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Singer's Rear Receives Raves

Teen-age singing sensation Charlotte Church has performed for princes, presidents and popes. On Wednesday, she won Britain's Rear of the Year award.

"It is very strange," said the bemused 16-year-old as paparazzi, usually more obsessed with the pert posterior of Australian pop diva Kylie Minogue, battled for the best shot of the Welsh soprano's curves.

The award offered the perfect transition for the "Voice of An Angel." Gone is the cherub-faced child star who has sold 10 million albums around the world. In comes the glamorous teen-ager acutely aware that image is a vital marketing tool.

"I think it is quite sad that image is so absolutely fundamental," she told Reuters as she strode into a sun-kissed London park, admitting she felt faintly foolish wearing her "Rear of the Year" winner's sash for the obligatory photo-shoot.

"But that's the way of the world, that is the way it is, nobody is going to change it. Therefore there is no point in complaining about it -- just embrace it."

But she firmly rejected the wet T-shirt look that classical violinist Vanessa-Mae adopted for her best-selling album cover.

"Definitely not. There is no need," Church said of the look that provoked a backlash from critics who accused classical music marketers of "dumbing down" the art in pursuit of profits.

"I wouldn't say I have gone on a sexy angle," she said as photographers begged her to swivel around in her faded blue jeans and show just why she won her accolade.

Flattered and honored by the award, she had never thought her behind was her best asset.

"I said this is a laugh. Please -- me? Rear of the year? I don't think so," she said. "When I was 15, it wouldn't have been allowed to give me 'Rear of the Year' as it would probably have been considered too crude. Now I am 16, it's allowed."

A big occasion -- From the Hollywood Bowl to the Winter Olympics and Britain's Millennium Dome -- certainly does not faze Church.

She is a fiercely committed professional whose personal worth has been put as high as $10 million.

And she boasts an impressive list of the great and good who have heard the golden voice of the girl from the Welsh valleys, first discovered on a British television talent show at the age of 11 and speedily signed by Sony a year later.

Asked who topped the charisma stakes, she said: "I'd say Bill Clinton and also Tony Blair -- very, very charismatic and warm."

But George W. Bush's geography knowledge -- not for the first time -- let him down badly: "He asked me what state Wales was in. I didn't really know how to answer that one, bless him."