LeAnn Rimes avoids pitfalls of early celebrity by staying focused on career

LeAnn Rimes said recently, "People are just waiting for you to self-destruct because that’s what happens." That’s a true statement. People love seeing the downfall of a celebrity. But Rimes hasn’t provided any real fodder for tabloidian implosion.

That’s sort of extraordinary, since she is A) a child star who hasn’t turned into an adult mess, like so many ex-child stars; and B) so many celebrities turn into talentless, public drunkie-druggie jerkwads, but she hasn’t.

"I’ve never had the desire to do that. I could have many times. It was all around," she says.

Rimes, 26, credits her parents for raising her well. But she also credits herself for taking control of her life at an early age.

"My parents were divorced when I was 14. I really lived on my own from the time I was 15 on. I moved to L.A. I was right in the middle of it all in a crucial time of my life," she says. "I was pretty much raising myself in a lot of ways.

"I was a typical teenager — growing up in the spotlight, with a thousand eyes on me all the time. That was definitely tough. It had its moments where it got confusing. But I had a lot of respect for myself and loved what I do, and I didn’t want anything to overshadow that.

"I just think I ended up doing what felt right. Not all the time. I made some mistakes. But I learned from them."

Rimes is human, of course. She was tempted at times. In her song, "Destructive," she sings:

"If I could smoke a cigarette right now I would; rip out of my skin, commit the sins, oh I could. If I could break a heart and throw it all away for just one night, my conscience wouldn’t care — if I just went ahead and wrecked my life."

"I had all those thoughts and feelings," she says of the song. "Those are very honest feelings. Sometimes you just wanted it all to disappear for a second, just so you could be normal."

But she kept focused largely because she loves her work.

"I do love what I do, and that was always the main focus in my life," she says.

Another oddity, compared to many celebrities, is Rimes’ lasting marriage to Dean Sheremet.

"We’ll be celebrating seven years next month," she says. "In Hollywood terms, it’s been really long."

What’s their marriage secret?

"I don’t really have one," she says. "We have a lot of fun together. I think that’s the main thing. We just spend a lot of time together. He travels with me. I’m blessed about that."

Rimes’ musical career took an unexpected turn within the past year. Her country album sold just fine. But she handed over some songs to remix masters, who in turn gave her hits on the dance charts, "Nothin’ Better To Do" and "What I Cannot Change."

"I’ve had two top 10 dance hits off of this record, which is pretty insane," she says of the album, "Family." "I definitely want to do a dance record. I would love to do a dance record eventually."

She hasn’t actually heard the songs in nightclubs.

"Not a lot of clubbing is going on in my life, I have to say," she says and laughs. "Yeah, that was never really my thing. I do enjoy going out. I maybe go out twice a year with friends and go dancing."

Now, she’s on an abbreviated tour, which is selling out in various venues in North America. Then she’ll go into the studio to record a new country album planned for release later this year.

In March, she’s also starring in her first lead role in a Lifetime TV movie called "Nora Roberts’ Northern Lights," co-starring Rosanna Arquette and Eddie (Coach Diaz on "Ugly Betty") Cibrian.

"I played a bush pilot in Alaska. I got to handle guns and fly a plane, and be in the middle of the snow in 20-below in Calgary. It was awesome!" she says.

And she helmed an inspirational book set for release in April, "What I Cannot Change." It’s an inspirational book based on the Web site of the same name, where Rimes invited anyone and everyone to post their personal stories.

"We had an incredible outpouring of incredible stories — inspirational and sad, and funny, and it’s just been really cool."

Her song, "What I Cannot Change," goes: "Right now, I can’t care about how everyone else will feel. I have enough hurt of my own to heal. I will learn to let go what I cannot change. I will learn to forgive what I cannot change. I will learn to love what I cannot change. But I will change."

Question: Has Rimes sung inspirational songs and launched WhatICannotChange.com for her fans — or for herself?

"I kind of do it for both," she says. "I need (inspiration) every day. It’s never really religious one way or another. It’s just really inspirational and trying to be uplifting, and give people hope, and give myself hope, because I’m not exempt for that."

What do you think about all this? Write your thoughts on my blog (reviewjournal.com/elfman) or e-mail me (delfman@ reviewjournal.com), and I’ll post them. My column runs Sundays, Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. See you then.

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