There are few things our culture has come to relish more than fattening up a pop star on a greasy diet of hype and frenzied devotion, only to then turn around and eat her alive an album or two later. It’s become a national pastime we practice in the less savory corners of the Internet or while unloading our Aquafresh and baked Cheetos onto the check-out line conveyor belt. Nobody knows this better than Britney Spears.

Ever since she snarled onto the scene in her Catholic school girl uniform in 1999, Spears has been the go-to girl whenever the world is looking for a punch line or a punching bag. At first it was “her music has no substance” or “she’s lip synching” and then there were the darker, more troubling episodes in her life to mine for material. But we have a confession to make: We love Britney.

We love her because she gives us the kind of pop music we demand for our workouts and woozy weekend nights, and because she has never tried to play the guitar or wandered off to make a country album. We love her because she’s a survivor, and for all of the shit that’s said about her, she still glides to the top of the charts whenever she releases an album. We love her because she has a “BS Alert” on her website to squash the almost daily rumors of new pregnancies, marriages, or demands to someday be cryogenically frozen. We love her because even the Super Bowl’s rabid, testosterone-drunk fans couldn’t keep her from being the top trending item on Twitter on the biggest sports Sunday of the year. We love her because she loves strawberry Frappuccinos and grits blanketed in Velveeta cheese. We love her because in 2010 she raked in more money than Lady Gaga even though her latest album, Circus, was already well over a year old. We love her because for all the pythons and pyrotechnics and red vinyl cat suits, she still feels like someone we could dish with about boys over a basket of bread sticks at the Olive Garden. We love her because she keeps us dancing, she keeps us guessing, and while the other famous former Mouseketeers have dried up, bombed out, or otherwise failed to keep our interest, Britney still has us coming back for more.

On the eve of the release of her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale, we fired Britney a slew of questions ranging from the candid to the ridiculous to find out a little bit more about the woman the world is mistakenly convinced it already has all figured out.

Where were you the first time you heard one of your songs on the radio?I was in New Orleans, and I was so excited. It’s such a cool feeling to hear your own song play on the radio. I still have the same kind of excitement when I hear any of my songs today.

How did you spend the first big check you received?On a bright white Mercedes convertible.

When was the first time you saw a Britney Spears drag queen?In New Orleans singing “Slave 4 U.” I almost died!

When you were starting out, whose career did you want to mold yours after?Madonna. No question. She is an amazing entertainer. Besides Madonna, I also admire Sarah Jessica Parker’s career and her shoe collection.

Are there any of your songs that you wish you hadn’t recorded/you don’t really love?No. All of my songs are f�ing amazing.

How is Femme Fatale different from your other albums?I think Femme Fatale is my most upbeat and mature album yet.

Who are some of the stand out collaborators on Femme Fatale?I collaborated with Will.I.Am. I am a huge fan of Black Eyed Peas, and I have always wanted to work with him. I also worked with a new up-and-coming artist from the L.A. area named Sabi. She raps on a song I love called “(Drop Dead) Beautiful.”

Assuming reincarnation exists, in a previous life I think I was…Audrey Hepburn, because she was a trend setter.

Assuming reincarnation exists, in my next life I’d life to be…A bird, so I can fly.

My idea of hell is…Being on a diet.

My idea of heaven is…A trip with my kids.

If you hadn’t become a superstar, what career do you think you would have chosen?I was in seventh grade and it was career day and I remember thinking that I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer. I always knew I would be in this business somehow. I think this path worked out way better.

What album do you consider life-changing?Natalie Imbruglia’s Left of the Middle.

Which Disney princess do you relate to most and why?It depends on the day.

What is the best advice you’ve gotten and who was it from?My mom said when you have a bad day, eat ice cream. That’s the best advice.

What is the worst advice a record executive ever told you?Someone once told me that the “…Baby One More Time” video should be me as a superhero fighting a giant robot monster.

What was the last nightmare you had?That someone was chasing me.

How would you feel if one of your sons turned out to be gay?I love my boys no matter what.

Do you listen to your contemporaries’ music?Yes. I love Gaga and Rihanna. Rihanna’s “S & M” is awesome.

Which song from the last 10 years do you wish you had recorded?Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie.”

What is your ideal way to spend a Sunday?Playing with my boys, getting some frozen yogurt, working out, and taking a nap.

What is the dumbest, most ridiculous rumor that has been printed about you?That I was an alien.

What is the rumor that hurt the most?That I had died in a car accident.

What women (living or dead) could make you think twice about your sexuality?I only have eyes for men.

Who is your favorite Golden Girl?Betty White, because she’s so sweet and innocent.

Do you have any phobias?Flying, because I’m not in control.

The best part of being famous is…Being able to reach people and hopefully make them happy.

The worst part of being famous is…Giving up your privacy.

How does the thought of turning 30 later this year make you feel?I’m excited to be out of my 20s.

How do you feel about plastic surgery?When it’s time to pull and tuck, I’m sure I will consider it.

I first learned about sex…When I was 12 years old. From my mom. I was confused and disgusted.

Kissing Madonna was…Cool.

You’ve been married twice — once for only 55 hours. How do you feel about gay marriage?I think everyone should be treated equally.

Lady Gaga is…Unique.

Christina Aguilera is…Truly talented.

Britney Spears is…ME!