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It was the snip seen around the world. Faith Hill stepped onstage recently to accept her People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer, but soon it was her new jagged, bobbed hairstyle - not her hits - that was on everyone's lips.
Faith's new 'do made headlines from USA Today to the Internet's America Online - especially after she sported the radical cut again the next night, popping onstage three different times to scoop up her trophies at the American Music Awards.
The firestorm continued on Country Weekly's own website from fans as passionate about her hair as they are about her voice. A record number of people voted in our online poll. Some raved. Others ranted. Many simply wondered, "Why would she do a thing like that?"
"I just did it for a change," admits the ever-evolving superstar, who put her tresses in the hands of Hollywood celebrity hairstylist Peter Savic for the back-to-back awards shows. "I love it! I've never seen myself like this!"
But why should anyone be so surprised? Change has been a constant with Faith, ever since she hit the country scene in 1993 with a head full of curls, a tune-belting voice and telegenic looks, the all-American beauty that was made for music videos. Country fans were captivated - especially one in particular, who had a hunch Faith was destined for success when he first heard her No. 1 debut single, "Wild One."
"You kind of knew right away," says husband Tim McGraw. "Not only did she sing great, she was gorgeous, too. So you knew she was going to be a star."
Perhaps Tim is biased, but his prediction was right on the money. Two albums after their marriage, Tim's wife had morphed from country debutante to belle of the crossover ball. In 1998, she celebrated her first pop hit with "This Kiss" and sales of five million for her third album, Faith.
" 'This Kiss' changed my life," recalls Faith. "It's amazing that a song can do that. It's the true power of music."
By the following year that power had driven Faith's fourth album, Breathe, to sell four million copies and hit the top spot on both the country and pop charts. And her image progressed along with her music, becoming sexier and more glamourous with every new album. The statuesque woman vamping through the desert for the "Breathe" video was a far cry from the gangly Mississippi teenager who once hated her tall, skinny build.
"I'm in my prime," explains Faith, who is clearly confident in her flawless skin and 5'9" frame. "I'm comfortable with who I am on the inside - and that has everything to do with how I feel about myself."
And being married to Tim hasn't hurt, either. "He's given me more confidence in myself," adds Faith. "I feel sexier."
Others agree. This year Faith's glamourous style was heralded by none other than fashion's Mr. Blackwell, who made her the only singer on his famous Best-Dressed list. VH1 awarded Faith the Sexiest Video award at the recent My VH1 Music Awards, and included her in the upcoming All Access: Hot Bodies special - in which she is nominated for Best Hair and Best Heart.
Still, beauty and sex appeal can only take you so far - the music has to stand on its own. "I think it's important to try and look the best that you can," stresses Faith, "but you can only look at someone so much. You quickly get past the looks and the clothes if the music is great. There are many good-looking people out there who didn't last very long because there wasn't any substance - there was just a look."
One look at Faith's trophy case will dispute any critic's claim that she's all cover girl and no talent. In addition to her American Music Awards, she's up for four Grammys on Wednesday, Feb. 21, and four Blockbuster Entertainment Awards on April 11.
The awards are a testimony to Faith's massive popularity, which has stretched far beyond country's boundaries. "I believe the more people that can hear my music, the better," she says. "I'm certainly not going to sit here and say, 'I don't want anybody except country music fans to hear my work.' As an artist and entertainer, I want to reach as many people as I can."
That reach may soon include feature films. With her broad appeal, it's not too hard to imagine Faith on the silver screen.
"I would love to do a film at some point," confirms Faith, who's been reading movie scripts. "But it would have to be a role that I really felt I could pull off. I would never allow myself to be put in a situation where I couldn't contribute or handle it. I think a drama would be easier for me than a comedy. It's hard to say.
"I have an advantage and a disadvantage," she adds. "The advantage is I can get my foot in the door. The disadvantage is that I have to be really good."
After joining Tim for one of the biggest tours of 2000, Faith is now taking the year off from the road to record the follow-up to Breathe.
But Tim, who will be touring, and Faith will never be far apart. She plans to accompany him on many of his tour dates. Instead of taking center stage, Faith will most likely be found waiting in the wings with the couple's two daughters, Gracie, 3, and Maggie, 2. "We'll be spending a lot of time together," assures Faith. "We just work it out. Don't worry, we're going to be together."
It's anyone's guess which direction Faith will travel next. But one thing's for sure: Faith is always going to be growing and changing - hair and all!