05/22/2007 at 05:00 PM EDT
She's young, talented and famous, but Ciara says that doesn't necessarily mean that dating is easy.
"It's definitely tough at times," the "Like a Boy" singer, 21, tells PEOPLE. "I'm now past my year mark of being single, and I've got to say I'm a big fan of love. Being in a relationship is one of the most beautiful things, and I'm looking forward to being in a relationship."
At the same time, Ciara – who dated rapper Bow Wow for a year before they split in April 2006 – says she's in no rush to get back into something serious.
"I'm also at a place where I want to be patient and do it right," she says. "I'm one of those girls that when I date, I date to marry, so I like to take my time and really get to know a person. I do meet people and run across people, but it's all about building a friendship."
So what does she want in a potential mate? "I look for someone who is down to earth, has a great personality and is respectful – someone who just loves to have fun and has goals," she says.
Ciara is set to accomplish a goal of her own when she directs her first music video: She's participating in Glamour
magazine's Reel Music Project, which supports emerging female recording artists. Fans can log on to Glamalert.com
and listen to music by singers Tiffany Evans, Paula Campbell and Samantha Jade and then vote on their favorite. Ciara will direct the debut video of the singer with the most votes.
"This is my chance to direct my first video, and it's such a cool opportunity," Ciara says of the project. "It's all about embracing the women in this industry."
She also sees it as a chance to be a mentor and set an example for young girls. "Your voice is so powerful as an artist and as an entertainer. It's important to use that," she says. "I love to share the wisdom that I gain as I grow, and I also love to learn myself. I just feel like it's a role of responsibility to be the one out of a million that is put in this position."
Ciara also will be making her film debut in "Mama, I Want to Sing!," based on the off-Broadway musical. It starts filming next month.