On an April afternoon in a chilly L.A. photo studio, the Grammy-winning pop star Ciara steps out of her dressing room in an architectural crop top. She is eight months pregnant—and ready to have her picture taken. “People are going to be like, ‘What are you doing?’” she says, gesturing at what her fiancé, the rapper Future, has taken to calling the “growing basketball” in their lives. “It feels good to not have to wonder whether your abs are tight enough,” she says. “I like not being so perfect.”
This seems debatable. The 28-year-old singer’s belly is the only part of her to have noticeably swelled. Her hips, with a gray Margiela sweater wrapped modestly around them, remain slim. Even sans glamazon hair, body makeup, and professional styling (after the shoot, she changes into an off-duty ensemble featuring baggy ripped jeans courtesy of her fiancé’s closet), she still looks the part of a superstar.
Despite the fact that she has always been more private than her contemporaries—think of Rihanna’s pot-fueled Instagram antics or Beyonce’s self-directed HBO documentary about her own pregnancy—Ciara has been very public about her pregnancy. She made the announcement with Barbara Walters on “The View”; celebrated at a blue-and-white themed baby shower at which both Kim Kardashian and the paparazzi were in attendance; and has posted countless Instagram shots that have generated “like” counts in the six figures. “My mom and I don’t have a lot of photos of my early years,” she explains. “So I decided we should document everything. This is one of those moments you can’t repeat.”
Still, in a world where nude baby bumps regularly appear on tabloid covers, Ciara’s pregnant press tour has been comparatively understated. She says a close friend is designing her baby bag, for example, but refuses to drop a name. (An educated guess would be Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, who claims her as a muse, or Pucci’s Peter Dundas, who dressed her for the 2014 Grammy awards.)
Her 30-year-old fiancé is more demonstrative. Future, née Nayvadius D. Wilburn (Ciara has an “N” tattooed on her left ring finger, mostly covered by a 15-carat diamond engagement ring), professed his love in the song “I Won,” a collaboration with Kanye West about their respective “trophy wives.” (“Now that ass gettin’ fatter and I know it’s because of me,” Future raps, to which Yeezy responds, “I wanna dip that ass in gold, I wanna dip that ass in gold.”) “Music is a place where we have a very strong connection,” says Ciara, who met her man while guesting on his album. “We created ‘Body Party’, and that song created something else—and that’s why we’re here,” she joked, touching her stomach.
Despite her early success—Ciara’s first album, 2004’s Goodies, which featured collaborations with Missy Elliott, Petey Pablo, and Ludacris, was released shortly after her high school graduation—she doesn’t know if she wants the same for her children. “It’s a really hard world,” she says. But, she’s quick to add, “If that’s what their heart yearns for, then I’m down. I believe in allowing your child to be who they want to be—as long as they want to be something great.”
That piece of parenting wisdom, she says, comes courtesy of Kardashian, with whom she’s traded tips on “everything from breastfeeding to how a stroller works.”
“You don’t know your child until they get here, you don’t know their personality,” Ciara says. “There is a lot of learning to do. I loved that advice.”
As for her own future in music, she has no hesitations. Her upcoming album (due “really soon”) is, she claims, her best yet. “I will go on record saying so,” she says. And following the birth of her son, she plans to get back into shape fast. “As soon as the body says hit the gym, I’m gonna hit the gym. I’ve been having a lot of food fun.” After that, she’ll start planning her wedding. It’s a lot, she admits, but she’s sure she’s ready. “I don’t want to sound too cocky,” Ciara says. “But I consider myself superwoman.”
Theyskens’ Theory dress, $690, theory.com; Eres swimsuit, $550, Barneys New York, New York, 212.826.8900; Ciara’s own Cartier bracelets. Photographs by Carlos Serrao. Styled by Ryan Hastings. Hair by Cesar Ramirez for Mizani; makeup by Yolonda Frederick-Thompson for Make Up For Ever at Goldfinger Creative. Set design by George Segal. Art director: Lina Wahlgren. Digital technician: Damon Loble. Photo Assistants: Ron Loepp, Amy Mauth. Assistants: Sally Peterson, Roger Pittard. Associate photo editor: Sarah Kalagvano. Photo and art assistant: Biel Parklee.