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A defiant Britney Spears takes on the tabloids

In an emotional and candid interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, pop icon Britney Spears talks about the state of her marriage, motherhood, the tabloids criticism about her skills as a mom, and why the paparazzi have gone too far. The exclusive interview airs again tonight, June 16, Friday, 8 p.m.

Britney Spears: I’m very, very blessed. But my safety, my privacy, and my respect are three things that I feel like are trying to be taken away from me right now. As a mother I have to speak up and say something. I have to speak up.

One of Britney Spears’ songs is called “Do Something,” and that’ s just what a defiant Britney Spears set out to do in a Dateline interview broadcast Thursday — and she’s taking on the tabloids.

After a year of screaming headlines scrutinizing her husband, their marriage, and most stinging of all, her abilities as a mother, she’s not just dealing with some bad press— but an image implosion.

Matt Lauer, NBC News:  Oftentimes in my end of the business, we have to beg people to do interviews. And yet it seem as if you’re anxious to talk at this particular state in you life. You've got some things you’d like to address.Spears: I think because I was pregnant with my son, I didn’t want to do interviews. I wanted it to be a little private. But I think 90 percent of the world would agree that the tabloids have kind of gone a little far with me lately. You try not to respond to trash because that’s what it is. But you know, I think they’ve crossed the line a little bit.

So Britney is drawing her own line in the sand— taking on what she sees as an overly intrusive and downright dangerous tabloid press.

It’s just one of many things we discuss in a refreshingly honest no holds-barred interview.

A pregnant Britney invited us to her California home to talk about it all: her career, her past loves, the state of her marriage, and those now infamous mommy mistakes.

Lauer: You’ve got this incredible place that you call home that you and Kevin built together. Is it a sanctuary… or at times does this feel a little like a prison?Spears: No, it’s a sanctuary totally. My dad comes here and he’s like “Oh my god, I feel like I’m at a resort. It’s awesome here. I love it.”

Although she seems to still be a sweet Southern girl, dressed down in casual clothes, chewing gum firmly planted in her mouth, it may surprise you that Britney Spears has become one tough cookie. 

Spears:  I don’t allow anybody to change me. I still walk out of my house in rollers when I take walks. I do not care what people think and I think that’s why they keep on talking is because I know they can’t touch me.Lauer: So you have a little bit of a “blank you” attitude about it now.Spears: Yeah, basically. I mean you have to. I mean, I have to live my life. I have a family now and I just think it’s absurd to let other people influence the way you live. 

Britney is of course no stranger to being under the media microscope. The 24-year-old has been in front of the cameras more than half of her young life. We first got to know her as a pre-teen Mouseketeer along with future boyfriend Justin Timberlake and fellow singing sensation Christina Aguilerra on "The New Mickey Mouse Club."

And then, just six years later, she hit the big time. Clad in that now famous school girl uniform, a then 17-year-old Spears became a sensation with “Baby One More Time,” her first number one hit.

She was not just a pop star but a phenomenon, selling millions of records and attracting worldwide media attention. But she says the scrutiny she’s living with now is a completely different ballgame.

Spears: It’s not just like how it used to be where they would just like take your picture, give you respect and then you’d walk by. It’s like scary. They just come out of nowhere. And you’re like… “oh my gosh.”Lauer: Without giving anything away, you live in a house that’s surrounded by a fence. You have a gate. You’ve got security, you’ve got a detail— people who are here all the time. Without that you would feel vulnerable...Spears: And I still have helicopters [hovering over my house] that come twice a day.Lauer:  Just trying to get a picture of you at the pool? Spears: Just anything. And they put the captions on their magazines, “Baby in danger” and stuff like that—which is really silly. But I wouldn’t be in danger if I didn’t have like this impactful thing around me all the time. I just feel like the editors they don’t realize that there’s not just one magazine—there’s other magazines and they’re all paying to get a story. And I think that's where the energy from the people is coming from. It’s kind of scary. I can’t really leave my home right now.

And also scary, in a world built on image, is how all those headlines— that Britney has a lousy marriage, that her husband plays around, that she is a bad mother — no matter how untrue are affecting just how the public sees Britney Spears.

Not that she’s hasn’t been down the bumpy road of damage control before. As she transformed herself from the idol of little girls everywhere to a sexier version the boys could like as well, people began to question whether she was an appropriate role model for their kids.

And she only added to the controversy by vowing to remain a virgin until marriage— a pledge that was questioned every time a new sexy video was released.

Lauer: Let me ask you if there was a turning point. It seems to me as an outsider looking in, it seemed for awhile you lived a charmed life. You were that blonde little girl that everyone loved, the squeaky clean image—even if every once in a while you kinda sexed it up a little bit and caught people by surprise. And everybody said great things about you. They wanted you to be a role model for their daughter. And then all of a sudden it seemed that the press turned. And they decided that maybe you were someone they wanted to take some shots at.Spears: They like to have the person they pick on. I feel like I’m a target and I feel like other girls are. At a certain point in everybody’s career, they’ll get it.Lauer: But when did it happen in your career? Was there something you did that brought it on?Spears: Usually breakups in personal lives. It starts to happen. Look at Jessica Simpson for instance. They’re being so rude to her right now… her split with Nick.

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 7: American pop stars Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears attend the MTV Music Video Awards held at Radio City Music Hall on September 7, 2000 in New York. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)Dave Hogan / Getty Images Europe

Britney says her own breakup with first love Justin Timberlake four years ago was the beginning of the end of not only their love affair, but the press’ love affair with her.

By the time a wounded Justin alluded to a betrayal by Britney in his song “Cry Me a River,” it was clear Britney spears was no longer America’s sweetheart.

Lauer: So do you think perhaps the breakup with Justin was when you started to sense the tide turning a little bit in your life?  There were allegations about infidelity. Did that put the spotlight on you in a negative sense?Spears: Yes, I do. There was a little shift there definitely.

And then, she gave the tabloids a present wrapped in a big bow: a quickie Vegas wedding to her childhood friend Jason Alexander in January 2004 and almost as quick was the annulment that followed.

Spears: Oh that was just silly.Lauer: But do you think that gave the press something to talk about?Spears: Yeah, definitely.

She says she understands now that the marriage was an act of rebellion on her part.

Spears: I was on the road for awhile and again I was doing a lot of what I was told instead of what I wanted to really do. And I didn’t know how to break out of that. So in my young mind I’m like, “I’m gonna just get married to someone of my home friends.” You know what I mean. It was just like something. But I have no regrets with anything I’ve ever done.

And that includes her relationship with her present husband Kevin Federline, father of their 9- month-old son Sean Preston.

When Britney met Kevin in a Los Angeles club two years ago, he was a back up dancer and already a young dad, having fathered a child with actress Shar Jackson and another baby on the way.

Lauer: So much was written and said about the way the relationship began between you and Kevin. Not so much about the way it began, but the time of it's beginning… that he left his girlfriend when she was pregnant.Spears: Uh-huh.Lauer: I think six months pregnant, Shar was at the time, Britney. Did that bother you?  Did you stop and think,  “Wait a second. That’s a very delicate situation.”Spears: Actually, I didn’t know. I didn’t know until two months later. But I don’t blame him because him and his friends—I’ve talked to his friends about this. They weren’t technically together when he came to me anyways. But that happened with Julia Roberts too. But it’s more talked about and more of an issue with me. Her husband was married. But for some reason it’s like, "boom, in your face" when it happens with me and it’s really none of anybody’s business.

Britney is referring to Julia Roberts’ relationship with husband Danny Moder—who was married when they met but did not have any children.

Lauer: You said a couple of times to me already you believe in karma. And as someone who is now several months pregnant, do you ever stop and think, “You know, he left someone else when she was a couple of months pregnant.” Does that ever cross your mind?Spears: No. Cause we’re very happy together right now.

Matt Lauer, NBC News: So when the magazine screams on the cover: pregnant and divorcing, you want people to know...Spears: Oh no. None of that’s true.

In her song “Toxic,” Britney Spears talks about a poisonous relationship. But despite what the tabloids say, that’s nothing what her life is like with husband Kevin Federline.

Lauer: Let’s talk about married life.Spears: Okay.Lauer: All right. How’s your marriage?Spears: Awesome, thank you.Lauer:   Awesome.Spears: Um-hmm. (Affirms).

Britney Spears, David Letterman
In this photo released by CBS, pop singer Britney Spears shares a laugh with host David Letterman on the set of The Late Show with David Letterman, Tuesday, May 9, 2006 in New York. Spears announced on the show that she and husband Kevin Federline are expecting their second child. (AP Photo/CBS, Jeffrey Neira) **NO SALES, MANDATORY CREDIT**Jeffrey Neira / CBS

Britney Spears and Kevin Federline will celebrate their second anniversary in September. They have a 9-month-old son Sean Preston and another baby on the way, which Britney chose to publicly announce on “The Late Show” with David Letterman.

It was a televised birth announcement, which was no surprise considering Mr. and Mrs. Federline have been living in front of the cameras ever  since they started their relationship. And don’t just blame the paparazzi.

Although Britney claims she wants her privacy, she had no problems turning her relationship with Kevin into a reality show. “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic,” a reality show, aired on UPN.

And with the Federlines feeding the very hand that bites them, it’s no surprise that the marriage of a multi-millionaire pop star and a former back up dancer and aspiring rapper who left his pregnant girlfriend to be with said pop star has raised the tabloid’s interest in Britney to a level she couldn’t have imagined back in those Mouseketeer days.

SONY BMG Grammy Party - Arrivals
HOLLYWOOD - FEBRUARY 08: Singer Britney Spears (R) and husband Kevin Federline arrive at the SONY BMG Grammy Party held at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel on February 8, 2006 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Kevin Federline;Britney SpearsVince Bucci / Getty Images North America

Kevin has been a tabloid target himself these past few months, called everything from a freeloader to a philanderer—which he strongly denies.

Recently, he has tried to do a little image makeover of his own, posing for a cleaned-up cover shot for this month’s “Item magazine.”

The 28-year-old didn’t want to be interviewed the day we visited but he recently spoke with Access Hollywood and demo-ed his debut CD:

In the interview, he raved about Britney.

Kevin Federline (Access Hollywood interview): She’s so supportive, she, from the first time I went in and started recording she was there. She was pregnant and everything, she was right there.

And Kevin talked about how he’s been misunderstood:

Federline: I have feelings, and hurt, happy sad, cry, fight all that, everything. It’s no different than nobody else.

And as for those tabloid taunts that he’s a gold digger, Kevin maintains he’s his own man:

Federline: I have been paying for everything out of my pocket.

And although Britney is clearly the breadwinner in this family, she’s well aware just how important it is for her husband to pull his own weight. 

Spears: You know, he has children now that he wants to support and not just let it be all me. He’s a man. I think it’s very important to him that he is doing his own thing.Lauer: Do you think there’s a sense out there, Britney, that some people who love you and have watched you grow up... and have watched you go through the pop princess years and into young adulthood— get some feeling that he’s not good enough for you?Spears: Oh, that would hurt me for  anybody to say that.  You know that would be horrible for someone to say that because I love him and that’s all that matters.  Lauer: So if there’s a headline to come out of the marriage portion of this interview is that you’re happy and there is no end in—Spears: Yeah.Lauer:   —sight to this marriage.Spears: No.  Um-um (Negative).Lauer: You look at me sometimes when I say things like that almost like a little puppy dog.  Like  it—Spears: No, because I say it because I just feel for him.  You know because he’s a man and he’s trying to work and do his thing and I feel bad for him.Lauer: Well, how does it affect him when he hears about this?  When he hears everybody you know predicting that this marriage is over that he’s living in the basement that he’s on the way out?Spears: I would (unitelligible) to cry.  That hurts.

Britney Spears hasn’t even reached her 25th birthday and she has already made her mark in the music world.  Not only did her first album “Baby One More Time” hit number one, she followed that up not just one more time— but three, for a total of four consecutive albums debuting at number one. No other female artist has done that, not even Madonna who introduced Britney to Kabbalah and taught her that a kiss is not just a kiss— not if it’s on MTV.

Britney Spears (L) gets a kiss on the mouth from Madonna as they opened the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards at the Radio City Music Hall in New York, August 28, 2003. REUTERS/Win McnameeWin McNamee / X00183

I met Britney right after her first taste of success, when she performed at the Christmas tree lighting in Rockefeller center back in 1999.

Matt Lauer (Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting ceremony, 1999): This has been such an amazing year for you have you had time to stop and enjoy it?Britney Spears: Actually things have been so crazy and things have been moving so fast but I was home for a week for thanksgiving and I totally realized how blessed I have been this past year.  It gave me time to really think about things. It has been really amazing.

And although she has come a long way since that interview— now a very rich woman with a reported net worth of more than $100 million— Britney says she is still the same down home girl from Kentwood, Lousiana.

Matt Lauer: It seemed for awhile that people would describe you they’d say, “She’s this great, young thing from the South,” you know, “small town girl.”Brintey Spears: I still am, man.Lauer:   I know.  I know.  But they—Spears: I make good tea okay?Lauer: But then all of a sudden they started to use that Southern background in a different way.  The tone of it changed.  All of a sudden—Spears: They make you feel like you have to have your transformation.Lauer: Well—Spears:   Madonna reinvents herself.  Right?Lauer:  Right.Spears: Yeah.Lauer: But they started saying, “Maybe she’s a little bit of a red neck.”  You started to hear that it wasn’t a good thing that all of a sudden it wasn’t a good thing, your roots.  They started to try and make it a negative thing.  How did you feel about that?Spears: I think with anybody who’s doing well in the public eye or whatever, there’s always gonna be a shift because people don’t wanna see somebody happy all the time.  And they’re gonna try to take shots at people.  You know they did the same thing to Goldie Hawn when she did her show and before she did "Private Benjamin."And then all of a sudden she became like this—“Oh my God!  She’s a star.” But they still gave her flack for her past and her—Lauer: Does the term bother you when you hear “red neck”?  Because it’s not used in a Gretchen Wilson—proud... well, it’s not used that way.  Spears: I think that’s just cruel, you know?  I think that’s cruelty when you judge people and—I’m not a Bible Belt.  You know, I feel like when you put labels on people like that and you do that, at the end of the day, they’re just words.  And that’s what I have to look at them as. You have to be really strong and just be like, “If that’s what you wanna say, then… you know… okay.”

And this Louisiana girl now lives in luxury in California. Because of security concerns, she did not want us to show her home. She did give us a tour of her lush backyard and admits that although she’s not desperate—she’s a housewife through and through.

I like to cook, try to cook, and I like to clean.I’m obsessive like that. If I watch TV, I like to watch the home-redoing-the-house shows— the whole thing— and I get into redoing the living room, the baby’s room and all that stuff.Lauer: So do you clean the house by yourself?Spears: I have a maid that comes in once a week, but she slacks a little bit (makes face.)Lauer: So if I were to come here and ring the doorbell by surprise, you’d be vacuuming, doing the toilets?Spears: Doing the laundry, everything, mmm hmm.Lauer: See, there’s a side of you we didn’t know...Spears: Oh honey, that is the real me, honey!Lauer: I pictured there would be housekeepers around here.Spears: This house is so big, I have to have some help.

In early fall, Britney will have another room to clean—never mind diapers to change when baby number two arrives.

Lauer: How far along are you?Spears: I don’t know.  I think six to seven months.Lauer: So you’re due in September?Spears: Uh-huh (affirms).Lauer: Do you know what you’re having?Spears: I do not know.Lauer: Are you gonna try to find out?Spears: No, I’m gonna be surprised.  I’m very excited.Lauer: Talk about motherhood.Spears: Motherhood.Lauer: Yeah.Spears: It’s amazing.Lauer: Is it what you thought it would be?Spears: It’s more.Lauer:  In what way?Spears: I mean you could possibly never realize you could love something that much.Lauer: Was that the way it was from the very beginning? Spears: Oh yeah.  The moment I saw him just it’s amazing.  Words can’t really describe.Lauer:  Tell me about him.  Describe him a little bit for me.  I love to hear mothers describe their children.Spears: We’ll make this interview about other stuff now if that’s...Lauer: Okay.Spears: —okay.  I love—Lauer: That’s all right.Spears: —my son and you know, that’s great.  And I wanted to touch on some things with my husband because of the tabloids, that I try to keep my baby out of this whole thing.

Yes, Britney Spears has achieved that Hollywood hat: trick, success, money, and fame. Yet she says her greatest accomplishment is being a mom.

Britney Spears: Motherhood’s amazing.

But the one thing that gives her so much joy is ironically the very same thing that’s made these past few months a very difficult time for Britney Spears.

In February, Britney was photographed driving on the Pacific Coast Highway with her baby in her lap in the front seat. It was a picture that became not only a punch line.

Jay Leno monologue on the "Tonight Show": “But in her defense, the baby had to be in her lap because her husband Kevin was asleep in the child seat."

It also became the source of serious debate all across the country.

Today show guest:  I think it’s very important that Britney get some baby safety training.

For the first time, Britney explains just what happened.

Matt Lauer, NBC News: You were photographed I guess by the paparazzi again pursuing you.  And there was Sean on your lap in the car.Spears: Yeah.Lauer: Take me through what happened then.Spears:  If right now we got in the car and went to Starbucks you would see 20 photographers there.  I went to Starbucks and I see a bunch of photographers and I’m scared and I want to get out of the situation and my baby’s crying.  They’re coming up on the sides of the car which is a scary situation for me.  And they’re banging on the windows and that’s not something I want my baby to... you know... so I get my baby out of the car and I go home.  I mean, I just feel like that they’re taking’ cheap shots. Lauer: But the fact of the matter is while they pursue you— and we can argue for a long time but they shouldn’t be doing it— and I would agree with you on that completely.  They manage to snap a picture that didn’t cast you in the best light.Spears:  Oh, of course.  That is their job and they do a very good job at it and they’ve crossed the lines so many times. I think because [I'm this] this sweet young girl nothing never gets really done about it.Lauer: When you were driving with Sean on your lap did it—clearly...Spears: That driving incident, i did it with my dad.  I’d sit on his lap and I drive.  We’re country.  That’s what you know what I mean?  It’s not—Lauer: But what happened though that crossed from a paparazzi incident to next day it’s in the newspapers and you’ve got all these legitimate people weighing in saying, “You know what?  That’s dangerous.”  And she put her child at risk? You saw the questions that were being asked, “Is Britney a bad mom?”  It’s not like, “Did Britney record a bad song?  Is Britney wearing a bad outfit?  Is Britney in a bad marriage?”  “Is Britney a bad mom?”  I mean—Spears: That’s America for you.Lauer: Yeah, but as a mother, that has to hit pretty close to home.Spears: Uh-huh. Yeah, it makes you really strong.Lauer: Make you weep?Spears: Oh, I’ve wept.  Yeah, I’ve definitely wept just with the world, you know, how judgmental they are. You know what, I know I’m a good mom.

But just a few weeks after the baby in  the lap incident, Britney’s son, while in the care of a nanny, fell out of a hIghchaIr and banged his head.

Lauer: You took him to the doctor?Spears: Uh-huh (affirms).  Oh yeah, of course.Lauer: So you walked into the hospital and said, “He bumped head, fell out of a high chair.”Spears: And then the doctors acted really funny with me.  I know, it was really bizarre.Lauer: How’d they act funny?Spears: I don’t want to say, but they dId.Lauer: Suspicious?Spears: Like I said, I don’t want to say what they did or what they said.  But it was bad.  It was really really bad.Lauer: Do you think, though, Britney, that because of those questions that were asked after that picture on Pacific Coast Highway with Sean in your lap that the doctor in that emergency room or that hospital said, “Wait a second, maybe I have a bad mom on my hands?”Spears: I was just happy that my son was okay.  And I wanted to get home and get out of there.Lauer: And then not long after that you got a visit from the Family Services people.Spears: Which actually, they felt really bad about it.  They said, “We don’t even know why we’re here.”  Lauer: So in other words, they came because it’s their job to come.  They have to investigate—Spears: They didn’t have to come.  The doctor there made them come, because I didn’t bring my doctor there with me.  So people a lot of times think because you’re a celebrity that you’re taken care of more.  In some situations, you get it worse.

And it didn’t end there: In May, Spears was photographed driving her baby in a front facing car seat. Not illegal, but against federal safety guidelines.

Spears:  It was fine. They’re just taking again, cheap shots.

And just days after that photo appeared, on a visit to New York City, Britney stumbled again—this time literally.

Lauer: You’re walking with Sean in one arm and you tripped on—what was it, your pants?Spears: Actually, I didn’t trip on anything. It was a New York street, and just cobblestones.  And I was walking and I don’t think we were prepared with one security, ‘cause I’ve never had that much paparazzi ever on me in New York. So we didn’t even know there was gonna be that many people.  So I think it was a mixture of so many paparazzi and how the road was all messed up, me just trying to get in the car.Lauer: It was a a close call.  I mean it, it seemed as if for a second, you know—Spears: Accidents happen.Lauer: Right.Spears: And when he gets—my brother, when he was like 13 years old he got in like four motorcycle accidents, had to be airlifted. You know, stuff happens with kids.  And its—It’s reality.  You know, unfortunately not everybody has 80 cameras on them 24/7, you know.  Lauer: And there was a picture taken shortly afterward, I think you were in a store. And you appeared to be crying.Spears: Oh yeah.Lauer: Very upset. Were you upset because you just had a close call with your son?  Or were you upset because the—Spears: Because—Lauer: —lenses were still on?Spears: Well, because I got in the car and I was hungry.  And we stopped to get something to eat, and it was again, a bad situation.  And instead of people inside of the place trying to help or whatever, they wanted to take pictures as well. And that’s when I started crying, when I thought, “You know what?  You’re a mom.  Why are you asking to take my picture right now?  And you see that I’m crying.  Are you that ignorant?”  So that’s why I cried.Lauer: And the headline on that picture was, “Oops number three.”Spears: Exactly. There will be a “Oops 100.”  They’ll be plenty more oopses.  I’m not perfect.  I’m human.

Lauer: What do you think It’ll take to get the paparazzi to leave you alone?Spears: I don’t know.  I don’t know.Lauer: Is that one of your biggest wishes?Spears: Yeah.  (crying)...  It’s okay.  I would like for them to leave me alone.Lauer: If you could to them as individuals, not as a group, what would you say to them?Spears: I would just say that “You have babies at home.  And you have a life.  And if you don’t, you have to realize that we’re people and that we just need privacy and we need our respect.  And those are things that you have to have as a human being.”  And yeah...  yeah.Lauer: And yet as upset as it makes you, you wouldn’t trade your life now, it seems.Spears: I have…Lauer: It seems strange for some people to understand.  If they’re making you this miserable, how can you still say, “But I’m lucky”?Spears: Because I have to believe that I’m here for a reason.Lauer: What’s the reason?Spears: I don’t know.  I keep searching every day, just like you do.  But I’m so blessed with my baby.  That’s the happiest thing that’s ever—it’s like a miracle.  You know, but I just want the most normal life possible for him, that’s all.Lauer: Is that possible?Spears: I will manage.  I will create that.Lauer: Bigger fences?  Bigger gates?  I mean, how are you gonna do that, Britney?Spears: There’s always a way. Where there’s a will there is a way.  You have to believe.

Britney Spears recorded a song  is called "Someday." At that time, she was about to become a mother and was singing to her unborn baby boy. She says the birth of Sean Preston has changed her not only personally, but professionally.

Britney Spears:  It’s hard for me to work right now.  I tried to do a photo shoot the other day and my son was not even letting me leave.  You know like we’re very attached. 

Yes, Britney Spears sounds like any conflicted working mom. It helps explain why "My Prerogative" was one of the last new singles she released and that was back in 2004.  And sorry Britney fans— it looks like she has no plans to go back into the recording studio any time soon.

Spears: I’m thinking about waiting like a year or two to come out with music again.  We’ll see.  It’s just I feel like I want my boo-boos to be a little bit older, ‘cause when I do music I want to do it for real.  And I wanna travel.  And I just want to make sure they’re old enough to be able to be on that kind of pace with me.Matt Lauer: What kind of music would you be thinking about?  Because you’re at that kind of—Spears: I have no idea.Lauer: Well, but it’s an interesting time in a career for someone like you, because you’re not 17 anymore.Spears: Right.Lauer: You know, you’re gonna be, what?  25?Spears: Uh-huh (affirms).Lauer: And so what kind of music is going around in your head these days?Spears: To be good music is it’s gotta be timeless.  You gotta work with the best people and you have to just— experimenting in a studio and finding your knack.  You know?Lauer:    But because you’re a businesswoman, you know when you release new music there is an audience out there.Spears: Oh, yeah.Lauer: And who is that audience now for Britney Spears?Spears: I don’t know. 

But it doesn’t mean she isn’t keeping busy. She found time to do a guest appearance on NBC’s “Will and Grace”.

Lauer: Was it fun for you?Spears: It was awesome.Lauer: Why?  What was so great about it?Spears: I hadn’t been out there for so long.  So it was really exciting for me.  And I just love funny people.  Funny people are great.  You know?  And so hilarious.  You know that was awesome.  Lauer: Do you have someone out there today that you pattern yourself after that you would like  to duplicate in terms of a career?Spears: I love Goldie hawn.  I think she is so brilliant.  I think she’s like a free spirit. As far as music goes, I love Shania Twain because her music is fun.  I love Pink.  And I think she’s a great entertainer.  And she’s always making statements, which stands out.  She has something to say.  She’s a very smart girl.Lauer:  There was a time where something was made of the fact that you kind of looked up to Madonna.  Do you still have a relationship with her?Spears: No.  I respect her work and I think she’s a very smart lady.  She introduced me to Kabbalah.  But I think that was at a time in my life where I was kind of searching for something.  I needed something to really believe in.  And  I do believe that Kabbalah  has the codes to the world and all that.  But I don’t live that like those people do.Lauer: I think I read somewhere where you said, “Right now, my baby is my religion.”Spears: Yeah.

And being a mom has inspired Britney Spears, businesswoman, to launch a new venture.

Spears:  I have a baby clothes line that’s supposed to be coming out.  And its called "Babies are Rock and Roll."  And—Lauer: You’re designing all the all the —Spears: Designing everything.  There’s two separate categories.  There’s the more elite line and there’s the rock and roll part too.  But it’s the cutest stuff you’ve ever seen in your life.Lauer: You like business, don’t you?Spears: Uh-huh. Yeah.  I like money (laughs).

Britney Spears has  certainly come a long way from the teenager on the verge of superstardom I interviewed seven years ago. That was long before she knew just how famous she would become, and the price she’d have to pay.

Lauer: If I had said to you when you were 17 and we were doing’ some interview in Rockefeller center.Spears: Um-huh.Lauer:     I said, “Britney here’s what it’s gonna be like when you’re 24 or 25,” do you think you would’ve had second thoughts about pursuing this career?Spears:    No.  I have no regrets.  I love where I’m at right now and actually I find everything happens for a reason and the reason why maybe this is happening is I won’t take BS from anyone.  And I think it’s making me stand out on my own and be very independent and fight for what I believe in.  Whereas before I was a young, blonde girl who would do what she was told. I know who I am as a person and I’m getting damn strong.