Not so long ago, rapper Lil' Kim perpetuated an X-rated public image that could make even the baddest girls blush.
Her raunchy roster of songs include the hit "Magic Stick" and lyrics much too graphic to repeat. And she has jail creds, serving 10 months in prison for lying to a federal grand jury about a 2001 gun battle outside a New York radio station.
But now -- nearly two years out of jail -- Kim haunts the PG-rated pastures of "Dancing With the Stars." Watching her twirl like a princess in floaty chiffon and weep with joy after her successful Argentine tango, it's easy to forget the wild woman who once wore a purple pasty on an exposed breast on national TV.
Viewers are rooting for Kim, along with more wholesome contestants like Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson. After her well reviewed performance Monday, the rapper said the ABC dance competition was "bringing out the sensitive side of Little Kim."
Which begs the question: Is "Dancing With the Stars" the new rehab? With each season, celebrity dancers of varying degrees of infamy seek redemption on the family show through a Total Image Overhaul. But witnessing, say, a formerly jailed rapper shake her bon-bon (and ex-con status) might be part of the cheeky fun.
"The strange thing is a lot of people have been on the show who do come from a more slightly edgy background or who have got a reputation possibly for being more edgy -- when they get on the show, tend to be very likable," says executive producer Conrad Green.
"There's something about the rosy glow of `Dancing With the Stars.' It's kind of hard (to resist) even if you're ... a bad boy, you start wearing sequins and playing the game."
The eighth season of the top-rated series recruited some other bawdy contestants: "Jackass" daredevil Steve-O, who recently completed rehab after battling drug addiction; Denise Richards, whose messy divorce from Charlie Sheen branded her a tabloid target; and possibly Holly Madison, former Playboy playmate and girlfriend of Hugh Hefner.
The show, which debuted in 2005, has a history of extending the spotlight and second chances to Hollywood oddballs, outcasts and others with sordid backstories. Some examples: actress Tatum O'Neal, who recounted her drug addiction recovery in a memoir; Heather Mills, who went through a nasty divorce from Paul McCartney; E! reality star Kim Kardashian, who rose to fame because of a sex tape featuring her and reality star Ray J; and Jerry Springer, the impresario of trash TV.
Green says the show had a "breakthrough" in the third season by casting Springer, an unexpected fan favorite, loving father and good sport.