While the party is undoubtedly the draw for thousands upon thousands of people to flock to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, for Britney Spears, this year's celebration took on a different meaning.Access Hollywood's
Maria Menounos spoke with Britney in the heart of the French Quarter to find out what made this year's event different from all the rest, in light of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina just six months ago.
"Tell me why you thought it was important to be here," Maria asked Britney.
"I think it's just important for New Orleans because they're such a soulful city, that for them to keep the traditions going as much as possible now, they need this – the spirit of it," the Louisiana native told Maria.
The spirit of New Orleans was indeed alive and well, as hordes of Mardi Gras partiers gathered under Britney's balcony on Monday night as she, along with her cousin Laura Lynn, tossed handfuls of beads… and more beads…and more beads.
Over 200,000 visitors turned out for this year's Mardi Gras, almost six months to the day after the city was devastated by Katrina – that's down from 1 million people last year.
"New Orleans is kind of your home. What was it like seeing what was going on here?" Maria asked Britney.
"Well, we didn't really know the extent of it because they had a warning for like two days, and then all of a sudden, I didn't hear from my mom for like a week," Spears explained.
Brit's mom, Lynn, was 70 miles away from New Orleans in their hometown of Kentwood.
"All the phone services were down and you couldn’t get in touch with anybody and it was just kind of weird not being able to talk to your family," Britney continued.
And what was her reaction when she finally came down to New Orleans and started to see the destruction first-hand?
"Words can't do it justice," she said. "I would see people on television saying 'You have to come here. You have to see it,' and until I actually came here and actually talked to these kids saying it was a nightmare and they were waiting to wake up from this dream… it's heartbreaking. It really is heartbreaking."
So the pop star teamed up with "Good Morning America" to give a group of New Orleans teens the surprise of their lives – a day of shopping with Britney.
"It was awesome. I will never forget it," said 14-year-old Lindsay Hernandez, a student of St. Catherine of Siena School, who lived with 21 relatives and friends after her home was destroyed.
Britney took the girls shopping and to dine at one of Cajun chef Emeril Lagasse's restaurants for some Southern comfort food, including fried chicken and red beans and rice. There, the conversation turned from shopping to Katrina.
"We had to go to a shelter," said Auntrell Prosper, 17, who still has Beyonce posters on her bedroom walls in her devastated home. She now lives with her family in a trailer.
Spears gave the girls fleur-de-lis pins on blue ribbons, and she surprised the school's dance troupe, the Gatorettes.
"They were so excited they got to go shopping because they said they lost all their clothes. You don't really realize that their homes are completely taken away and they were just so happy and laughing all day today. I just thought it was so sweet.," Britney said. "It was an honor to be here with all of them."
On a lighter subject, Britney also talked about her "Will & Grace" guest appearance and said, "the cast is absolutely hilarious and they were so welcoming...I've loved that show forever and I've seen people go on the show, so when they asked me it was an honor."
She revealed Sean Hayes as her favorite cast member saying that he is "hilarious."
"Everything he does and says ...It's just so funny...I like him. He's very cute." When asked about doing additional episodes with the show, Spears said, "I don't know. It would be cool, but we'll see."Britney also added some tips that have been helping her drop her baby weight.
"I do yoga sometimes. It's hard to get into, but I do it like three days a week...for the most part I eat ok and I take naps. I kind of take care of myself," she said.</font>
ummm...remind me to not do yoga to lose weight if it works this well.