By DAVID HINCKLEYDAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Kevin Federline admits he was "a little unsure at first" about doing a high-profile commercial that "pokes fun at myself."
After all, few people anywhere have had more fun poked at them than Federline.
While his marriage to Britney Spears will end soon, he's retained custody of at least one element from that union: his image as a spoiled and frivolous celebrity whose fame and fortune aren't justified by actual achievement.
He doesn't agree with this, but he knows about it. Yeah, sure, he says, it's frustrating. But he also thinks he can beat it.
"It's like this thing stamped on my forehead," he says, with a figurative shrug. "And as long as it took to get there, it'll take that long, or longer, to get it off.
"But it can be done. Eventually you can get to the point where people judge you on your work."
He isn't discussing his private life in public these days, he says, but he does declare that "2007 is a new beginning for me," and one starting point is a 30-second Nationwide Insurance ad that debuts during the Super Bowl.
It starts with a montage of K-Fed videos and cuts to Federline working in a fast-food restaurant. He's only dreaming of stardom, it turns out, while his manager yells at him to tend the fries.
"Once they explained the direction they wanted to go, it seemed pretty cool," Federline says. "The rap part was pretty easy, and the other part took a little longer. I hadn't done that in a while."
The ad has drawn protests for demeaning fast-food workers, which it really doesn't. But the publicity clearly does not upset Steven Schreibman, vice president of marketing and brand management at Nationwide.
"Attention paid before the airing is one measure of its value," says Schreibman. For the $2.6million Nationwide and other sponsors pay for their 30 seconds, "We want it to be as visible as possible."
It's the same reason he recruited Federline in the first place.
"We had great success last year with Fabio poking fun at himself," says Schreibman. "But nothing was working for us this year until just before Thanksgiving it hit me: Kevin Federline.
"His story was already so public, and it fit right into our theme of 'Life comes at you fast.'"
Federline notes that he did work on the fast-food level before he quit and went to Hollywood "with nothing." He got a dancing gig, married Spears, released a successful CD, hosted a TV show.
He's focusing on movies now, he says, and a clothing line that's due out "sooner rather than later" in Europe. A new CD is probably "a year, 18 months" away.
He lays all this out while dressed in a conservative suit with a muted striped tie. The earrings remain, and two large rings on his right hand, but all in all, it's more Kevin Federline, less K-Fed.
"This was a big win for Kevin," says Schreibman. "It shows he has a sense of humor by bringing everyone in on the joke."