An insider look at the country singer's music, goals, and family

By Alanna Nash
Updated December 23, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Most singers would have trouble picking out the highlight of a year in which they sang the national anthem at the Super Bowl, performed at the Oscars, had a network TV special that drew 14 million viewers, paid tribute to Diana Ross as a VH1 Diva, and saw their album (Breathe) go five times platinum. But Faith Hill says none of those rank as her biggest achievement of 2000. Instead, she cites her Soul 2 Soul tour with husband Tim McGraw, which sold out all 400,000 tickets in its first 25 dates. Stepping up from 3,000-seat theaters to huge rock arenas, says Hill, forced her to develop more confidence in her stage show. ”What measures success to me is whether you’re connecting to the fans,” says the 33-year-old mother of two. ”I owe them a great deal of gratitude for sticking with me throughout my career and exposing themselves to something new.”

Hill has a point there.

In the years since her 1993 debut, she’s morphed from a country sweetheart to a pop-rock chanteuse, retooling her voice to handle the power vocals and radically sexing up her looks to go from wholesome girl next door to glam goddess — a point not lost on the My VH1 Music Awards voters, who last month handed her three trophies, including Sexiest Video for the Lili Zanuck-directed ”Breathe.”

”If there was a cowboy boot left in her closet,” says Wayne Isaak, VH1 executive VP of music and talent relations, ”this was the year she cleaned it out and became a pop icon.”

Despite her adult-contemporary aspirations (her debut album did include a cover of Janis Joplin’s 1968 hit ”Piece of My Heart”), Hill still finds support from country radio. Like Shania Twain, she’s helped pave the way for continued emphasis on crossover material, a wave Nashville is not likely to abandon soon. Even the country accolades came in droves: Hill chalked up big wins at the Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association Awards — where she and McGraw became the first husband and wife to capture the CMA’s best male and female vocalist honors in the same year.

Now, she says, she hopes to move into films, but she’s not ready to call herself a ”diva,” despite sharing the stage with Tina Turner and Cher. ”I define a diva as a woman who possesses courage, beauty, style, and confidence,” she allows. ”Based on that definition, I’ve probably got a bit more work to do.”