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Ciara-Feature

Notion 063 Feature: Cover Star Ciara

She Got The Goodies

Global RnB titan Ciara is coming back for real, marching at the head of a One Woman Army and ready to reclaim her crown. She reveals to Kara Simsek why now is the time to get personal and spills the goss on Future.

WORDS: KARA SIMSEK
PHOTOGRAPHY: JAMES MORIARTY
ART DIRECTION: HIDDEN AGENCY
STYLING: ALEXIS KNOX
HAIR: PAUL DONOVAN USING BUMBLE & BUMBLE
MAKEUP: YOLANDA FREDERICK USING NARS COSMETICS
PHOTOGRAPHIC ASSISTANTS: SERGIO MOSTEIRO & CAROLINE DRUITT

You might know of Ciara, Atlanta’s pop princess who makes easy work of performing with hip-hop heavyweights and skips through jaw dropping choreography like a schoolgirl playing hopscotch. But do you know anything about her? Probably not, but as she prepares to release her fifth studio album, she’s ready to change that.

A prominent figure in the world of RnB since she made an enormous crunk-shaped impact with 2004’s Goodies, Ciara has managed to keep a relatively low profile throughout her almost decade-long career, quite a feat in our modern world of ‘TMI’ social media overloads, bitchy blogs and unscrupulous gossip magazines.

This isn’t to say that the 27-year old has some sort of immunity to the mud-slinging, libelous whispers or the games of minesweeper played by people in opposing PR camps that have been known to sink careers like a torpedoed juggernaut.

In 2008, she was horrified when she ended up naked on the cover of Vibe, it was claimed the magazine had airbrushed away her clothes without her knowledge or consent. More drama came in 2011 when she had a very public spat with Rihanna on Twitter. Eventually, the girls made up, remembering that they had both ‘come up’ at the same time. It’s a good excuse for a case study: RiRi is the ultimate good gyal gone nasty, churning out hits about rough sex and getting high, while butter-wouldn’t-melt CiCi’s international hit Goodies was a thinly veiled analogy for abstinence. Rihanna uses Instagram to let her fans know if she’s wearing underwear (or not) – Ciara tweets inspirational messages encouraging her fans to dream and achieve big, and stay humble.

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Ciara wears Bra: Marlies Dekkers, Top: Natalia Kaut

It’s impossible to argue that there’s no correlation between unbridled self-promotion and infamy, which might be why, to date, Ciara has never earned the sort of global superstar status that in my opinion, she thoroughly deserves. The softly spoken Atlanta native admits to being guarded, and as she sits flanked by her seven-strong entourage with a heavily tattooed man mountain on bodyguard duties just outside the studio doors, it’s apparent there’s also a reluctance to allow herself to be too accessible in the physical, as well as emotional, sense.

But, after eating a Nandos, and smiling and laughing with the Notion team, she’s all hugs and warm greetings. The world has changed since the release of her last LP, 2010’s Basic Instinct, and so it seems, has Ciara.

One Woman Army, due for release in June, will allow fans to see a new side of Ciara Princess Harris. Now a part of Epic Records, it marks a reunion with the man who first signed her, L.A Reid, and also a new way of approaching song writing.

“I went in to this album open minded and wanted to be a free spirit. I wanted it to challenge myself. The ultimate goal was to be vocal about my growth as a person, as over the years I have been so guarded, and I feel like the world and my fans haven’t really had a chance to get to know me,” she says.

“I’ve been trying to push this over the years, but,” she pauses, “on this record, I don’t have so many cares and I think it was necessary to find this out about myself. Life is life, and people are going to have something to say about you no matter what. You just can’t care.”

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Ciara wears Blazer & Tshirt: Natalia Kaut

It becomes apparent that this new, and more open, Ciara might be the result of overcoming issues relating to her personal self-assurance, a path that we all face once the end of our twenties are on the horizon – especially if you buy in to the astrological theory of Saturn’s return, which is said to mark an individual’s entrance in to the second phase of adulthood in the no-man’s land between the ages of 27 and 29.

“My confidence, I don’t want to say it’s at ‘an all time high’, but I am much more confident than I have been before,” she reveals. I ask her if it’s the kind of confidence that comes with age as well as professional development. She agrees, “it’s a natural progression as a woman,” she says. “It’s also those experiences that make me more confident. I’m taking the approach of running towards my fears, which only makes me more confident. I don’t like feeling uncomfortable, I don’t like not knowing what’s on the other side or wishing I could have done something. I am running towards my fears, running, running, running.”

Luckily, Ciara has also been running towards some familiar faces as she puts any doubts to the back of her mind and tackles the enormous job of reentering the musical fishbowl. Along with L.A Reid, she’s had the guidance of producer Tricky Stewart, who she paired up with on her 2010 hit, Ride. ‘He’s the head of A&R at my label, we’re like family,” she says before adding that they are yet to work on anything for One Woman Army. “We keep talking about it, trying to figure it out, and we are so sure it will happen.”

The title track is produced by the Underdogs, and further creative guidance has come from Rodney Jerkins, carrying on their tradition of making “some really fun records.” Ciara has also returned to her song writing roots, and is relishing being involved in all stages of the anticipated record. “I’m very involved,” she says. “I had taken a break for a little while, but I’m now back in it like when I was first beginning, I was always very vocal. I’ve always been so involved in that way and it feels good to be back in that rhythm.”

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Ciara wears Jacket: Nympha, Top: American Apparel, Rings: Ciaras own, Ring cuffs: Delphine-Charlotte Paramentier

She’s hoping that One Woman Army will be firing on all cylinders when it is finally released. She’s philosophical about the musical zeitgeist haunting the airwaves at the moment, but is confident that RnB will soon make a return to the top of people’s playlists.“What I’ve learned is that music in general has its phases, and there will be a phase when dance music is more popular, or a phase when RnB is the strongest, and I feel right now that hip hop is more dominant. It makes it harder for real solid RnB songs to break through, but I feel like it’s about to reemerge in a really strong way.

“My ultimate goal when I am making my music is that I want the best of both worlds. My most successful moments have been with records that work in all formats. I call it, for lack of better terms, ‘ghetto pop’ but really it’s more RnB pop. It’s those records that can travel around the world. I’m all about energy and growth, and with this album it was really important that I pushed myself. I think my fans would be bored if I gave them the same sound, I would be bored myself! I thrive off tempo and fun, and good energy, I let that good energy pour in to my music. That’s what felt right to me.”

At the time of the Notion shoot, the album was yet to be mastered and only a few tracks were deemed ok to listen to by the record execs. One Woman Army, Overdose and Got Me Good, all of which tick the energy box, especially the latter which boasts a video showing Ciara at her booty-popping, hip shaking best. The ex-cheerleader has never had any formal dance training, but says she’d like to learn ballet and tap-dancing. As it stands, the only tuition she’s ever had is from friends and what she saw growing up in Atlanta. At the moment, her free time is spent doing rather low-key activities. “I like going to the movies, I love eating, I feel like your day is incomplete without a good meal. I’m out of control, I’m like a human garbage disposal! My place in LA is by the water and I like relaxing by the pool. I drive by my friends’ and family’s houses and just hang out with them,” Ciara confides. “I love watching sports, football and basketball games, I watch ESPN all the time.”

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Ciara wears Dress: Faith Connexion

The process of working on her new LP and generally growing as a person has allowed her to really take stock of her life, but it hasn’t necessarily been easy. She says that one of her biggest achievements with One Woman Army is learning to deal with past mistakes, although she is cautious with being too forthcoming with details. “An achievement has been embracing the hurt or the pain that I might have experienced. Whether it was in a relationship or just in general, accepting the things that weren’t so perfect, or didn’t go so well prior to this point, and being able to look myself in the mirror and correct some things that I felt weren’t all the way right, or could be better, or I was wrong, you know what I mean?” she says. “That was such a huge accomplishment for me as I am such a stubborn person, really headstrong. I do believe that to succeed in life and love you have to have a forgiving spirit and to be forgiving, or else you won’t even let yourself prevail or to have the opportunities you are supposed to have if you are holding on to dead weight.”

Our time in London was cut short by further appointments the willowy singer had to attend to before continuing on the promotional trail across Europe, but we caught up six weeks later over the phone. Ciara was in New York, and had just finished the video for Body Party, a breathy, sexy, slowjam produced by Mike Will. Additional creative input came from Future, the rapper she had recently been revealed as dating. Typically, Ciara was coy about gushing about the dynamic the pair share in or outside of the studio, but did hint that their closeness helped the creative process.

“It was produced by Mike Will, but me and my, um, friend, boyfriend, Future,” she laughs, “we both wrote the song together. It was a very organic creative process and it really came together easily. I think it’s really cool when you have a really cool relationship with someone and it organically rolls over in to the music. It makes the process very easy and fun and it doesn’t make it feel like you’re working.”

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Ciara wears Jacket: Denham, Dress: Faith Connexion

Future, 29-year old Nayvadius Cash, was more forthcoming when talking to Fader about working with Ciara. Bucking rap trends to declare he only needs one woman, he added that as far as he’s concerned, One Woman Army will be hailed as a classic album.

He said: “Perfection comes with time, and only time will tell and right now, at the time of my life, I’m in the studio, I’m engulfed in music, I only need one woman.

“She’s so professional and intelligent, you wouldn’t believe it. Behind the scenes, her voice is so big, she’s so empowering. That’s why One Woman Army will be one of the greatest albums she releases. She took her time with it, she overcame a lot and through time, it’s going to be one of those albums that you look back…Today, I’m already calling it a classic before it comes out.”

It’s nice to think that Ciara, the humble, sweet, warm woman that I met in London will be rewarded for tackling her worries and insecurities head on. She’s getting to find out ‘what lies on the other side’; it’s a new sound, a new chapter and a new confidence. It’s not just the adoration of fans, but also their respect for inspiring them to put their fears to one side and take a leap in to the great unknown. She did it, and found a loving Future.

Like what you see?! Well of course you do. You can see the rest of the pictures from this fab shoot in the latest copy of Notion 063 available here or on your iPad/ iPad mini through our wonderful app

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