Christina Aguilera's web site helpfully includes a section called "Rumor Mill," over which her mom, Shelly, presides. It's a smart idea – controversy seems to cling to Aguilera like a Versace dress, so why shouldn't Shelly tackle the gossip head-on? She answers it all: Is Christina dating Dave Grohl? No. Nose job? No. Doesn't like to make eye contact? Sometimes. Are she and Justin Timberlake together? Only onstage, for this summer's ballyhooed Justified and Stripped tour, "There is only a working relationship, not a romantic relationship," Shelly writes. Capisce?
The hostile tone of some of this gossip is distressing. In a world of bland pop creations, we need Christina Aguilera. She boldly speaks her mind, she livens up a red carpet and she wears assless chaps. What's not to like? The newly brunette Aguilera will commence her tour with Timberlake this month. The idea was concocted by their managers. No fools, they: Both are young (22), hot and talked-about, and have released the best albums of their careers. Aguilera will be singing plenty of tunes from Stripped, which continues to crank out the singles, the next one being "Can't Hold Us Down." She chitchats about Timberlake, the tour and her first make-out session.
So why did you and Justin decide to tour together?
We both put out records around the same time that kind of introduced ourselves to the world as new artists, in a way. So it was just a good time. And I've known Justin since the Mickey Mouse Club days, since we were twelve or thirteen, so we go back in our friendship, and it kind of works.
What part of the tour has caused the most discussion between the two of you?
I really don't know what his show is about, and it's better that way, because I want our shows kept separate. It is a co-headlining tour – it's not like we're setting up this whole tour based on the two of us and our chemistry together. I've read reviews of his shows in Europe, and, of course, they've all talked about the girls screaming – you're getting some of that 'N Sync crowd in there. And they say he's Michael Jackson-esque, coming down a kind of a stripper pole. That, of course, will be an on-command girls' screaming thing.
What's the biggest misconception about him?
I never hear him getting bashed. I think females get it worse. I just know him for being down-to-earth and goofy and silly. But he's got a little guy thing going on, too. He knows whenever he walks into a room, and certain girls are all like [sighs]. He knows what he does, too. He doesn't get arrogant, he just knows how to put it on and play up to it. I've been out to clubs with Justin and I've seen some of the girls that have hung around him, numerous dancers that are all about getting with him because he's him. And some of these girls are really good at making it out like they have the best intentions in the world. There's a term I use, but I don't know if I should be that blunt.
Yes, you should!
Me and my camp call it "suck dick for dollars." It's a term for some of these girls that want to get a break so bad, and they're just all over him, and it's just so sickening to me.
Why do you think everyone is so fascinated with your weight? First people were on you because they thought you were anorexic. You can't seem to win.
I think when a woman is very confident about how her body looks regardless of society's viewpoint of what a woman's body should look like, it upsets people. I'm unapologetic for the things I do, the things I wear, the things I say. You know, it seems like they all want this pretty, perfect little America's sweetheart. I don't even want to hear about my risqué clothes anymore, because I can't even tell you how covered up I was whenever I was promoting my song "Beautiful," and none of those [photos] got publicized at all. And I laughed my ass off when I first saw me being curvy in this certain dress. It was the first time that I was supercurvaceous, and my Latin side of me was coming out!
And the media was very negative. It was like, "What kind of message are we sending out there to young girls?" You know, just let me be me. And I love my curves. We come in all different shapes and sizes, and the media should say something freakin' nice about someone that's trying to step out of the boundaries. And, no matter what, I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing.
Who do you think is Justin's ideal mate?
Britney. He and Britney made a great couple. I've known the both of them since that time, and they kind of had their little crushes even back then. Britney has known him for such a long time, too – before he was Justin Timberlake, the star, when he was just Justin, the kid on the Mickey Mouse Club. I don't know, I have a feeling that there's going to be some reconciliation. I know that they talk and everything, and it's cool. I don't think it's over.
Tell me about a favorite summer vacation that you've had.
I've never been on vacation. I really never have. My early childhood was very back-and-forth from whether my mom was going to stay with my dad, or whether she was going to stay with my grandma. I guess the best one was at my grandma's house in Pennsylvania. It was just fun – crickets and stuff. But I've never really been on vacation. And I've never been to summer camp. Summer camp takes money, you know.
What's the best album to be driving around listening to on a summer night?
Led Zeppelin. I love Physical Graffiti. I love Led Zeppelin, are you kidding me? Houses of the Holy. You can just really turn it up and sing out loud and be crazy. Another one that's totally fun to sing along to is Live Through This, from Hole.
What's the ultimate pop song?
Prince, "Kiss." More current-day, I'd probably say "My Name Is," by Eminem. It's so friggin' catchy. You gotta say Michael Jackson – "Beat It," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough" and "P.Y.T." My favorite ever is "Imagine," by John Lennon.
Can you recall the first serious make-out session that you had?
I think I was an early make-outer. Not really knowing what you were doing, but kind of like when you play house when you're little? I lived in Japan from ages three to six, and I know during that time, I was either five or six, and I had, like, a full-on. My mom totally caught me on the front porch with this boy that lived a couple of houses down. It was very cute and flirtatious and funny and young, but it wasn't no little peck. It was a make-out session. I don't know whether that makes me look really bad, but, hey, it happened.
Justin Timberlake has had a jampacked couple of months, with the release of his first solo album, Justified, the constant scrutiny about who he is or isn't shtupping, rehearsals for co-hosting the MTV Movie Awards and furious prepping for the U.S. leg of his summer tour with Christina Aguilera. Before that kicks off, though, he has taken a quick spin through Europe. It is the first time he has hit the stage without four guys next to him, which was daunting, he admits, but he appears to be over it. "It's been pretty damn fun," he says during a stop in England. "The outcome has been way more than I could have ever hoped for. And they sing every song." And now, a chat with the man whom Pharrell Williams calls a dope individual.
How's it going in England?
Honestly? It's crazy over here. This is my first [solo] tour. I don't know, maybe I should have done clubs instead of this. It's madness – the schedule, the touring, the demand. The dynamic is completely different than what I'm used to, you know what I mean? You're in a different territory–just being out of America, it gives you kind of this weird, anxious feeling. Before my feet hit the stage, I was like, "Uh, I wonder how this is going to go?" And then, of course, as soon as the lights were up and the crowd was into it, I was OK.
Do you do any 'N Sync songs?
I do some bits, some stuff that I wrote for the group. A lot of the stuff I kept in medley form because I wanted the show to feel continuous. I hate going to a show and feeling like it's a recital. I'd rather it feel continuous, like a club. You go to a club and the DJ doesn't stop, he just spins from one song to the next.
What's been the best rumor you've heard about yourself lately?
Well, the playboy rumors are funny. They call me "trouser snake" here now. At first I was like, "What does that mean?" Trouser snake! Honestly, I don't read the stuff anymore.
But most of it is positive.
Most of it, yeah. I'm not on heroin or cocaine yet in the press, so . . .
Well, you're young.
Yeah. There's room to grow.
What song do you think Christina should cover?
You know, the cool thing about Christina is she can basically do so many things with her voice. You hear "Beautiful" and you hear "Fighter," and you're like, "Wow, these are two different people." You know what would be really cool to hear Christina do? Something by Billie Holiday.
What's the biggest misconception about her?
People think she's a lot more ghetto than she is. Because she's got the diva voice, you automatically think that she's a diva because that's supposed to come with it. For the most part, she's more reserved than most people would think.
What do you get asked the most about Christina?
We've been rumored to have had a romance, which is so far off. We're two people who are just very platonic. You know, I can't say that we're the best of friends, we don't hang out all the time, but that's more or less because of what we do, and the schedule is so crazy.
There hasn't been a ton of dialogue between you two about the tour.
The trickiest part right now is figuring out how to make both of our [stage] sets work, timewise. You have, like, twenty minutes to break them down and put the next one back up. So it's literally going to be a disaster, I think. I know that at least for the first month, I'll just go in my dressing room and do what I'm supposed to do. Honestly, I enjoy being on tour because I enjoy being alone. I crave alone time. I think sometimes you get these people who become obsessed with the four-letter word fame. To me, it doesn't exist. There's nothing that says that any of us entertainers are a pinky nail in length more important than the guy who builds the streets in New York City. I mean, he's doing a lot more than I am for society.
Let's talk summer memories. Have you ever been to camp?
No. I don't think I would be good at summer camp. Because I grew up as an only child, I don't think I would be good with sharing my room.
What's the best album to listen to when you're driving around on a summer night?
Coldplay. In the daytime I prefer Parachutes, and at nighttime I prefer A Rush of Blood to the Head, which has a little more angst. I used to love to listen to hip-hop when I drive, but it makes me speed, and I'd get tickets. I had to bring out the Coldplay because it actually makes me drive the speed limit.
What's the ultimate pop song?
"I Want to Hold Your Hand," by the Beatles – that's a perfect little pop song. There's all different types of pop songs that are perfect in their own little way. "Tiny Dancer," from Elton John, is one of those songs that you don't really know all the words to, and you're singing at the top of your lungs, and you're only catching the last word of every line.
Why do you think your hormones rage in the summer?
You know what's funny about the summer? The art of making out. It's just like, it becomes acceptable. There's already twice as much skin exposed, and people have been training for three months just to get in these bathing suits, and you look around and you're like, "Who can I make out with?" Everybody in the summer turns into that person. I don't even think it's more or less about taking it further than that. It's just the art of the make-out. Summer is the art of the make-out.
How can an audience member get your attention?
For the first fifteen minutes, it's a blur. It's like, you just see heads. Then you see the signs people make. Then sometimes you get flashed. I don't encourage that, because some girls have gotten kicked out of venues before. Wink, wink, nod, nod.
One last question. Did you ever have a crappy summer job when you were young?
Uh, yeah, it was called the Mickey Mouse Club? I don't know if you've heard of it? I'm just kidding. I'm kidding.
This story is from the June 26th, 2003 issue of Rolling Stone.