Wonderland.

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: CIARA

While we were getting down and dirty at CiCi’s body party, we dug up this editorial and interview from our archives styled by Julia Sarr-Jamois.

Ciara Wonderland
This interview first appeared in Issue 24 of Wonderland, Nov/Dec 2010.

When Ciara Princess Harris was a little girl growing up in Austin, Texas, she didn’t just want to be a popstar. She didn’t want to just be a model or just an actress either. Sure, she’d become inspired to sing songs in front of her bedroom mirror after watching Destiny’s Child perform on television, and it was the profession she later wrote on a piece of paper when she graduated from Riverdale High School in 2003 – a goal she efficiently went out and achieved. But she always wanted something bigger.

Born a “military brat” – her father was in the army, her mother the air force, she zigzagged across the world before she finally settled in Atlanta – in childhood it was “her inspiration”, the entertainment, merchandising and licensing colossus that was Michael Jackson, who stoked the fires of her ultimate ambition. Like Jackson strived for and grasped, what the young Ciara wanted to be was Coca-Cola, or Chanel, or Disney – a global name.
Ciara didn’t just want to be an artist; she wanted to be a brand. The 24-year-old’s new album Basic Instinct is the next phase in that pursuit of that goal.

“I care about the music, that’s my passion, sure it is” says the singer, when questioned whether such a commercial pursuit is of detriment to her art. “But whenever I speak to my team I tell them to go out and get the money. I’m serious! I want to create a Ciara brand that will be here when I’m not, that will feed my family and create a legacy they can live on, bringing money in to the people I love…”

Ciara: a brand build upon 50% ego, 40% good heartedness, 10% forward thinking (she doesn’t yet have children). Established October 25, 1985.

Ciara Wonderland ph Cameron Smith
There’s certainly talent in the mix too though, Basic Instinct is testament to that. Take the records best song Girls Get Your Money; not only an ode to making hay, but a return to the throbbing bass that characterized 2004’s Goodies and 2005’s Ciara: The Evolution. Her fourth album (her disappointing R&B-lite third, Fantasy Ride, came in May last year) sees the returning bass spread prominently all over – you can hear it on Turn It Up (Heavy Rotation) and Ride – featuring long-term collaborator Ludacris and Ciara’s twelfth top ten hit on the American Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. It’s a move she says was “absolutely” a conscious decision.

“I felt like I moved away from that a bit on Fantasy Ride,” she says, “and while I really like that record, I wanted to get back to the real sound of me. Which is bass and strong hooks. That’s what I went for on the record. It’s the purest sound of me yet, I’m going back to basics.”

The records title takes itself from Ciara “beginning to trust her first instincts – not just in music, in love, life, everything!”, and sadly not the film of the same name (she laughs, “no, I’ve never once picked up an ice-pick”). It’s an assertiveness you can hear in the sultry You Can Get It, which sees her subverting the jaded male bravado which dominates urban music and all its variants, and says, ‘yeah, I’ll have a little bit of what the boys are having…’ Ciara: “I actually played that song in a meeting, and all the girls were laughing and the guys were saying ‘uh-huh’. I want the girls to be saying ‘uh-huh’ too”.

She certainly needs to keep the cash coming – in July she admitted to spending $11,000 a month on shoes – yet the Ciara brand is growing thanks to her multi-million dollar deal with the modeling agency Wilhelmina Models; last November she modeled for the German edition of Vogue, in May she did the French edition. There’s the endorsement deals too: Verizon’s smartphone the LG Chocolate Touch (which featured her dancing to an old single called Touch in the commercial), her role as spokesperson for the new Adidas Originals campaigns…

Then there’s the acting, the singer debuting in the MTV films picture All You’ve Got in 2006 and next appearing in Mama, I Want To Sing!, the cinematic adaptation of the off-Broadway gospel stage musical. “Am I more passionate about music, films or fashion?” she says, “I’d say I was most passionate about Ciara. I’ve been lucky enough to achieve everything I’ve wanted to do so far.”

Executive produced by Tricky Stewart and The Dream, Basic Instinct is released towards the end of the year and beyond that Ciara says she’d “like to get to the UK more – stick around for a little bit, that would be fun”. Last album Fantasy Ride was her highest UK charting album to date, but there’s some way to go in achieving the same sort of success she’s achieved in the U.S. on British soil. Beyond that it’s growing the brand, making the money, seeing how big this thing can really get. After all, this is the story of the little girl got big who didn’t just want stardom and didn’t just want respect.

Then as now, Ciara Princess Harris wants the world.

Ciara Wonderland ph Cameron Smith
Words: James McMahon
Photography: Cameron Smith
Styling: Julia Sarr-Jamois

FLASHBACK FRIDAY: CIARA

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