LeAnn Rimes looks back at her bartop boogie in the 2000 movie, Coyote uglywhich she says “became a sort of introduction to my sexuality, something I could own myself.”
Talking to the GuardianRimes, now 40, reflected on the impact of the film and accompanying music video for her Diane Warren-penned hit “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” on her career and image. The country singer was just 17 when she played herself in the movie, which features female bartenders known for dancing on the bar to the delight of patrons. Towards the end of the film, aspiring songwriter and booze-slinger Violet (played by Piper Perabo) has managed to get one of her songs – the aforementioned “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” – recorded by Rimes, who joins her for a raucous bartop duet. (In reality, Rimes recorded vocals for Perabo, so she essentially dueted with herself for the film’s closing scene.)
“The movie was already wrapped, but the director decided they wanted to add my song to a scene at the end, so being on set was like a big reunion for the cast and crew,” Rimes said of her cameo. “Everyone was in a good mood, it was super sweet and supportive, but the outfit and the performance was a big change for me. I wasn’t comfortable with my own sexuality yet, so I had to pretend a lot playing the part of a woman of confidence.”
Just 13 when she exploded onto the country scene with her powerful cover of “Blue” — the youngest Grammy winner at the time — Rimes said her teenage years were a far cry from the happy-go-lucky image portrayed on screen. “I missed a lot of things,” she noted.
“Up to this point in my career I was constantly on the road, working the press and working in the studio,” she told the newspaper. “I had teenage anxiety, I was hormonal, and I’d done 500 shows in three and a half years, so I was tired. I hadn’t been to a lot of bars before, let alone danced to them.”
The film, clips of which appeared in the “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” music video, marked a turning point.
“The movie had multiple layers, but was about women selling sex, when for most of my career my identity had been the complete opposite — it was about everyone around me perpetuating me as this sane kid,” said the singer. “Coyote ugly was my step out of that innocence. On the day of the shoot, the costume department gave me these chicken breasts to wear and I said, ‘What am I supposed to do with these?’ They had to explain, “You’re supposed to put them in your shirt, they make your breasts bigger.” It was a bit of a shock at first, but it became an introduction to a different side of myself that I wanted to explore.”
The success of “Can’t Fight the Moonlight” – along with hits like “I Need You” and “How Do I Live”, both of which were also featured on movie soundtracks – helped Rimes realize: “I had to find my own way in the world.” Though she and her father have since reconnected, the singer was forced to distance herself from him in 2000 over allegations that he took more than $7 million from her earnings as her co-manager. She says that “navigating that situation as a teenager was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life.”
“It used to be difficult for me to look back at pictures without cringing at my hair and wardrobe — I came into my own in the media spotlight, which is very uncomfortable in many ways,” added Rimes, who is now married to actor Eddie Cibrian “But now I see someone who was a survivor and a real fighter. Not only did I transform into a woman aesthetically, but this moment marked a pivotal point in affirming my need for professional autonomy.”
Rimes also talked about her mental health, sharing that she “fights her anxiety on a daily basis.” But she credits a trip to rehab at age 30, to treat codependency and anxiety, with helping her learn “how to bring joy and play back to my days.”
“A big part of my life is planned — tours booked in advance, very little free time,” she explains. “But now I know how important it is to have the space to wake up and think, ‘What do I want to do today? What makes me happy?’ I like to jump on my bike and go for a ride I like to make candles and light the fire in the house Any kind of creativity is important and connects me to who I was as a child.
“Being 40 and being in a place of boom is something not many child stars can say they’ve achieved,” added Rimes. “And as for dancing — if I get the chance, I’ll be on a bar without a doubt.”