The message of Christina Aguilera’s 2002 hit “Beautiful” continues to resonate as much today as it did when it was first released. To celebrate the song’s 20th anniversary, Aguilera has shared a poignant, powerful new video that calls for change in how social media has “transformed our relationship with our bodies.”
The video follows children trying to live up to unreal beauty standards: a group of girls who livestream themselves while applying makeup, a boy lifting weights at the gym, and another group of girls, with markings on their faces, idling in the waiting from of a plastic surgeon. Following the song’s second chorus, the children break free, remove the markings on their faces, and head into a green field to play together — and be kids! — under a tree.
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After the credits, a phone appears with blood coming out of it as a message flashes on screen.
“In the last 20 years, since Stripped was first released, social media has transformed our relationship with our bodies, and in turn, our mental health,” it reads. “Research suggests that time spent on social networking sites is associated with body image issues, self-hard and disordered eating in children and teens. This needs to change.”
The original music video — which featured a trans woman and two men kissing — was celebrated by the LGBTQ community, but also faced controversy. Aguilera told Rolling Stone in June that she “didn’t even really think about it as some taboo subject” at the time.
“It was so natural to me to have people embrace who they are and feel empowered by not only their sexuality, but just themselves and who they are,” Aguilera said. “And so I wanted to give an opportunity for a group of people to come together.”
“Who knew that so many years later it would become this iconic moment where people give me stories about how it affected their lives and how they sort of came out to it?” Aguilera added. “It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of people’s stories like that. And that’s honestly, what I look back within my career and am the most grateful for: more than any accolades or awards, it was being able to touch people and create those moments with them.”
Aguilera’s album Stripped also turns 20 this week. She’s been teasing a 20th anniversary version of the LP, having said before “it wasn’t able to be done to my standard of quality.”
“Stripped gave me the strength and freedom as an artist to tell my story the way I wanted,” Aguilera wrote on Instagram Monday. “Thank you to all of my fighters around the world for amplifying that strength and giving me the space to continue to share myself in my truest forms, #20YearsOfStripped more to come 🖤.”
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