Aguilera: [It’s] my favorite video that I've ever done, to be honest -- on a personal, fun note, because it's just so freeing, and it was the first one on an album that was about just finding my own independence from feeling told what to do by a label. It was at a time where it was very about a squeaky-clean, pop-based image of what would sell as a package… But I was coming into my own. I had already done “Genie in a Bottle,” “Lady Marmalade,” and it was about coming of age, turning 21, and being free and making an album called Stripped — which had such a sexual connotation at the time, but it really didn't. It was more about shedding a skin that I felt was not real to the person that I was growing into.
I had a lot of thoughts and emotions that I felt were not yet expressed and hadn't been heard yet from a female perspective in my genre. I wanted to show all the sides on my record. It was very controversial at the time, and there were a lot of more straight-laced people who were more opposed to me coming out like that, after they had come to know me for something else in a different image. But I needed to be myself and express myself, and sexuality has always been something that I am comfortable with expressing. The female body is something that I think is beautiful, and it is all about how you own it, really, and not exploit it for a man's pleasure. If you are owning your own body and your own confidence, then it becomes something empowering.
To me, “Dirrty” was all about being empowered and owning my sexuality for the first time, and not feeling that bearing my midriff was something for the label's packaging or for commercialism. It was something that I was doing for myself, and being a little brash and having fun with it. I mean, calling a song "Dirrty" -- it doesn't have to be perfect, it doesn't have to be clean, perfect hair and pretty nails. It is going to be a little tousled, it's going to be a big clusterfuck of characters and a mish-mosh of different personalities.
We had plushies, we had boxing, we had dirt bikes and Redman and muscle-heads. God, we had so many amazing people in that video, and it was such an amazing moment of feeling empowered and loving this crazy cast of characters around me, and David LaChapelle and his energy. I remember specifically doing that shower scene was so much fun for me -- just being in the water, kicking it with my boots on, splashing around, getting down on my knees and hitting it with my knee pads, just feeling the water. It was so freeing. I will never forget that moment: just being able to be a young girl, and in charge of my own world at that point.
It was a time too where, [being] 21, you are exploring the club scene, going out more, seeing what's out there. You have that rebellious side you are exploring. The funny thing is that I was definitely the late-bloomer. In many senses of the word, it took me a while to gain experience. I was definitely not a bad girl, and I was not that rebellious. I always had this focus and this dream and this dedication to what I wanted to accomplish in my life.
So “Dirrty” was not even a reflection of this bad-girl image -- it was just me freeing myself and having fun. And, if you really want to look at it in the best possible way, I wasn't even doing it with drugs, or in this behind-closed-doors way. I was expressing it on camera, being free, being creative, exploring the creative energies around me with my choreographer at the time Jeri Slaughter -- who did an amazing job with this I thought. I mean, this video really showcased the original white girl twerking, to be honest! It was definitely that, when I got down low, "show you a little something, on the floor…" That was the moment that I let it be known, I had that little something going on where I knew what was up.
It was very hard to go through [the backlash to the video]. There was a lot of, I thought, gender discrimination with this. Because here you have boy bands pelvic-thrusting to death on stage, and all these girls screaming, and no one really says anything about it. It's just “boys will be boys,” and once again, we are labeling girls who were trying to own their sexuality and not just use it as a man’s pleasure. There was a lot of shaming that was going on when I was doing that video. As fun as it was, and I was surrounded by a team that was very supportive that I was just going to be me.