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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Faces of the week
Faces of the Week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Britney Spears (main picture), with Sir Terry Leahy, Lesley Oake, Sarah Kennedy and Andrea Dworkin.

BRITNEY SPEARS

Pop diva Britney Spears is expecting her first child at the age of 23. But will this mean the end of the road for one of the world's most famous blondes?

As the end of an era, it may not rank with the break-up of the Beatles, the death of Hendrix or Robbie Williams leaving Take That.

But the news that Britney Spears is pregnant is sure to provoke wistful appreciations of her early career as well as speculation about her future.

The all-singing, all-dancing musical phenomenon burst onto the scene with the single Baby One More Time in 1999. Since then, Spears has sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, amassing an estimated $50m (26m) in the process.

Britney Jean Spears was born in the Kentwood, Louisiana in December 1981 and studied at New York's Professional Performing Arts School.

Britney Spears with her husband and toy dog
Britney, husband Kevin and tiny friend
After appearing in off-Broadway shows and a succession of television adverts, she enjoyed her first taste of fame in The New Mickey Mouse Club, a television show which also featured Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.

Aged just 15, Britney Spears signed her first recording contract, and played at a number of venues across the States on tours sponsored by teen music magazines.

The success of Baby One More Time, which went straight to Number One in both the US and the UK, brought her instant superstar status.

'Global clout'

The video of the song, a slickly-choreographed number featuring Spears and colleagues in schoolgirl uniforms, proved a sure-fire hit with the teen market. Beyond that, adult admirers, like New Labour's arch spinmeister, Alastair Campbell, also admitted to being impressed by the beauty and charm of Ms S.

The virgin-as-vamp routine drew criticism, with some commentators voicing disquiet at what they saw as the sexualising of children.

But there is no doubting her appeal.

"Britney Spears fills a gap in the market which is not filled by others," says Martin Talbot, editor of Music Week. "She is a straightforward pop artist. Everyone else has a label, for instance as an urban act or a boy band. But she is an old-fashioned solo pop star with a global clout."

Britney Spears and Madonna kissing
That snog: Britney and Madonna play tonsil tennis
As the hits piled up - Oops!...I Did It Again, Born To Make You Happy, Toxic - so did the criticism.

The film Crossroads, her attempt to break through as a Hollywood star, drew nearly as many plaudits as the soap opera of the same name, there was a running feud with the rapper, Eminem and, even today, websites like Hit Britney One More Time proliferate.

Britney Spears has also spearheaded a new phenomenon: the artist as marketing tool.

Tangled private life

Besides pocketing a cool 3m for promoting Pepsi cola, she recently signed on with the cosmetics giant Elizabeth Arden, which now markets her signature fragrance.

More worryingly, Spears mirrored her on-stage transformation from teenager to woman in real life. Under-age drinking and a tempestuous love-life, which made a mockery of her oft-claimed virginity, elbowed her music from the headlines.

Her romance with Justin Timberlake foundered after he dumped her over the phone. Dalliances with characters like Limp Bizkit's singular frontman, Fred Durst, and a snog with Madonna were engaging enough, but her 55-hour marriage to long-time friend Jason Alexander left Brit's many fans bemused.

Fred Durst
Spears' old squeeze, Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst
And to add insult to injury, paparazzi photos showed the sex symbol overweight and grazing at a Los Angeles burger bar.

But does the announcement of her pregnancy, with second husband Kevin Federline, signal the death knell for what some say is a career in terminal decline, overtaken by the likes of Avril Lavigne and McFly?

"The greatest challenge for a pop act is taking your fan base with you," says Martin Talbot.

"When you become a mum, things are different. Britney has made quick transitions before and she must now make another."

From pop princess to pop tart? Well, maybe not. But there's no doubt that Britney Spears, the mum-to-be, cuts a startling different figure to Britney Spears the teen sensation.


Profitable: Sir Terry Leahy
Sir Terry Leahy

It's been a big week for Tesco's chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy. The supermarket giant announced record annual pre-tax profits of more than 2 billion, a rise of 20% on the previous year. Tesco now takes one in every three pounds spent on food shopping in the UK. Even so, Sir Terry remains cautious, saying: "The consumer outlook is unclear. We can grow for some time but not necessarily at this rate."

Lesley Oake: Forgiveness
Lesley Oake

The widow of the Special Branch detective murdered by a failed asylum seeker jailed this week for plotting a poison attack said she felt "sorry" for her husband's killer. Lesley Oake, whose husband Stephen was stabbed to death by Kamel Bourgass, also said she was overwhelmed by the "goodness" of people around the country who had sent messages of support. She told an interviewer: "I felt sad that this person (Bourgass), things had gone so wrong for him, that is my maternal instinct."

New arrival: Sarah Kennedy
Sarah Kennedy

Sarah Kennedy, wife of the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles, gave birth to a son, Donald James. The baby, thought to be named after Mr Kennedy's grandfather, weighed in at 6lb 9oz. Donald's father thanked colleagues who took over the election campaign so he could be at his wife's side. He added: "I am looking forward to rejoining the campaign and I'll be rejoining with both a song in my heart and a spring in my step."

Andrea Dworkin: Radical writer
Andrea Dworkin

The radical American feminist writer Andrea Dworkin has died at the age of 58 after battling illness for several years. In a career spanning four decades, she wrote more than a dozen books, and led a campaign against pornography, which she said violated women's civil rights. In her first book, Woman Hating, Dworkin wrote that her goal was "to destroy patriarchal power at its source, the family, (and) in its most hideous form, the national state."

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker


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