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Sweet 16 A Teen Pop Queen


By THOMAS QUINN. 26 March 1999

(c) 1999 Mirror Group Ltd

Billie can't legally buy a drink but she has the music world at her fee

She has everything a sweet 16 should want except, that is, a boyfriend. But it's quite clear that pop sensation Billie Piper is not really bothered.

Young David Price, at 17, a year older than Billie, is no longer the boy with the number one Girlfriend - the name of her first chart-topper last year, in case you don't get the reference.

The two had been dating for eight months when Billie went, almost overnight, from being a nameless face in a TV ad to a superstar singer but, as her career took over her life, David found himself on the margins.

At first she was happy to acknowledge his existence. Then there were claims she was being asked to deny they were dating, to ensure her image as a happy-go-lucky single girl.

"I haven't seen David for ages," Billie admits. "I've spoken to him on the phone a few times and we're really cool mates, but that's the way it goes. However much I loved him we were just going to be friends really."

As a cloud it's a pretty small one and the silver lining is huge. Billie really has re-written the pop history books since she emerged on the scene last year with both her first two singles going to No1.

Her album, Honey To A B, has since sold more than half a million in Britain and the title track comes out on March 22 as her fourth, inevitably Top Ten single. Last month she topped off a wonderful year by playing at the Brits.

When I meet her she is as cool as ice, waiting to make an appearance on the Disney Channel, at the cable station's studios in London's St John's Wood. She is sitting in a tiny waiting room, her legs up on the sofa, chatting to me as her stylist sorts out her hair, like a school chum on a sleepover.

The most recent pictures of Billie released by her record company show she has developed a more mature, sexier image, but although she seems taller than I expected and - let me put it this way, more grown up - she remains a pure bubblegum pop brat.

In a word, Billie is a precocious talent. She doesn't miss a beat when she reflects on an occasion "when I decided to be a pop star" without ever realising just how extraordinary it sounds. Incredibly, Billie got there without even leaving school. She has, of course, been criticised for being a pop product. She was talent spotted when she was just 15 from a TV and magazine advertising campaign for Smash Hits.

Billie, however, was ready for stardom. She'd been a pupil of Sylvia Young - mentor to Paul Nicholls, Baby Spice, All Saints, Dani Behr and many others - since she was 12, going home to Swindon at the weekends to be with her parents.

By then she was already a committed pop fan, considered Madonna her greatest idol and had long decided that she wanted to "always be surrounded by music and arts". She also speaks assuredly of her transition from schoolgirl to singer - and soon to be a singer-songwriter.

"I chose not to write on the first album because it was a great learning experience for me. I wanted to learn more about the production side before I tried to do everything. Also, I didn't feel I had that much to write about at the time either.

"Now I've done all this travelling around the world meeting loads of people, seeing different cultures, I have more to write about," she says confidently

"I've grown up a lot in the past year. But I'm still a 16 year old. I think our generation are quite grown up anyway. A lot of teenagers want to work, they want to take responsibility and become independent. But there is still so much I don't know," she says.

But she's learning fast.