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Britney Spears Breaks Just Like a Little Girl: Rolling Stone's 2001 Cover Story

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In real life, Britney says, she cries pretty easily, and she admits to being "too sensitive." But when Britney had to cry on cue for Not a Girl, she found it wasn't easy to manufacture tears. "I really had to be sad all day," she says, hugging her knees to her chest as she shrinks into her chair. "There was one scene where I could not cry. And it was really bad because the cameras are on you and they're wanting you to cry, and everybody's depending on you and it's the end of the day, and you're just like, 'Man, I can't get sad! What's with me?'"

The movie is about three teenage girls who take a trip to Los Angeles to rekindle their friendship and do some soul-searching. Britney plays Lucy, a straight-A student rebelling against her father (played by Dan Aykroyd). "On her trip, she falls in love with this guy and goes through a wild stage," Britney rhapsodizes. "But then she comes back to herself and realizes what she wants to do."

Britney had received offers from other film companies, but Weiss says Jive wanted to "put [its] money where [its] mouth was" and decided to finance Not a Girl on its own. The film's soundtrack will feature a ballad called "Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," which will also appear on Britney's album. Weiss predicts the song, written by Martin, Rami and Dido, will become a megahit on par with Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" or Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You."

Britney, meanwhile, just hopes she doesn't look goofy on the big screen. "I watched it for the first time the other day," she bubbles. "And I was like, 'Oh, my gaaahd.' It was weird! I saw myself freakin' cry on a big screen and I was like, 'Oh, gosh.' But then I got so wrapped up in the movie that I saw myself as a character and not as myself. In a lot of ways she's similar to me — she's very to herself and writes in her journal a lot. But when I watched it, I was like, 'She's kind of mean sometimes. And boring.' I was like, 'Am I like that in real life? Ew!'"

There are at least two topics Britney does not enjoy being asked about: her boyfriend and her wardrobe. She reflexively tenses up when either subject is mentioned, and, though she continues to be polite and attentive, she becomes visibly nervous and guarded. It's not that she doesn't have opinions to offer or feelings to reveal; rather, she seems to worry that she'll be misunderstood or that she won't be able to articulate her point quite the way she intends to.

Does it bother you that people are fascinated by your relationship with Justin?

When people get too personal, it bothers me. But I'm not ashamed at all to say that I love him from the bottom of my heart. As far as love is concerned, with him, too much is not enough. He's everything.

How is love different for you now than when you were younger?

It kind of feels the same with him. Like, it's so weird; we've been going out for two years, and I still feel the same. [Laughs] Oh! I don't want to say this! I'm so embarrassed! But, like, I still want to look cute, and I get nervous.

Swoony?

Yes!

Butterflies?

Yes! With him, it's still the same as I felt two years ago. But it is a deeper love now than when I was younger. Like, we've gone through so much together and we've known each other since we were twelve years old. We know each other inside and out.

Following her performance at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, it could be said that anyone with cable television is pretty familiar with Britney's outside. Her skimpy, flesh-colored costume landed her on the front page of the New York Post (which ran her picture with the headline Bra-Haha Over Teen Heartthrob's Skimpy Outfit — Britney Speared) and subjected her to dogged criticism about her appropriateness as a role model for young girls. The argument goes like this: By baring her navel with aplomb, Britney is encouraging little girls to become underage vamps. "I think it's not that deep," she says, exasperated. "I like wearing those clothes. I like, when I'm onstage, to be an entertainer. When kids are younger and have a recital once a year, that's their time to go onstage and put on their little costume and do their thing. And that's what it's like for me. I put on my cute clothes, and I go onstage and I do it. If the song calls for me to wear something a little voluptuous or sexy, I like to go there."

I tell her that since she's an adult, I think she should be allowed to dress however she likes. That if she were male, no one would be getting up in her grill about her clothes. That girls should be encouraged to be comfortable with their bodies. And, moreover, I say, what's wrong with being sexy? "Yeah!" she exclaims, her voice returning to its more jovial pitch. "I don't understand it. What's the big deal? Honestly, I walk around my house naked, so I'm not very modest or whatever. I think the body's a beautiful thing, and you should not hide yourself. If you feel like wearing something that makes you feel good about you, and you want to wear a push-up bra, I say, 'Go for it.'" And, with some seriousness, she adds, "You should be proud of your sexuality. Just because I'm young doesn't mean I can't be sexy. It is so flattering that kids look up to me. But at the end of the day, I don't like being a role model. I'm not perfect, I'm human, just like everybody else. Everybody's got an opinion about you, but the only one that matters is your own."

Call it mundane, call it Zen, you could even call it compulsive: Britney says one of her favorite ways to spend her rare moments of free time is "freakin' organizing my rubber bands." No shit? "I get the big ones in one little stash and the little ones in one little stash," she says, gesturing like she's making separate piles and then bursting into embarrassed laughter. "I love it. It makes me happy."

Keeping things in order, though, is something she's very serious about. Disorganization, she says, makes her mad quicker than anything else. "I don't stand for stupidity," she says. "If I think something's not done right with my schedule, I call my manager and freak out. That's the one person I do lose my temper to. Bless his heart! I feel bad."

There are no Svengalis pulling Britney's strings, she insists, and she's the first one to protest if she thinks she's being taken advantage of. "She calls the shots," observes Laura Lynne. "At first, when you're starting out, you have to do what the record label tells you to do. Now she's very much take-charge."

If she's a diva, she's certainly the world's politest one. Despite all the pressures she's enduring — the unrelenting public scrutiny of her relationship with Justin, dire predictions that teen pop is a fad whose end is near, the process of recording an album that will be considered a failure if it is anything less than a blockbuster — Britney seems unflappable. And, however much she's in control, in the studio she is as docile and compliant as a kid trying to impress her chorus teacher. "Do you feel like singing today?" BT asks her. "Sure," she says, lifting her eyes from the chipped nail polish on her toes. "I'm ready." She picks herself up from her chair and shuffles out the thick, soundproof door. Moments later, she's in the recording booth, barely visible amid the shadows.

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