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Admit it: Ciara’s contortionist-like dance moves have made us all want to take a yoga class or two or at least spend more time in the gym. The Grammy-winning artist’s kinetic performances and feathery vocals have endeared her to millions of loyalists around the world. Nowadays, the Georgia Peach has blossomed into a  pop muse of sorts as she delivers her junior effort, “Fantasy Ride,” an eclectic fusion of disco, pop and soul. caught up with the svelte songbird to discuss why she’s a leader and not Beyoncé’s follower, why she didn’t ditch her duet with labelmate Chris Brown, and those silly 50 Cent creative-control rumors.

ESSENCE.COM: Ciara, what about your career or life has felt like a fantasy and what has been your harsh reality check?
Just being able to travel and be embraced by fans all over the world is truly surreal. Although I’ve always seen big things for my life, I still say, Wow, this is really happening; I’m on my third album. It’s truly a blessing to get a chance to be performer and do that all over the world and to win a Grammy, a true fantasy. My harshest reality check was realizing that you can’t trust everyone and how careful you need to be in this business by always wearing your business cap.

ESSENCE.COM: Which song do you feel is the anchor for your album?
(laughs.) I can’t choose a song really. “High Price,” is a record that makes such a strong statement with the lyrics and production. This time around I’m doing something different musically where I literally go to another place, a fantasy ride. This album just shares many sides of my growth and I just wanted to switch it up a bit, but my fans will get a little bit of every side of me.

ESSENCE.COM: Sometimes fans don’t welcome change in their favorite artists. Are you concerned that folks will think you’re musically schizophrenic with your exploration of different genres?
: (Laughs.) Well, when you do something different it’s expected some people might feel that way, but again, I truly believe that this a reflection of who I am. I’ve always been very vocal about what I want so it’s a little different but I will still give my fans those elements they’ve always loved about my music.

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ESSENCE.COM: You recently commented on the ridiculous comments that folks said you look like a man. Now that you’ve been voted one of People’s 100 Most Beautiful do you feel validated at all?
I know I don’t look like a man, never did and never will. I don’t feel I need any validation. I don’t like to focus on the negative so I don’t worry about silly stuff like that. The rumors and comments are all for entertainment so I never looked to anyone for validation.

ESSENCE.COM: It’s always best to ignore your detractors. Throughout your artistic evolution you’ve been compared to Aaliyah, Janet and most recently accused of swagger-jacking Beyoncé. How do you feel about people implying that you of lacking originality?
Again, it’s entertaining to make artist comparisons. For instance, when I did the song “Like a Boy,” they accused Beyoncé of following me with her song “If I Were a Boy.” So let me say that I think B is dope, but the comparisons to her are funny to me and I have to laugh. I know where my motivation comes from and that’s from people like Michael Jackson and Prince. The creative world can be so small. Beyoncé and I have different vibes, different sounds. Why would I reference another artist and create the same thing? It would be unfair, like I’m cheating my generation and fans. I am staying true to who I am. It’s funny when people try to tear you down by being negative. It’s really crazy.

ESSENCE.COM: Folks criticized you for not opting to pull the duet you did with labelmate Chris Brown. Have you spoken to him since his legal woes?
: I haven’t spoken to him at all. The song we did together wasn’t a new record and is one of my favorite songs on my album and I just tried to stay focused on the music and not people’s personal’s lives.

ESSENCE.COM: When your album’s release was postponed the blogosphere was abuzz with silly speculations that Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, who was also supposed to drop his album on the same day last year, was behind that decision. Is that true?
: (Laughs.) That’s crazy! He’s a good friend of mine and he seems to do a lot of great things and have a lot of power in that world, but pushing back my album? No, I wanted to take my time and finish perfecting my album. I’ve done this before and it was more about me not rushing and just choosing singles out of pocket. It was my decision to take my time. I hope to one day be an icon and that can’t be rushed. I admire people like Diddy and Oprah, so I plan to get my P-Oprah on and be a legend—one of the best entertainers of all time.

Ciara’s third release, “Fantasy Ride,” is available in stores on Tuesday, May 5.