with my training routine so that I never have to play catchup. My trainer and I work pretty hard at keeping my cardiovascular strength up, to stay conditioned for my shows.” Now, with the promotion for her new album around the corner – and a performance in the city where she grew up, Atlanta, during the Super Bowl weekend – she needs to be more in shape than ever to sustain her magnetic and high-energy dance routines. In the lead-up to a big tour or show, rehearsals can take anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day. But it is all worth it. “What you feel when you are on stage, fully connected to your fans, is absolutely indescribable. I’m happy to be singing in Atlanta, where there’s a special feeling and culture. It’s going to be fun to rock my hometown, with my parents in the audience. It couldn’t be any better,” she says.
Ciara is the daughter of army and Air Force officials, who didn’t believe in her musical career straight away. When asked what motivated her to pursue a life on stage, she takes me back to when she was six years old and saw Michael Jackson on TV. “I recall his smile and having this memorable moment that made me think that one day, I could do something like that.” Later on, she was seduced by the powerful performances of Janet Jackson and Destiny’s Child, influencing her to chase a career in entertainment. “When I was a teenager, my mother was more adamant about me going to school, but my dad was driving me to the studio, sometimes sitting on the sofa while I was recording. My mom tended to be more protective, wanting to make sure I was doing the right thing.” And she sure did. In 2004, at 18, Ciara’s debut single, “Goodies,” dropped on the airways, catapulting her to number one on the US and international charts and transforming her into an overnight celebrity. It was also certified triple platinum. “I was driving the first time I heard my song on the radio. It was a surreal moment. It was also pretty cool, and a dream come true. It was after that that my mother became super proud of me, understanding this was a legitimate job.”
If there were doubts that family plays a pivotal role in the life of the singer, the release of her fifth album, named Jackie, after her mother, affirms that her clan is at the center of it all. Now living in Seattle – “You can be real in this city, and not always be concerned that you need to look put-together if someone takes a picture of you, like in California” – she believes that her family is the foundation of everything she does. To be able to answer to all her mommy duties and the demanding schedule of a pop star, she relies on the support of her husband, who she calls her “best friend.” Him also being a celebrity means he understands the restrictions of a life in the public eye. But do her four-year-old son, Future, and one-year-old Sienna, know that their mother is one of the biggest entertainers on earth? “My son has gotten to understand a little bit more,” she says with a laugh. “He is very cute and tells me all the time, ‘Mommy, you are the best singer.’ Our daughter is young, but when she watches my videos she seems to like it, as she asks, ‘more, more, more.’ It is really sweet. Seeing my kids dancing to my music or hearing my husband saying he is proud of me makes me feel accomplished.”
Besides music, Ciara is known for her striking red carpet outings, where equal doses of drama and sexiness are combined in the perfect style equation. You can see her in bold mini dresses by Balmain and Versace, or theatrical long gowns, hugging her toned physique, by Roberto Cavalli and Givenchy. “I like to wear whatever is cool to me, honestly. It doesn’t need to always be a high end designer, but what catches my eye. I like to experiment,” she states. “I do love Zuhair Murad, Saint Laurent, Balmain, and the work of my friend Riccardo Tisci. I cannot wait to see what he will do at Burberry.”
We are back to the set and Ciara looks like a proper fashion icon in a dramatic Alexandre Vauthier design, walking with confident strides, holding the reins. “I’m so wrapped up in the beauty of what is happening, and how incredible the pictures are looking, that I have to overcome my fear,” she tells me self-assuredly. While looking at the scene, the lyrics of “Dose” come to mind: “I’m a groundbreaking woman / Put me down, I go harder” – and I would not be surprised if she jumped on the horse, riding towards the sunset. No doubt, Ciara is the type of woman that takes the reins of her own destiny.
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