As a child, to feel unsafe and powerless in your very own home can leave a lasting impact on you as you grow up. For Christina Aguilera, it was her own father who made life “hell” for her and her family.
Aguilera has seen violence, been hurt, and grown up with pain at home, all at the hands of her abusive father, Army Sergeant father Fausto. “I witnessed a lot of unpleasant things – a lot of pushing and shoving and fighting and quarrelling,” the singer told the entertainment show E! as quoted by the Daily Mail. “Growing up I did not feel safe. Feeling powerless is the worst feeling in the world.”
In the interview, her mother, Shelly also spoke about her husband and recalled a horrifying incident when Aguilera was 4. Shelly found her little girl with blood streaming down her face. “I scooped her up and said, ‘Oh my God. What’s wrong?’ She told me, ‘Daddy wanted to take a nap and I made too much noise.'”
The day her parents got separated was the day that Aguilera finds the happiest. She told Us Weekly, “I grew up in a household where domestic violence occurred and the greatest gift for me, as a child, was the day my parents got divorced.”
Young Aguilera, at a very young age, would helplessly watch as her father would verbally and physically abuse her mother. As traumatic as the experience was, it’s what made her adamant about never depending on any man for anything. “My dad was very dominant with my mom, and I always knew I was never going to let a man take advantage of me like that,” she told Cosmopolitan. “…I thought feeling inferior, small, or helpless just had to be accepted.”
As she grew up, she told herself that she didn’t want to be pushed around and told what to do like her mother was. Although she grew a thick-skin, she was convinced that she had to force herself to never show any sign of weakness. “The fact that my mom was pushed around by my father…I decided early on that I’m not going to be that woman. 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,” Aguilera told Women’s Health.
“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.'” However, with time she understood that it’s okay to go easy on herself, especially to do things like taking the time out to bond with her own children. She said, “It’s taking care of myself so I can take care of everybody else.”
It may have seemed like her past was behind her, after her mother Shelly ended her 10-year marriage in 1989. But Aguilera said that there was a time when her father begged her for forgiveness. “I let him back into my life briefly but I soon realised that he is not necessary in my life,” she said.
While it’s difficult to imagine that the confident woman, who captures everyone’s attention when she’s up on stage, once had a haunting childhood, the five-time Grammy Award winner said that it was music that comforted her.
“I turned to singing as an outlet,” she said. “The pain at home is where my love for music came from.”
Eventually, she was spoken about in radios across the world and her songs made her a widely successful star soon after releasing her debut album in 1999, according to Billboard. And through the journey, the now 38-year-old found the inner-strength to help herself and others who have been through a difficult childhood like she did. She said, “I could be bitter about my childhood, but if anything, I’m thankful that I have that experience. I know my bigger purpose is to empower, to encourage other people to find their voice.”