Ke$ha Holds Off Taylor Swift On Hot 100
Ke$ha on the cover of Billboard, Feb. 27, 2010. Jason Nocito

If you want insight into a celebrity's self-image, you could do worse than watch one make the brief walk from the star's chosen chariot to the red carpet prior to an awards show. The frenzied VIP drop-off area at the 2010 Grammy Awards reveals more than any klieg-light TV interview could. Alice Cooper pulls himself from a nondescript car and strolls-nonchalant and unassuming-through the throng before anyone can look twice. Lady Gaga's mini convertible pulls up with her sitting atop the back seat, eyes fixed studiously on a point in the distance; as she exits the car, some of the dozens of wires that orbit her dress get caught on the seat, and there's a collective holding of the breath as she detaches.

And then there's Ke$ha. The 23-year-old steps out of a black SUV with the grace of a baby colt-all legs that she sometimes looks to be still learning to use-squints and rubs her eyes. She's stunning, twirling and spinning in her gold Nicolas Jebran dress, teetering on Guiseppe Zanotti heels. I know the designers' names because she has them scrawled on a cheat sheet, and as she makes her way down the carpet for the preshow carnival-cameras clicking and stressed TV producers yelling her name-she murmurs Jebran's name to remind herself. Her long blonde hair is disheveled, even when styled. She wobbles and looks around warily. Everything in her body language, expression and posture perfectly conveys one thought: "I'm not sure, but I may still be drunk."

In December, with "Tik Tok" at No. 3 and poised for No. 1 on the Hot 100,'s cameras asked Ke$ha to talk "Tok" and 2010 plans.

It's not so different from the look on her face when she climbs out of the bathtub in the video for her breakthrough song "TiK ToK," which just spent its ninth consecutive week at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100-the longest stretch for a debut single by a female artist since Debby Boone held at No. 1 for 10 weeks in 1977 with "You Light Up My Life." Her album, "Animal," debuted the week "TiK ToK" hit No. 1, sold more than 150,000 copies and went on to become the No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. It even did the undoable and finally stopped the Boyle-dozer, ending Susan Boyle's six-week run atop the albums chart.

Just 18 months ago, swanning down this or any red carpet would've been unimaginable for Kesha Rose Sebert. She had no major record deal, no manager, and she was estranged from the producer who discovered her, Dr. Luke. Tonight, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas walks by and yells, "Ke$ha, I love you!" Ryan Seacrest talks to her for a full minute or so. Cameras flash nonstop in her direction and networks beg her PR team to stop for even. One. Question.

As she waits to go on E! and share a love-fest interview with Adam Lambert, she suddenly turns to one of her handlers and loudly asks, "Can you see my ass?" Her designer dress is made of hundreds of thin, 3-inch-long metal chains that swing as if on a flapper's gown, and may be see-through underneath. Her handler doesn't hesitate. From one knee, she carefully inspects, and then pronounces Ke$ha's ass "ready."

Last fall, before Ke$ha made her run up the charts, she stopped by Billboard HQ to talk about Prince, Flo Rida, and her glitter cannon.