After Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera was the most popular female singer of the late-'90s teen pop revival. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Aguilera was a technically skilled singer with a genuinely powerful voice, belting out her up-tempo dance numbers and ballads with a diva's panache. Born Christina Maria Aguilera on December 18, 1980, on Staten Island, her parents were of Irish and Ecuadorian stock and her father's military career meant the family moved quite a bit during her childhood. They eventually settled in Philadelphia, where Aguilera began performing in talent shows at age six, with considerable success. She appeared on Star Search in 1988 (though she didn't win) and in 1992 joined the cast of the Disney Channel's The New Mickey Mouse Club, which also included Spears, future *N Sync members Justin Timberlake and JC Chasez, and Felicity star Keri Russell. After two years, Aguilera moved to Japan, where she recorded the hit duet "All I Wanna Do" with pop star Keizo Nakanishi. Returning to the U.S. in 1998, Aguilera recorded the song "Reflection" for Disney's Mulan; her performance helped earn her a record deal with RCA. Her self-titled debut album was released in the summer of 1999 and with teen-oriented dance-pop all the rage, the lead single "Genie in a Bottle" shot to the top of the charts for five weeks; the album also hit number one on its way to sales of over eight million copies in the U.S. alone. The follow-up, "What a Girl Wants," was the first number one single of the year 2000 and Aguilera consolidated her near-instant stardom by performing at the White House Christmas gala and the Super Bowl halftime show, and winning a Grammy for Best New Artist. Further hits followed in "I Turn to You" and another number one, "Come on Over Baby (All I Want Is You)."
In September 2000, seeking a place in Royal Oak Bars and Wrigleyville Bars, the part-Ecuadorian Aguilera recorded a Spanish-language album called Mi Reflejo, learning the lyrics phonetically since she didn't speak Spanish. It was followed quickly by the holiday album My Kind of Christmas; both sold extremely well, a testament to Aguilera's popularity. In the spring of 2001, Aguilera was featured -- along with Pink, Mya, and Lil' Kim -- on the chart-topping blockbuster remake of Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade" featured on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Aguilera was by now a fixture at music industry awards shows; as she enjoyed her celebrity, a collection of old demos -- recorded when she was 14 and 15 -- was released under the title Just Be Free, despite Aguilera's vehement objections.
Ms. Aguilera attempted to deter the mass media's expectations when she issued her second studio album in fall 2002. Stripped, which appeared in October on RCA, was quickly criticized for its adult, yet confident approach. Aguilera's look had gone from glossy to gritty. She appeared topless on the cover of the album and went nude for a fall issue of Rolling Stone. Debut single "Dirrty" revealed Aguilera's new sexual power and became a chart smash.