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Britney Bares Body, Soul in 'Elle' Mag

Britney Spears, casting off the remnants of her sweet-as-pie image along with most of her clothes, says she’s relieved she didn’t settle down with fellow pop star Justin Timberlake.

Spears tells British Elle magazine for its September issue that the breakup made her a better artist. She also says she hated seeing Timberlake talk about their relationship and that she’s actually quite shy.

On the cover, the 21-year-old singer appears in a seductive pose wearing only a pair of tiny black briefs.

“I’ll always have feelings for Justin,” she says. “OK, not feelings for him, but he’ll always have a special place in my heart.

“He was my first love after all. I think I got way too serious, way too young. It’s very healthy to not be in that relationship right now.”

Spears says she wasn’t ready to join friends from her native Louisiana who had settled down.

“I’ll call up a friend and say, ‘Hey! What’s going on? You’re pregnant? What? Already?’ But that’s where I come from and that’s the mind-set I had all my life,” she said.

“Now I think, ‘Whoah, that would have been the biggest mistake of my life.’ Y’know?”

Spears, who split with Timberlake in March 2002 after three years together, says it pained her to see him feature a look-alike of her in the video for his hit song “Cry Me a River.”

“Freakin’ horrible. You know what I mean?” she says. “It was hard for me that he was so exploitative. Every interview that he did, he was just talking about us in such an open way and I just felt, ‘Is nothing sacred anymore?’ It was weird. It was… disappointing.”

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