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NEW YORK — “‘What’s Next’ is a huge defining moment every year,” said Paul Caine, Teen People’s new publisher, who returned after more than a year as associate publisher at People.

This story first appeared in the November 8, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The magazine, celebrating five years in business, threw its fourth annual “What’s Next” bash showcasing hot talents in entertainment. Actress-singer Taryn Manning was the hostess Tuesday evening at Hammerstein Ballroom here as Justin Timberlake and Avril Lavigne headlined. Also performing were Mario, Sahara Hotnights, Dirty Vegas, Cam’Ron, Freaky Zeaky and Sean Paul.

“It’s the one time when we get to showcase all the talent that we think is going to be huge, but it’s really more than that,” Caine explained. “It showcases what Teen People is all about — the kids, the soul and style of the magazine, the music, the stars.”

It’s also about making some adjustments, which is exactly what Teen People and its competitors seem to be doing, now that the teen-pop phenomenon has faded and newsstand sales of their magazines have been declining. Dirty Vegas is a super trendy techno group riding high off the groundbreaking, “Days Go By,” while Timberlake has recast himself as an edgier R & B crooner.

As the crowd prepared for an evening of entertainment, stars walked the red carpet. There to support Timberlake was ’NSync bandmate Chris Kirkpatrick, who said he paid retail for Timberlake’s first solo CD, which just hit stores that morning.

“I bought the CD today just to support him,” he said. Mentioning his now-defunct clothing line, Fumanskeeto, that he developed a couple of years ago as ’NSync was in full force, Kirkpatrick said, “It just got too big too quick, and I couldn’t control it. So it’s done for now.”

And what about ’NSync? “That’s a little different,” he said. “That’s not done for now. We’re all working individually. Justin’s doing his own record, the rest of us are writing and doing our own thing. Some of us are writing for the group, some of us are writing for others. I’m writing for ’NSync and working on some other stuff. I’m just trying to stay in the business.”

Lavigne doesn’t have to try to be in the business these days. In just a matter of months, the singer has risen to a teen A-lister. But, she said, she hasn’t changed a bit. Really. “I get told every day that I am a role model and that’s really weird,” she said. “But because of that, I am not going to change myself. If I am going to be a role model, I am going to be a role model by being who I am.”

And then there’s Timberlake, who the crowd seemed most excited to see. His CD premiered to positive reviews.

“I think that for the most part, when I lay my head down at the end of the day, if I made a record that best describes me, then that’s all I can do,” he said.

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