Ooutside Britney Spears's dressing room at the Saturday Night Live studios in New York City, chaos is building. "Chris Kattan, we need you on the floor!" bralers a voice over the loudspeaker. "Molly Shannon, you too!" It's only a few days before the performance that won the pop beauty even more fans than she had before, prompting critics to deem her performance amusing and self-assured. People rush through the hallways : producers, assistants, delivery guys, cameramen. One very large bodyguard stands in front of Britney's dressing room.
"Hi," she says in a soft Louisiana drawl as she opens the door. "Come on in." She perches calmly on a couch, despite the fact that she's scheduled to host and perform on SNL, a mere three days later. "Rehearsal has been fine," says the 18-year-old, "but for the show, I'm going to be really, really nervous."
Clad in faded jeans, a sleeveless black T-shirt, giant diamond earrings ("a Christmas present" is all she'll reveal), and Skechers, she is taking a coffeee break before she goes onstage to rehearse skits and two songs from Oops! ... I Did It Again, a slicker, more confident second album. With its blend of tuneful pop and heart-tugging ballads, the CD made history for racking up the highest first week sales of any female artist-ever.
With that kind of track record, this album should easily achieve diamond status (which means it will sell 10 million copies or more). Oops! is no accident. "I just think that with experience, you get better at what you do," says Britney. "Since I had been performing so much, when I went into the studio this time I just had more confidence. And I'm more mature, which I can hear in the album. It's a lot rockier and edgier."
Not that the first release languished on record store shelves. ...Baby One More Time sold-hello!-12 million copies. She looks back on that record, which was made two years ago, as a snapshot of an earlier more innocent time. "Some of the songs maybe weren't that great," she says witha shurg. "But they were light hearted, and they were me at that time, you know what I mean? It's like when you look at a photo album from when you were younger, and you say, 'What was I thinking wearing that?'"
There's a knock at the door. "I'm sorry, you're needed for rehearsals," announces Britney's burly bodyguard. She disappears for a few minutes. Now we can check out what's in her dressing room! Woo-hoo! Hmmmm. A bouquet of gorgeous orange roses. IS there a card, "Love, Justin," perhaps? No card. A bowl of munchies-Cracker Jacks, Chee-tos, Twix. An untouched veggie plate. Guess she doesn't like veggies. An empty cup from a McDonald's milk shake (strawberry). A pile of scripts.
Oops, here she comes! "Sorry I'm so cuckoo right now," she says, plopping back onto the couch. Cuckoo is a bit of an understatement. Britney is currently in the middle of a massive tour, which started in mid-June and has her booked up until the end of 2000. Lately, ever move she makes has been under the microscope, starting with her love life. Her recent admission to the press that she and Justin Timberlake of 'N Sync kissed kicked up a frenzy of speculation. She admits that she was a little leery about going on the record about it. "I did feel funny," she says, "But two weeks before that interview, that's when Justin and I kissed or whatever. I think it's silly to lie about things." She sighs. "But it's nothing serious at all. It's something fun. You know?" She rolls her eyes, "I'm young, so it's like, whatever."
In fact, Britney says that she has trouble meeting guys in general. "I'm not the type of person to go up to a guy and ask him out," she says. Her fame is clearly a barrier. "They don't come up to me, because maybe they're intimidated by me. And it's just really hard because I'm shy, so usually I'm attracted to guys who are really confident and make conversation and I just follow."
Who's her ultimate guy? "Someone who has a wonderful personality, who can make me laugh. That's a must. I love to laugh." She leans foward intently. "And someone who loves me for me, and not just for what I do. And who doesn't have any issues, is secure, and has a positive attitude so he can be good for my children."
The scrutiny of Britney doesn't end at her love life, of course. Her famous navel received even more attention than usual when she recently got it pierced. "My girlfriends and I were in Hawaii, and it was just one of those things," she says, laughing. "We walked into the tattoo place, and it was really scary-there were skeletons everywhere. I think the lady was, like, a devil worshipper or something. I was the first one to do it, because I knew if someone went bfore me and it hurt really badly, I wouldn't go through with it. So I lay down, and it only took two seconds, but those two seconds, I'm telling you, were the most excruciating pain I've ever experienced. And the girl who went after me was lik, 'Oh, it didn't hurt at all.' I guess I don't have a good skin flap-you're supposed to have flap skin that's kinda thin. Mine was really think. I guess that's why it hurt so badly."
"Britney Spears, come to the stage!" says the voice on the loudspeaker. So Britney heads over, where Molly Shannon, Cheri Oteri, and Ana Gasteyer are rehearsing a skit. Britney recites her lines perfectly ("She has good comic timing," says one onlooker) and heads back to the dressing room, but not before she's snagged for a quick conference about her tour.
All the demands on her time might make a more faint-hearted femme cranky, but Britney stays sweetly calm. After all, she has wanted to be a star since she was knee-high, growing up in Kentwood, L.A. Her family-mom, Lynne, a teacher; dad Jamie, a building contractor; older brother Bryan; and younger sister Jamie Lynn-supported Britney's burgeoning career, which included a two-year stint on the New Mickey Mouse Club. Even as a child, Britney was always musical. She would sing her heart out...in the bathtub. "In the bathroom I could sing more songs because it echoed," she says with a laugh. "I sang a lot of Whitney Houston songs like 'I Will Always Love You' and 'I Have Nothing.' Of course, I went through a Madonna phase, too. It was when I got out of the tub and started singing in front of my parents that I would just totally get on their nerves!"
Britney left high school before graduating to audition for Jive Records and says she doesn't miss school a bit. She was always kind of an outsider there, she says. Britney's family is her constant emotional stronghold, and she has a ton of opinions about the state of America's families in general. "A long time ago, the mom would stay home and she'd cook and she'd be there for her kids, and now the mom is working," says Britney. "The kids have to fend for themselves. You lose sitting down as a family and having dinner. A lot of families these days don't have any quality family time whatosver and that is so sad. That's why I think it's hard for teenagers today, because they don't have anyone to go to, really. So that's when they turn to drugs. My friend's friend was experimenting with X and stuff like that, and she said it was the one time she felt loved." She shakes her head. "I think that's so sad. Why can't you experience love with your mom?"
Britney clearly feels that bond with her own mother. "I want to be exactly like my mom," she says. "She's such a wamr person, and I love that. If I'm excited about something, she's the first person I call. My mom hasn't lost herself-a lot of parents' whole lives are their kids," she says. "That's why they stop caring for their bodies and they just lose themselves. And ten years down the road, they're like, What happened to me? I can tell my mom anything, seriously," Britney continues. "If I have a problem, we are so open like that. When you're my age, there are so many insecurities, finding out who you are-and you don't always want to go to your firends."
Britney does regret that she can't be home more often for her little sister, Jamie Lynne, who's 9. "We went shopping the last time I was home and just spent so much time together," says Britney. "I was like, my God, she is so tall! I have to start coming home more often." The two sisters may look alike, but their personalities are very different. "She is so hyper," says Britney. "I was kind of meek and shy at that age, and she is just quick to tell you how it is. She has such an attitude with my mom. I"m like, 'Mama, you're going to let her talk to you like that?'" Even though she's still young, Jamie Lynn already wants to be a singer, just like her big sis. "But she just needs to be a kid right now," says Britney wisely. And what about her dad? "He is such a sweetheart," Britney coos. "It's so funny because when you see him you think he's really stern and conservative, but really he's such a teddy bear. My friend said that when he saw me perform in New Orleans, he started crying."
Britney plans to have a fmily of her own some day. "I love children, that's my big picture." (In fact, she says if she hadn't become a singer, she would have been a kids' music teacher.) "That's a warm feeling, being in love with someone and imagining them holding your baby," Britney says. This rosy scenario, however, is still "way down the road-I'm only 18!"
But what of teen girls today who do get pregnant? If this ever happened to her, would she have an abortion? "That is such a sticky thing. I'm human, so if I made that mistake-well, first of all, my main goal is to wait until I'm married to have sex," Britney says firmly. "My mom always said that once you do it you have so many more emotions in the relationship-especially for the girl, because it is such an intimate thing. So I wouldn't ever go there. But if that did ever happen, I would never, personally, be able to (have an abortion), because down the road it would always haunt me." She brightens. "Hopefully I won't have to think about it, because I wouldn't put myself in that situation."
Right now, Britney is all about her career, anyway. She's already working on the video for her next single, "Lucky," and a clothing line called Britney Jeans. After her tour ends, she may do films and also get involved in the music camp she founded, The Britney Spears Foundation. And no, despite rumors, she has no plans to do a song with 'N Sync. "In the future, I would love to, but not any time soon," she says.
There is yet another knock at the door. "They want you outside," says her bodyguard again. Britney jumps up to go. Her schedule wold probably make anyone else absolutely batty, but she takes it all in stride. "There are times when I'm really tired, but there are going to be downsides to everything you do," she says. "I hate it when celebrities talk about how hard their lives are. I don't want anyone to pity me. I feel incredibly blessed." With that she opens her dressing room door, only to be faced with four different people pummeling her with questions: Can she go to the stage? Can she come get fitted for her costume in the next scene? Can she do two more interviews? They may be freaking out, but Britney is not. She answers everyone's questions, one by one, calmly and coolly. Then she heads out, for the tenth time that day, to rehearse.