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Former Child Star Says She Was "Shamed" Whenever She Wasn't Working

Christina Aguilera felt guilty being a kid and was "pitted against" other children.

If it seems like Christina Aguilera has been in the entertainment business for almost her entire life, that's because she has. While a major breakthrough for the singer came with the release of her debut album, Christina Aguilera, in 1999 when she was 18, she had already been working as a child star for years before that. The performer has said that when she was a young entertainer, she was "shamed" by adults whenever she wasn't working and also that she felt pitted against the other children around her. Read on to find out more about her early career and what she had to say about child stardom.

READ THIS NEXT: Former Child Star Reveals Why She Quit Acting Right After Hit Show.

Aguilera was a member of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Christina Aguilera on "The Mickey Mouse Club"
Buena Vista Television

Aguilera started performing when she was a child, and when she was nine years old, she made it to national television when she competed on Star Search. Despite having a powerful voice at such a young age, she was eliminated during the semi-finals.

Not too long after, Aguilera was cast on The Mickey Mouse Club, where she performed alongside other young stars, including Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, and Ryan Gosling. In 1998, she sang the song "Reflection" for the Mulan soundtrack. By the time her debut album was released was following year, Aguilera was 18, but had already been working professionally for several years.

She was conditioned to feel guilty whenever she wasn't working.

Christina Aguilera at the 1999 Teen Choice Awards
Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock

In an April 2021 interview with Health, Aguilera explained that she found it difficult to just enjoy being a kid, because of all the expectations that were put on her.

"I've been working since I was seven years old," she said. "When I'm not working, there's a heavy amount of guilt that I feel. It's been embedded in me since I was little—you're shamed if you don't want to keep up. As a child [entertainer], you're all pitted against one another, and other children are all about that grind too. It's a weird space to grow up in."

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She was also escaping some difficult family issues.

Christina Aguilera at the 2001 MTV Movie Awards
Everett Collection / Shutterstock

Aguilera has said that her father was abusive toward her mother, which also colored her worldview when it came to working. (As reported by Us Weekly, in 2002, her father said of Aguilera and her sister, "I never abused them in any way and they know that. I'm sorry to have ever raised a hand to my wife, but it was never brutal like Ike and Tina Turner.")

"The fact that my mom was pushed around by my father… I decided early on that I'm not going to be that woman," the "Beautiful" singer told Women's Health in 2016. "I'm not going to allow myself to be in a situation where I have to rely on this man or that person for financial means. So I strived to be that workhorse. I felt like, 'Okay, I can't be weak; I can't say no. I always have to be strong. I'm going to get the work done.'"

But, when she welcomed her children and had to go on maternity leave, she had to adjust this mindset and learn to relax. "It's taking care of myself so I can take care of everybody else," she explained.

She has regrets about her early career.

Christina Aguilera at the 2022 Billboard Women in Music event in March 2022
Tinseltown / Shutterstock

In her Health interview, Aguilera explained that the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to slow down. This, again, helped her realize that always being constantly busy isn't actually a good thing.

"I have this massive trunk of old diaries that I've literally kept from the past 20 years of my life. I was able to catch up on them and do some self-reflecting," she said of the time. "It really forced me to be silent and take a look at myself. In some regard, I wasn't happy with a lot of things, and it's scary to face those feelings that, under normal circumstances, you don't have time to face because everyone is going, going, going. That grind is praised, but I think we're all understanding that having moments to self-reflect and just breathe are crucial."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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