“You Are Beautiful and Loved”: An Interview with Country Artist Ciara Rae

Ciara Rae - NEDA

Ciara Rae, an up and coming country artist based out of Nashville, expresses her strengths and self-love through her powerful lyrics. Having struggled with an eating disorder, she hopes to help others in the process of healing with music. At a young age, she began her music training with just piano and voice, but has now extended her talents to songwriting and guitar playing. Her talents range from jazz, pop, blues, country, and classical.

We chatted with Ciara about her music, eating disorder recovery, and the advice she has for young women. Check out our interview below!

National Eating Disorders Association: How do you hope your songs will help those who are in the process of healing?

Ciara Rae: To me, Ed (eating disorder) had the most control over me when “he” made me believe no one else understood my insecurities or how I felt. He had power when I thought that no one else was as “special” as I was to have “discovered” or “met” him. During treatment, I learned very quickly how not-so-unique I was. Hearing other girls speaking aloud the same words that ran through my mind daily slowly took away Ed’s power.

While gaining my personal strength back, I came to learn that I will always be in recovery. There will always be good days, bad days, and temptations to be symptomatic. I think being vocal about what I’ve gone through will not only continue to give me confidence and strength to fight Ed every day. But also (and most importantly), my experiences will hopefully allow other people suffering from eating disorders and depression come to terms with their own secrets and struggles they may be hiding from their loved ones.

NEDA: Can you tell us more about the people who inspired you professionally and in your own recovery?

CR: The girls I met in recovery inspired me the most. In hearing each other’s honesty we learned so much about each other and ourselves. This also sounds super corny, but the main person I’m most inspired by in my recovery is myself. Me on my good days inspires me to keep going on my hardest days.

Professionally, I’m inspired by women who weren’t and aren’t afraid to do things differently. Women who really work their butts off to prove they deserved a spot in a male-dominated industry. Those women inspire me musically and also inspire me to speak out about a disorder that faces a lot of social misunderstanding and discrimination.

NEDA: A few of your songs show a more vulnerable side to you, especially in regards to relationships. Did any past relationships affect how you saw yourself and what advice can you give to someone else who may be dealing with the same thing?

CR: I spent many years thinking I had to be perfect if I wanted someone to love me. Ed brought me more pain than anyone else has in my entire life, but the most important thing I’ve learned from him is this: loving yourself and not settling for anything less than what you want is one of the most empowering forms of love you will ever experience in your life.

NEDA: Fame and being in the spotlight can oftentimes affect someone’s self-esteem. As you make your mark on the Nashville music scene, how do you plan on remaining positive and loving yourself?

CR: It takes work – a lot of work. I spent quite few years questioning if this career was really the right way to go for someone in recovery from anorexia, but I knew deep down in my heart if I let Ed stop me from following my dream of become a successful recording singer/songwriter, then he won the war. I couldn’t have that. I decided that it didn’t matter how much self-talk, self-encouragement, or therapy sessions I needed – I was going to always push through and keep chasing my dream.

NEDA: In your song “When You Come Around,” the lyrics “I wake up every morning trying to be, something flawless, something everyone wants to be” seem to be something that have a personal impact on you and your story. How has your healing process helped change the way you feel about the word ‘flawless’ and how you view today’s standards of perfection?

CR: Growing into my twenties has been the most difficult and most eye opening experience. I’ve learned that love comes in so many different shapes and forms. More importantly, I’ve come to see that the people who learn to love themselves, “flaws” and all, turn out to be the most beautiful people. Not only to me, but the rest of the world, too. 

NEDA: What would you want other young women and men who are trying to make it big but are also struggling with body image or eating disorders to know?

CR: No matter how low you feel, no matter how far away from love or connection Ed has you convinced you are, you are beautiful and you are loved (and I’m always thinking of you, too). More importantly, you cannot find or feel true love until you learn to love yourself.

NEDA: In addition to creating music and volunteering your time, what do you do to maintain self-love and positivity?

CR: I’m not always successful at this, but I make time for myself! A night in to just relax, watch a movie, and take care of yourself goes a long way in your peace of mind. Sometimes you need to tell your friends you can’t make it to the bar and have your own night to yourself, for yourself. Personally, a night of Law & Order and organizing my planner for future projects makes me so happy. I know…total nerd! Also not exactly relaxing, but I don’t care. It works for me.

NEDA: We love your song “Slow Burn”! It is very inspiring and reassures women that they should be treated how they deserve to be treated and that they are more than a game. Through observation or personal experience, how would you encourage women to stick up for themselves and be able to remember that they are worthy?

CR: Thank you so much! That song and what you say mean a lot to me. I believe no matter what, every choice a woman makes in love needs to be for her and for no one else. Someone who truly loves you or has real feelings for you will not want you to do something you don’t. That goes for men, too! I can only speak from my point of view. As far as knowing your worth, I believe that comes with time, experience, and mistakes. But one nug of wisdom I would throw out there is: respect works in a similar way that love does. People will respect you more if you respect yourself. If you don’t respect yourself, then who’s going to make them respect you?

Lastly I would just like to add: I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes the advice I’m giving I have a hard time taking myself. I have days where I’m doing great and days where I’m royally screwing up. But one thing we all need to always do is never give up!