Ciara released her new music video on Monday night, for the sad but sassy breakup ballad, “I Bet,” and minutes after its premiere, a delighted Ciara told us that she’s “stepping into womanhood.” A pause. “Super-womanhood.”
Indeed the singer plays a badass ballerina in the video, stripped down maybe but with her superpowers very much on display. In place of capes and swords, Ciara wears ethereal looks in muted tones with pink pointe shoes. “I wanted to show the softer side of me in this visual,” she says. “I never do anything too soft, and I felt like with this song, the more stripped down, the better. It’s a side of me that I’ve never really shown in videos.” And she’s not just talking about the wardrobe, she wanted the video to be about the song, which is why the singer skipped traditional storytelling in favor of something more conceptual. “I wanted to simplify everything for it to really be about the song.”
Of course, making a video is a team effort. Ciara worked with her makeup artist of twelve years, Yolanda Frederick, to hone in on the perfect look. Frederick says, “Our goal was for Ciara to be as close to herself as possible. She wanted to be transparent and raw, and expose herself to her fans and the world.” With barely there contouring and plenty of illuminator, Ciara’s bronzed skin gives off a reflective glow on screen. “Everything was pretty monochromatic: the lips were neutral with a hint of peachy pink color to keep it young and fresh; we didn’t go very big on the lashes, but we did do lots of mascara to frame her eyes, and we didn’t use any liner,” Frederick added, noting that the more the person in the video looked like the real Ciara, the more vulnerable she would be.
Ciara’s longtime hair stylist Cesar Ramirez followed suit, with long flowing locks pulled back into a low-slung ponytail, or tossed over her shoulders. Ramirez says, “I love this going-against-the-grain look from what everyone else is doing,” talking about the rainbow of hair colors most popstars are rocking these days. “It’s either blonde or dark for me,” Ciara confirms. “I feel like blonde and black are rock ‘n roll, and I’m into really long, nineties hair at the moment. I’ve always had a little edge with my hair, but I think the length kind of pulls out the girlie girl inside of me. It’s soft and sassy.”
And those pink point shoes, sexy leotards, and not-too-sweet tutus are courtesy of legendary styling duo Rob Zangardi and Mariel Haenn. “Our biggest priority is finding something that feels natural and also stands the test of time,” says Haenn. “No matter what we’re doing, we try to establish iconic looks that aren’t so dateable. We don’t want to do something that in six months or in two years, people will be like ‘Oh, that’s so 2015.’” Mission accomplished, thanks to the all-white Lanvin bodysuit Ciara wears with legwarmers and a killer trench from Barneys. There’s a majestic pink Monique Lhuillier skirt, a black SCK by Sofia Kapiris body suit, and a massive Tadashi Soji pleated skirt.
Givenchy, Anthony Vaccarello, Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Stella McCartney, and Topshop are just a few of the designer’s Ciara names when asked her favorites. “I like to stretch and play with my style depending on the vibe or the event. I’m not really limited to one particular designer or brand.” Haenn adds, “I feel like she’s found herself and her comfort zone within the fashion industry.”
Ciara brings up this idea, of finding herself, often during our conversation. It’s something she thinks she’s done on her forthcoming album, Jackie. “It’s been eleven, twelve years since my first album, which is so hard to believe. You get to feel that growth on this album, and I’m really proud of it,” says the 29-year-old. “I’m in a very happy place in my life, and I think it’s important for people to feel where I am right now. I want people to dance to the sound, to the inspiration of life, love, happiness. This has become my favorite album to date, because I’ve done everything I could hope for as an artist. It’s a whole new me in a sense.”
Part of the whole new Ciara, a big part, is motherhood. The artist gave birth less than one year ago, which would make anyone question her decision to wear a skintight white bodysuit on screen. But she’s used to working hard for her music. She says she trained for two to three times a day at one point. “I became a machine, like, ‘I’ve got to wake up, breastfeed my baby, get on the treadmill, go see my trainer, come home, breastfeed, get on the treadmill again!’” She’d never carried weight like the 60 pounds she put on, and says she had “to go really aggressive with training to kind of get back to my pre-mommy stage. I would have moments where I would go super strict: a lot of good fibers, good protein, selective carbs that are healthy for you. And tons of water! You can literally lose four pounds in two days from drinking tons of water.” Lest you forget she’s human—because watching the video for “I Bet,” you just might—she admits to one vice: “I would have moments when I’d go for cheeseburgers and fries.”
Like many new moms, the superstar says motherhood’s given her newfound confidence. “You don’t over-think so much, you don’t really sweat the small stuff, you just kind of roll with it. I’m in superwoman-hood right now.” The best part, however, might be how sexy she feels, and the way in which that particular word’s been redefined. “You don’t have to be too revealing all the time to be sexy, there’s a strength within saying, ‘I have a baby and I’m out here working my butt off.’ Sexy women keep it moving.” Sometimes in pointe shoes.