June 26, 2014 01:00 PM

Courtesy Teen Vogue

Since leaving rehab (where she was being treated for an eating disorder), Kesha has made some major changes: She’s “eliminated negative influences” from her life, found love with a new guy, dropped the dollar sign from her name and stepped out looking more polished than ever. And in the new issue of Teen Vogue, she’s getting candid about what inspired her to make those changes.

“I remember thinking, I don’t want to be pretty. Don’t call me pretty,” Kesha says of her old, tough-as-nails, over-the-top pop persona. “If somebody called me that, it was almost offensive — I would put on more eyeliner or draw things down my face. There was a defining moment about six months ago — I think it was a breakup — where I decided that maybe I do want to try to be pretty. I want to just try.”

For her, that means taking her image back after letting it get out of her control. “My whole message is to love who you are and accept all your beautiful imperfections. When I felt I was slipping into unloving territory with myself, I knew I had to listen to my own advice and correct it,” Kesha says. “I have a public persona where I need to be fun all the time, and I refuse to be a hypocrite. I felt I needed to get help, not only for myself but also for my fans. My worst fear in life is to be fake.”

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Courtesy Teen Vogue

She checked herself into rehab in January, but wants to be clear that it was for exactly the reason she said. My eating disorder is something I’ve been struggling with for a while. People will make up stories, but I went to rehab for an eating disorder — nothing more and nothing less,” she says. “I was fighting like hell to keep my whole irreverent essence and everything raw and visceral that I stand for in [my last album], but in the end I was promoting something that wasn’t the animal I wanted it to be. I decided to face my problem head-on.”

And in the end, she said it was the best — and most frightening — decision of her life to ask for help. “To have a breakthrough you have to have a breakdown, and I definitely went through both of those. In hindsight, it saved my life,” she admits. The decision to take control of [my problem] is the scariest thing I’ve ever done, and this is coming from someone who dives with sharks and jumps out of airplanes for fun.”

What do you think of the more low-key Kesha? Are you excited to hear her new album?

–Alex Apatoff

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