Britney Spears / Jessica Simpson_lowres


Britney Spears with the Pussycat Dolls

8 p.m. Tue., March 3

New Orleans Arena, 1501 Girod St., 587-3663

Tickets $37.50-$700

Jessica Simpson with Rascal Flatts

8 p.m. Fri., March 6

New Orleans Arena, 1501 Girod St., 587-3663

Tickets $49.75-$67

In American pop culture, blondeness is a big deal. And there are many types of blonde to choose from in the smorgasbord. There's the bruised-fruit vulnerability of Marilyn Monroe; the wholesome, sunny quality of Archie Comics' Betty Cooper; and the hard platinum sheen of Madonna, who tried on almost every image of blondeness at some point in her career. To truly be the all-American girl, one ought to be fair-haired, and in the '90s, one performer seemed poised to take up the mantle of Public Blonde No. 1: Kentwood native Britney Spears. She performs this week at the New Orleans Arena, followed a few days later by another very visible towhead, Jessica Simpson. Both stars are the very model of the modern famous blonde, and the two also have a strangely similar resume of celebrity. But let's see who's the blondest of them all.

  Child-star past: Though a year younger than Simpson, Spears took off faster out of the gate. She competed on Star Search at age 11 and won a spot on The New Mickey Mouse Club at 12. Simpson auditioned, but didn't make it; she became a tweenage Christian pop star instead.

  Public virginity: Both stars were vocal about their commitment to chastity. Nobody challenged Jessica's status until her marriage. After their breakup, however, fellow former Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake told the press he and ex-girlfriend Spears had in fact run the bases.

  Ill-advised early marriage and divorce: Simpson's extraordinarily public, seemingly fairy-tale marriage to pop star Nick Lachey was the subject of Newlyweds, a reality show aired on MTV from 2002 to 2005, almost exactly the length of their marriage. During that time, Spears managed to marry twice, once in a 55-hour Vegas whirlwind to a childhood friend and once to Kevin Federline, her sons' father. They divorced in 2006.

  Embarrassing reality show: Newlyweds was odd in terms of the intimate access Jessica allowed MTV while it chronicled her marriage. But that was nothing compared to Spears and K-Fed's aptly titled Chaotic, which aired in summer 2005. The footage mostly came from the couple's own cameras, and the two often overshared about their sex life.

  Family business: Tabloids have speculated Jessica's hyper-involved father, Joe Simpson, has been a factor in the fast dissolution of her post-Lachey relationships. Younger sister Ashlee — a bottle brunette — had her own public trainwreck in the form of a technical snafu revealing she was lip-syncing during a Saturday Night Live appearance. But with Spears' and mother Lynne's high-profile estrangement issues and the pregnancy of 16-year-old sister Jamie Lynn, the Spears clan makes the Simpsons look like the Osmonds.

  Publicly scrutinized body issues: Simpson's sizzling video for her cover of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" drew criticism from fans who didn't remember the singer being quite so bootylicious; before-and-after photos suggested her Daisy Duke shorts may have been padded in the trunk area. But that pales in comparison to Spears' public head-shaving incident. And Spears' squishy lack of muscle tone and stoned-looking sleepwalk through a dance routine on the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards filled far more pages in the supermarket tabloids.

  Extra credit: Spears picks up points for sharing the middle name "Jean" with Marilyn "Norma Jean Baker" Monroe. Plus, she's on her second comeback at the tender age of 27. Simply put, Britney has been doing it bigger, crazier and blonder since day one.

Circus - Britney Spears