The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Drinking, smoking, sex no big deal: Britney
- teen queen comes of age at last

A teen role model no more, and “not yet a woman,” pop princess Britney Spears now says she no longer finds drinking, smoking and sex to be “such a big deal.”

In excerpts from an interview with People magazine released on Thursday, the 20-year-old singer said she feels at ease with her more mature, less innocent image of late. And she denied that her recently announced six-month hiatus was the result of an emotional meltdown.

“The first week, I was so excited I was off that I partied every night. I drink,” she told People, adding, “Everything in moderation.”

“Smoking, drinking, sex — why is it such a big deal for me' As you get to 20, you grow up, you experiment. You feel more comfortable in your own skin.”

“Who cares if I’ve had sex'” she said. “It’s nobody’s business. Trust me, I’m not going to have a press conference to announce it.” In 1999, Spears made a famous pledge to remain a virgin until her wedding day.

She also talked about her break-up with childhood sweetheart Justin Timberlake of the pop group ’N Sync, calling their recent split “horrible.”

According to Spears, Timberlake broke up with her first, they tried to get back together, then she broke up with him, but she denied that either side had cheated on the other.

Timberlake, 21, has since been linked romantically to dancer Jenna Dewan, though Spears said she expects him to see other women.

Still, she said Timberlake was “my first real love, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to love anyone like that ever again.”

Spears, who heralded her own coming of age in the recent single I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman, said she needed some time off to “rejuvenate spiritually and to just play” following a hectic year.

She had been been working virtually non-stop since bursting on the scene as a peaches-and-cream teen with the 1998 hit ...Baby One More Time and grew up to become worldwide pop idol known for provocative costumes and stage performances.

Her hiatus follows a controversial end to a world tour in which she was booed by fans after cutting short her final show in Mexico City because of a torrential rain and made an obscene gesture to paparazzi photographers besieging her car.

Spears’ parents recently ended their marriage, a development she describes as “the best thing that’s ever happened to my family ... My mom and dad, bottom line, do not get along.”

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