Keeping Up with Ciara
With her seventh album about to drop, the sizzling singer/dancer seems to have it all but wants more, because ‘no dream is too big’. Here, she talks to COSMO about faith, fitness and her husband’s ‘goodies’
For someone who rocketed into the public eye at 19, cycled (somewhat contentiously) through a number of record labels and went through a public, scandalous break-up with the rapper Future, Ciara is remarkably joyful. Level-headed. Optimistic. Projecting some serious serenegoddess vibes. But don’t get it twisted. Although she’s earned it, she’s not content to sit back and relax.4
Every day’s a blur,’ she says. ‘There’s so much happening when you have two kids and work.’ Right now, the 33-year-old spends most of her days in Bellevue, Washington, where she and her hottie Super Bowl champ husband, Russell Wilson, live with her four-year-old son and their 18-month-old daughter. She splits time between family days at the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp and basking in the success of Level Up and Freak Me, two singles off her new album (the videos launched a pair of viral dance challenges on Instagram). Ciara is no stranger to South Africa, having shot her Freak Me music video in Soweto, dressed and styled by Rich Mnisi and Trevor Stuurman. She also visited Lagos, Nigeria, and did what she does best – dance with locals and hit viral status. No-one who saw it can forget the cute #InMyFeelings challenge video shot in Cape Town while she was on her second honeymoon. Aww! She’s also been deep in tour-prep mode.
And then there was her recent post-baby fitness routine: up to three workouts a day. ‘It was kind of like, wake up in the morning, breast-feed, eat a small meal, go train, come back, breast-feed, eat another meal, go train, come back, have another meal, and then do a third training session at night,’ she says, adding carefully: ‘It was a good challenge, one I set for myself, not for anyone else. Taking care of myself makes me feel really good. And I want to keep it sexy too, you know.’
So yeah, Ciara is not sitting back. Truth be told, she has been operating at turbo speed since girlhood. It started when she was 14 and still going by her full name, Ciara Princess Harris. While playing hooky one day in Decatur, Georgia, she happened to catch Destiny’s Child performing on a morning news show. ‘I don’t remember why I didn’t go to school, but I remember that day,’ she says.
‘They were killing it, and I said, This is what I want to do. I’m going to be an entertainer.’
And while millions of teens admired young Beyoncé as she crooned about ‘bug a boos’ and clubs full of ballers, Ciara did more than gaze longingly at the stage. She sat down and made a list – old school-style, pen to paper
– of things she planned to do to score superstar status.
‘The first goal Iwrote down was to get discovered,’ she remembers. ‘The second was to sell three- to four-million records. Third, have longevity.’
Call her an overachiever … at this point, she’s sold 23-million albums and has been in the music business for more than a decade.
It wasn’t some magic genie who granted her fame and success; it was sheer willpower and talent. And perhaps just a little help from above, she says. ‘Faith has been the thing that’s carried me through. I’ve had moments when I’ve been in the shower crying. In the toughest moments, I would say to God, “Thank you in advance.” I’d just say it because I knew that He’d get me out of that moment.’
That said, Ciara herself has continually performed a magic trick of sorts: she’s made celibacy sound … sexy. Take Goodies, her breakout 2004 single, which music insiders have called the feminine answer to Usher’s Yeah! Some may assume the song is about the art of playing hard to get, but it’s not. Listen closely and you’ll notice all the subtle and unexpected nods to chastity … almost as if she were saving herself for marriage.
Ten years later, Ciara wound up doing exactly that. After her relationship with Future came to an end in 2014, she sat down to write another list. This time, the newly single mom jotted down exactly what she was looking for in apartner. In less than a year, thanks to what some would call serendipity and Ciara would call fate, she hooked up with Russell Wilson.
It wasn’t some magic genie who granted her fame and success – it was sheer willpower and talent
She fell hard and quickly but had also learned from her past. With this boo, Ciara didn’t hide behind wink-wink lyrics – she and Russell were famously vocal about practising abstinence until they tied the knot, in an effort to ‘do it Jesus’s way’, as he once said. (They may have even sparked a music-biz trend. Former Destiny’s Child member Michelle Williams recently made the same pledge with her fiancé.) Ciara and Russell seemingly pulled it off. The morning after their 2016 wedding, the two dished about how much fun they had taking the goodies out of the jar in a series of Snapchat videos.
‘It definitely was a huge challenge, because I looked at my husband and went, “Ooh”,’ she says of holding off on sex. ‘But the cool thing about us is that we’re equally yoked.’ (For the uninitiated, that’s biblical speak for being fully connected on a spiritual level. See? Ciara can even add sex appeal to the literal Bible.) ‘It makes a difference when you share the same views,’ she says. ‘We were able to be in lock-step from day one.’
Not everyone sees the beauty in her romantic choices. The couple’s decision to stay celibate drew shade from the Internet’s supply of armchair experts. Earlier this year, the rapper Slim Thug asked the (unsolicited) question of whether ‘a woman who used to talk to Future [could] really want a Russell Wilson’ and went on to call Russell ‘a corny dude’ and ‘a square’.
Ciara simply doesn’t have time to get into it with trolls. ‘When someone comes for you and you didn’t send for them, you keep your eye on the prize,’ she says. ‘I know what my mission is. I know what I’m hoping for and working hard for every day. That’s my focus. I’m not going to let people steal my joy. I move on. New day, new opportunity, new energy, let’s go.’
And go she has: Ciara has quietly become one of the music industry’s most unusual success stories. Think of her as an updated Janet Jackson. She’s so sure of herself and her strengths that reinventing her brand is neither necessary nor an option. Sure, some of her famous peers have more Twitter followers, more Grammys. But it’s also possible that Ciara is after something even bigger. ‘I never thought, I can’t be me because of the colour of my skin, I can’t be me because of my gender,’ she says. ‘No dream is too big.’
Which is why, she says, it’s time for another goal list. ‘I want to be a billionaire. The more resources, the more you can do. But my greatest accomplishment 10 years from now would be to have a successful life as it pertains to my marriage and being a mom. It’s cool to want to do these creative things, but it’s no good to gain the world if you lose your soul.’ ■
by photography FaShIoN Marielle WakiM Victor deMarchelier