Two years ago, Christina Aguilera was just another teenager. Since then, the Pittsburgh native's self-titled debut CD and singles like Genie in a Bottle and What a Girl Wants have elevated her to one of the princesses of teen pop. Last year Aguilera released Mi Reflejo, a Spanish-language CD. In her new Beverly Hills, Calif., home, Aguilera, 20, relaxes with her puppy Stinky and talks to TIME about her next album and her new life as an adult star.
Q. What's going on with your new CD? We hear you're writing for the first time.
A. I'm getting credited for my writing. I actually had some contribution in writing in the first album. But I was so new and green, I was like, "Oh, I'm just having fun in the studio." I didn't know I should have a credit, so I kind of got cheated.
Q. Like which songs?
A. Actually, a little part of Genie. I wrote the hook part. This [new] record is extremely personal. It's so personal that I feel like people from my past will say, "Oh, my God, she's singing this to me." I have a lot of things to say and a lot of things to let out of me. I feel like I was very confined in that first record. A lot of people at the record label wanted that record to be very pop driven. I want to be a poet and have a chance to explore that and let people know what's really on my mind. I don't want to talk about genies in bottles anymore.
Q. Do you think that Teen Pop is dead?
A. For me, in my heart, I have to move away from it. Even if the label said I had to make another record like that, I don't think I could. Getting older, you just don't want to sing fluffy. You just have more things to say about real life and real people and the bitterness that you get from people.
Q. You're half-Ecuadorian and half-Irish. Did you ever feel like an outsider?
A. I think because I went to a pretty white school, that I really don't look Latin, I don't have dark eyes, I never had dark hair, so I don't think a lot of people put two and two together. But I was always proud of my Latino roots and proud of my Irish roots. I never felt like, "Oh, I should be white, or all Latin." I am what I am.
Q. Was there ever any pressure to change your last name?
A. Yes. As soon as I came to the point where we were going to release my album, the label was like, you know, this name, it's too difficult to pronounce. They wanted it to be more American sounding. I said no because this is my name. It's my identity.
Q. Do you see yourself as a diva?
A. Oh, God, no. I'm the most down-to-earth person. I was just reading these things in the paper, and it's like, I don't understand where these people come up with these things. Like, I heard I was in this hotel in Europe, and I threw a temper tantrum because I didn't get a big enough room, and my quote was, "I sold so many more records than any of these other artists in this building." I would slap myself in the face if I said anything like that.
Q. So let's talk about your boyfriend, Jorge Santos. How did you meet?
A. He was one of the first dancers I hired. We were just together for a while on the road, and eventually we were in Europe when things just kind of erupted between us. It was scary because we come from two different places, as far as, like, he's a dancer and I'm a star--as bluntly as I can put it. It can be hard for a guy's ego.