Christina Aguilera Reflects on Her Bond with the LGBTQ+ Community: 'We've All Had to Fight to Be Heard'

In this week's issue of PEOPLE, Christina Aguilera opens up about what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community

CHRISTINA AGUILERA photograghed by Gizelle Hernandez in Los Angeles on May 17th.
Christina Aguilera. Photo: Gizelle Hernandez

"You are beautiful, no matter what they say."

With those words, the lyrics of her anthemic hit "Beautiful," Christina Aguilera first became a voice for the LGBTQ+ community 20 years ago. She further cemented her status as an ally with the music video for the song, which featured a gay couple and a transgender woman, a move that was seen as strikingly progressive in 2002.

"Her video for 'Beautiful' was an amazing statement," singer and former Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.

Since then, Aguilera, 41, hasn't stopped showing up for the community. Over the years, she's raised awareness about HIV and AIDS, and, in 2016, she donated proceeds from her song "Change" to the families of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Next, she'll headline Los Angeles Pride in the Park on June 11.

"I love that Christina has never shied away from being there for our community," says singer VINCINT. "She has been a part of multiple campaigns for AIDS research and the imagery in her music videos have promoted LGBTQ+ love. Since the beginning of her career, she has lived proudly as an ally through her art."

Adds singer Fletcher: "Christina Aguilera is one of the greatest voices of our time. Just as powerful is how she's loudly used that voice to uplift the LGBTQ+ community throughout her career."

Below, Aguilera tells her story of allyship to PEOPLE.

I'm all about people standing up for what they believe in, which is why I think the LGBTQ+ community feels connected to me. We've all come from struggle; We've all had to fight to be heard.

When I came onto the scene with songs like "Genie in a Bottle" and "What a Girl Wants" in 1999, I had a hard time feeling like I had to look and act a certain way to fit into the pop star mold. But I did not want to be this safe, conventionally pretty, precious thing. So, for my 2002 album Stripped, I decided, "I'm just going to be myself." It was the first album where I told stories that I really believed in — stories about my own personal struggles and the domestic abuse I witnessed in my family growing up.

For more on PEOPLE's 2022 Pride Issue, listen below to our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day.

I was also proud to put a spotlight on the LGBTQ+ community with my "Beautiful" music video, which features a gay couple, as well as a trans woman. I wasn't thinking too much about it beyond wanting to show people owning who they are. It was somehow taboo at the time, but it represented something so true. I still hear stories about how that video has helped people, and it means everything to me.

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Being an LGBTQ+ ally is not something that's short-lived. It's in my DNA. Over the years, I've raised awareness about HIV and AIDS and helped families of victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

I also want to mention that my friends in the LGBTQ+ community have helped me in ways that I will never forget. They've allowed me the freedom to be myself and share my deepest, darkest secrets with them. I left the house very young to pursue a label deal, and my mom was busy raising my younger brother, so it was a lot of navigating on my own. On the road, my glam squad became my support system and family.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA photograghed by Gizelle Hernandez in Los Angeles on May 17th.
Christina Aguilera. Gizelle Hernandez

The accolades and awards and all those things are nice, but what truly has mattered to me the most all these years is the connection I've made with people.

I'm going to be headlining L.A. Pride on June 11, and there's nothing like performing for my LGBTQ+ fans. I feel safe with them to express myself however I want, whether it be through a huge ballad or something super sensual because they appreciate it all. I get to be as colorful and loud as I want to be. They're my people.

For all the details on PEOPLE's Pride Portfolio, pick up the latest issue, on newsstands everywhere Friday.

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