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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
The Pied Piper of Swindon
Billie Piper
Billie Piper burst onto the scene in 1997
From 15-year-old pop star to 18-year-old bride, BBC News Online looks at the life and career of Billie Piper.

Most teenage years are eventful but few could compare with the last three years in the life of Billie Piper.

The singer has enjoyed pop success with number one singles, a romance with 5ive singer Ritchie, a painful break-up with the boy band member, a harrowing court case involving a stalker and a celebrity marriage to Chris Evans.

She has had enough angst, heartache and joy to fill the pages of more than a few teenage diaries.

Billie Piper
Billie: From pop star to bride in three years
Piper's rise to fame began in 1997, when she was just 15. Like many schoolgirls, she spent her evenings reading pop bible Smash Hits, dreaming of what might happen.

In her case, it did. The Swindon teenager entered a Smash Hits modelling competition, and ended up fronting a TV campaign for the magazine.

Pop executives soon spotted this bright new talent. Using the same record label, producers and PR company who propelled the Spice Girls to the top, her bid for stardom followed.

Single history

Billie's chart career
Because We
Want To
(July 1998)
No. 1
(Oct 1998)
No. 1
She Wants You
(Dec 1998)
No. 3
Honey to the Bee
(April 1999)
No. 3
Day and Night
(May 2000)
No. 1
Something Deep Inside
(September 2000)
No. 3
Walk of Life
(December 2000)
No. 25
On 29 June 1998, her first single, Because We Want To, was released in the UK.

A jaunty ditty, it featured girly-girly vocals and a "join-in-now" hook ("Why d'you play that song so loud? Because we want to, because we want to"). Even Piper later admitted that she would not have bought it herself.

But the song drove itself into the nation's consciousness - and to the top of the charts.

Billie (as she was known then) had become the youngest person ever to go straight to number one with her first single.

More celebrations

Billie Piper
Billie's photo is never far from the desk of a tabloid picture editor
Her next single, Girlfriend, repeated the feat. She was now also only the third act in pop history to have their first two singles go straight to the top of the charts.

In December 1998 she was named the best female singer in a leading awards ceremony, and the next year was nominated for two Brit awards.

To the agony of acne-ridden 15-year-old boys, she also started dating Richie from boy band 5ive.

The cracks

I feel numb and heartbroken about Ritchie. I'm still getting used to being on my own after such a long relationship

Billie Piper
But then the cracks began to emerge.

Exhaustive promotion led to cancelled appearances. She had to fly home early from Australia in 1999 after catching a flu virus.

More seriously, kidney problems caused her to pull out of a string of European dates in early 2000, and she collapsed after recording the BBC's FBi programme.

When, one Friday evening in June 2000, she was rushed to hospital after collapsing in a trendy London nightclub, it seemed like it might all have got a bit too much.

Burnt out?

Billie's album cover
Walk of Life: Billie's aptly-named second album
Just a few weeks before, her 15-month relationship with Ritchie had ended.

After being out of the charts for over a year, she seemed to have been overtaken by US teen stars like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera.

At the tender age of 17, people said Billie Piper's career was over.

New look

But she brought out a new single, Day and Night, featuring a more mature, American sound and a raunchier new look.

In Day and Night, Billie Piper (surname now included) wore a slinky red leather number and danced Britney-style moves in a darkened, rain-drenched alley.

It made number one, and re-crowned her as Britain's Princess of Pop, albeit temporarily.

Billie Piper
Day and Night: the new Britney-style look
Since then her pop career has struggled and her personal life has dominated the tabloids. The pop princess's tiara has slipped somewhat.

In December last year her love life became the focus of attention when she began a romance with Chris Evans, the DJ and media mogul.

In February this year a woman was found guilty of making death threats against the singer.

Single shelved

Juliet Peters made a barrage of abuse-laden telephone calls on Piper record company answering machine and had threatened to decapitate the star and burn her body.

Peters walked free from court with an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years.

Although the ruling allowed Piper to focus on her career again, it appeared to be on the slide when she and her manager, Nicki Chapman, parted company.

Her last single Walk of Life only reached number 25 in the chart, her first song not to break the top five.

And a planned single Tide is High has been shelved while the star "works on a new album".

If she can push her music instead of her personal life to the front pages again, then perhaps she can reclaim her pop princess crown.

But that is a big if.

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See also:

08 May 01 | Showbiz
Las Vegas' celebrity couplings
08 May 01 | Showbiz
Evans honeymoons with Billie
19 Jun 00 | Entertainment
Billie out of hospital
01 Jul 00 | Entertainment
London comes out for Mardi Gras
14 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Billie's kidney problems return
02 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Billie stalker walks free
01 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Woman charged with Billie death threats
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