Billie Piper

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Because We Want To was the title of Billie Piper's first single. It also seems to serve as the motto for the singer-turned-actress' life as, from her love life to her multi-faceted career, Billie has resolutely done exactly what she wants.

The daughter of a builder and a housewife, Billie Paul Piper was born on September 22, 1982, and brought up on a Swindon housing estate. Her parents spotted their daughter's star potential early. Aged five she started dance classes and just two years later was filming soft-drink commercials for American TV. She even appeared as an extra alongside Madonna in Evita.

After winning a scholarship to stage school the prestigious Sylvia Young Theatre School in London whose alumni include Emma Bunton, Denise Van Outen and the Appleton sisters she moved to London and lived with her aunt and uncle. "I was very emotional and homesick," she recalled in an interview with HELLO! in 1999. "I'd only just moved to a new secondary school and had gone through the stage of making all new friends. But I knew I wanted it so badly and if I didn't take the opportunity I'd regret it."

Her big break came as she entered her teens, when she was picked to star in a TV commercial for the young pop bible Smash Hits. All she had to do was run up to the camera, blow a pink bubblegum bubble and shout: "Pop!". It was probably something of an anticlimax after being on set with the Queen of Pop, but in retrospect it was the best thing that ever happened to her.

The head of Virgin's Innocent label saw her and signed her up without further ado. Because We Want To hit the Number One spot and, aged just 15, she became the youngest female to top the charts in almost 40 years. But the hectic pace of her new life was too much for the pretty teenager and Billie took a year off after she had finished promoting her first album, Honey To The B.

She bounced back onto the scene in the summer of 2000, raring to go with her new album, Night And Day. She was rushed to hospital one night after she collapsed in a bar, however, sparking rumours of drug-taking and burn-out. She put it down to a recurring kidney infection and the heartache of splitting up with Ritchie Neville, of the boy band 5ive.

In fact, most of 2000 wasn't Billie's year. After she appeared on the Pepsi Chart show in May, the singer attracted the attentions of a stalker who made vicious threats. Added to that, there was a marked cooling in her career, leading to rumours that the singer would be dumped by her record label. She now recognises she suffered from depression and substance abuse at the height of her pop fame. "I had my head in the clouds, was mad, neurotic, destructive, a very different character to the one you see today," she later said in an interview with the Radio Times in 2006.

But in December she appeared on Chris Evans' radio show. The red-headed DJ was smitten, buying Billie a Ferrari even though she had yet to pass her driving test which he filled with long-stemmed roses, and telling his listeners that he had met the girl he was going to marry. The couple jetted off to Madeira to celebrate the new year before wedding in Las Vegas on May 6, 2001. She was 18 at the time and he was 34. "Chris and I found each other when it could have gone badly wrong for both of us, " she revealed. "And we saved each other from our worlds of madness."

Following her marriage Billie dropped off the scene somewhat, jet-setting with her new husband and maintaining a lower profile. By 2003 she was back, however, making a splash on British TV screens with a role in the highly acclaimed series of dramas Canterbury Tales, and going on to star as Hollywood heart-throb Orlando Bloom's love interest in 2004's The Calcium Kid.

As Billie's acting career began taking off, however, her marriage foundered. She and Chris split in 2004 - just before she landed a plum role alongside Christopher Eccleston on TV's Dr Who. The couple filed for divorce in 2006 but Billie insisted she would not seek a share of her former husband's millions, and she still describes Chris as her "best friend".

Billie has since found love with fellow actor Laurence Fox, a member of the famous British thespian dynasty. They wed in an intimate ceremony on New Year's Eve of 2007. Less than a year later on October 21, 2008 the Foxes celebrated the birth of a son, whom they named Winston James.

Named most popular actress at the National Television Awards in 2006, it was clear that Billie had made her comeback. In June she announced that she would be leaving Doctor Who, where she won legions of fans as the Timelord's sidekick Rose Tyler, at the end of season two.

Job offers immediately came through and she was cast as the female lead in a TV adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, won the role of Victorian heroine Sally Lockhart in BBC drama Ruby And The Smoke, and established herself as one of the nation's best-loved actresses playing Belle de Jour in hit ITV show The Secret Diary Of A Call Girl. Her troubled teenage years are now far behind her as she forges a career as one of the nation's best-loved actresses.
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