Kelly Clarkson: ‘Not a Feminist’

The singer-songwriter talks about Christmas, working with famous in-laws and why she's not a feminist

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Don’t call the singer of “Miss Independent” a feminist. In an interview with TIME, Kelly Clarkson says she doesn’t consider herself one.

“I wouldn’t say [I’m a] feminist, that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist it’s just like, ‘Get out of my way I don’t need anyone,’” she says. “I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s an actual leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19, when I first auditioned for Idol.”

Then again, the former American Idol winner is not afraid of contradictions. After all, she was a Ron Paul supporter but voted for Obama twice. She’s a pop singer, but feels more at home with country-music folks because she thinks they’re nicer. She calls her music “ballsy.” And although she’s just 30 — and it’s only just November — she’s already releasing a Christmas album. “[This] is my favorite album,” she says, “which is hilarious, cause it’s Christmas songs, but it is.”

Clarkson, who recently married, also showed off the copy of Jane Austen’s ring that her now husband Brandon Blackstock had made for her and talked about working with her new stepmother-in-law Reba McEntire.

You’ve just released a Christmas album, Wrapped in Red. Isn’t that something artists do in the twilight of their careers?
Yeah, greatest-hits albums too. But a Christmas album is fun because you don’t get labeled anything. So there’s rock ’n’ roll on there, there’s R&B, there’s country, there’s pop stuff. I have a hard time being cheesy, but you can be cheesy with Christmas music, so I felt I could be vulnerable. It’s my favorite album.

That you’ve ever made?
That I’ve ever made. Which is hilarious, ’cause it’s Christmas songs.

In the 10 years since you broke out, female singers have dominated the charts, but they’ve also become more provocative. How have you resisted that?
There’ve always been women in the industry who have pushed the envelope — Cher, Madonna, Annie Lennox. I don’t think anything different is going on. People say, “Oh, you never go for the whole sex-appeal thing.” Well, I don’t ever not go for it, either. I just go for who I am. People in the industry have tried douche moves with me, but of course they’re going to, because they make money when girls do that.

Do you have any advice for Miley Cyrus?
I honestly don’t, because we’re nothing alike — I wasn’t a child star. I have no idea what her life was like or what she goes through.

Who do you go to for advice?
I’ve always been kind of the gypsy girl, even from when I was a kid. I was really bad at time management and knowing my limits, touringwise or workwise. Reba really helped me. It is funny, I do relate way more to country stars. Sometimes I’m at a pop event, and I love all the artists there, but — I don’t know if my personality’s just different; I’m superopen, and I’ll talk to anyone — but sometimes I feel everybody is too cool for school.

Are you saying people in country are nicer than people in pop?
I am absolutely 100% saying that … And I love pop music and the people in pop music.

Let me get this straight: Reba is your stepmother-in-law. And she’s married to your manager. And you sang with her on this album?
It doesn’t really weird me out that she’s my mother-in-law, ’cause we’ve been friends for years. Although I guess that’s weird. She has seen me at my worst, my best, my awkward moments; she knows I say everything that’s in my head. She’s really been helpful in my career. It is very incestuous, though.

You’re a stepmom. How are you preparing for that?
I’m part of a family that’s been divorced, married, divorced, married, so it’s fitting for me to have stepkids. Brandon [Blackstock] and I have already been living together, and we already do the soccer games and the homework and the equestrian events and the recitals. I love it so much, I want a baby. I’ve never wanted a baby in my life.

Do you consider yourself a feminist?
No, I wouldn’t say feminist — that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist, it’s like, “Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone.” I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s a leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19, when I first auditioned for Idol.

How do you normally vote?
I voted Republican at first. And then I voted for Barack the last two times. I feel like the parties have switched on what they set out to do. I’m probably more of a libertarian. I was for Ron Paul. I just love the guy that says it like it is and isn’t trying to skirt around things and make them look pretty so he can get voted for. I’ve never been the polished type.