For someone who rocketed into the public eye at age 19, cycled (somewhat contentiously) through a number of record labels, and went through a very public, scandalous breakup with the rapper Future, Ciara is remarkably joyful. Levelheaded. Optimistic. Projecting some serious serene goddess vibes. But don't get it twisted. Although she's earned it, she's not content to sit back and relax.
"Every day's a blur," she says. "There's so much happening when you have two kids and work." Right now, the 32-year-old spends most of her days in Bellevue, Washington, where she and her hottie Super Bowl–champ husband, Russell Wilson, live with her 4-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 (their videos launched a pair of viral dance challenges on Instagram). 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, breastfeed, eat a small meal, go train, come back in, breast- feed, eat another meal, go train, then come back, have another meal, and then 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 at all—and truth be told, this is a woman who 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 just went, This is what I want to do. I'm gonna be an entertainer."
"IN THE TOUGHEST MOMENTS, I WOULD SAY TO GOD, THANK YOU IN ADVANCE."
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 how she planned to score superstar status. "The first goal I wrote down was to get discovered," she remembers. "The second was to sell 3 to 4 million records. Third, have longevity." Call her an overachiever— at this point, she's sold 23 million albums and 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 to myself. In the toughest moments, I would say to God, Thank you in advance. I would just declare it because I know He's going to get me out of this moment."
That said, Ciara herself has continuously 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, Ciara sat down to write another list. This time, the newly single mom jotted down exactly what she was looking for in a partner. In less than a year, thanks to what some would call serendipity and Ciara would call fate, she hooked up with Russell.
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 practicing abstinence until they tied the knot in an effort to "do it Jesus' way," as he once put it. (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 look at my husband and go, 'Ooh!'" she says of holding off on sex. "I'm human...we're human! 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 continues. "We were able to be lock and step from day one."
Not everyone sees the beauty in Ciara’s romantic choices. The couple's decision to stay celibate drew shade from the Internet's never-ending supply of armchair relationship 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. And 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 a nouveau 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 larger. "I never thought, I can't be because of the color of my skin, I can't be because of my gender," she says. "No dream is too big."
Which is why, she says, it's time for yet another goal list. "I want to be a billionaire. The more resources, the more you can do. But I think my greatest accomplishment 10 years from now is that I would have a successful life as it pertains to my marriage and being a mom. It's cool to want to do all these creative things, but it's no good to gain the world if you lose your soul."