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"I don't have a cool bone in my body" ...

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Madonna gets Britney to look beyond her Baptist upbringing ...

Britney Turns  Autopilot Off:  SuChin Pak Tells  The Story Behind  The Interview

Don't Ask Me  Again

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Britney's growth goes beyond what she sings about on her album. She's learned how to accept that just about everything she does will be covered and scrutinized by the press. It's a "weird reality," she says of living a life where even her most mundane activities, like going to the grocery store, are accompanied by blinding flashbulbs and strangers calling her name at every turn, just so they can get that perfect shot.

She's not at the breaking point yet, though if she ever gets there the photographers had better have waterproof equipment.

"I want to get a water gun and just squirt the sh-- out of them," she said with squint-eyed determination. "I know that sounds really stupid, but it would make me feel so good. But that would probably get me even more press, so you lose either way."

  All Eyes On Britney
Paparazzi Photo Gallery
Her mischievous reaction is typical of what a frustrated child might say — not inherently malicious but vengeful just the same. It's the inner Britney responding to a situation her outer persona created. Dressed in couture and walking the red carpet, the glitzed-out celebrity can only smile, seemingly unaffected. Getting accosted by the paparazzi while running an errand in sweatpants, with no makeup and her hair tied up, is when her instincts are liable to take over.

If there's anyone who can help Britney cope with the pressures of being the biggest pop star of her generation, it may be her role model and new pal, Madonna. Britney says Madonna hasn't given her any direct advice on the matter; rather, as she's done her entire career, she's simply led by example.

"Just being around her is an inspiration," Britney said. "From looking at her from the outside I can just totally see the way she presents herself. She's not out there to get the approval of other people. She's a true artist in the fact that she does what she likes and she expresses herself in her truest form. She really does not care. You see that and you're like, 'Oh, I can do that, too.' "

  Britney Spears
featuring Madonna
"Me Against The Music"
In The Zone
Madonna also assisted Britney's self-discovery by introducing her to kabbalah, the study of Jewish mysticism. Britney occasionally wears a red string bracelet, which symbolizes Jerusalem's Holy Tomb of the Matriarch Rachel and is said to ward off negativity. Sure, the brand of spiritualism seems to be the fashion accessory of the moment — celebs like Winona Ryder, Demi Moore, Courtney Love and Gwyneth Paltrow have all studied it — but the fact that Britney is even exploring a different religion is evidence of her newfound desire to spend time cultivating her inner self.

"It's just really weird being a Baptist and being so about religion all my life, to turning to something completely different," she said. "Kabbalah refers to the Bible somewhat, but it's more about the laws of the universe, karma, and cause and effect. It's kind of weird, but I like it. It's just, like, I'm searching."

Some of the new experiences she's had over the past year have been rather small in scope, but meaningful nonetheless. Having turned 21 last year, she relished her independence and made a concerted effort to escape her somewhat kept life. Getting away from the constraints of superstardom as she attempts to be a normal, city-savvy young woman makes for sometimes surprising milestones. Getting a bartender's attention to finally order a drink legally was a step for Britney, but that didn't compare to her newly acquired ability to flag down a cab.

  "... just hailing a cab by myself to go visit a friend was a big accomplishment... "
 "I know this sounds really cheesy and not a big deal to most people, but just hailing a cab by myself to go visit a friend was a big accomplishment," she explained. "That sounds like such the normal thing to do, but for me it's like [a new experience] because I'm so used to having an entourage around me. At night, if I'm in New York, I'll just go walk the streets by myself without telling anyone. It's a really cool feeling when no one's out there, really nice and peaceful."

Britney has a way to go before accepting both sides of herself. Continued guidance from Madonna could bode well for her as she gets ready to accept the proverbial torch and reign as the queen of pop. But ultimately, she'll need to find her own way to marry the successful Britney Spears persona with the young woman who snaps her chewing gum and fiddles with her fingers when asked to talk about herself.

"I'm going through such a new phase in my life," she said. "Everything's coming out and I'm just adjusting to everything. It's very new and exciting and I don't know what's going on, but it's cool, you know."

Catch even more Britney in Spankin' New Music Week including a Britney Leak.

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