LeAnn Rimes admits that her legal dispute with her father over the handling of her money has taken a heavy toll. The 17-year-old singer/actress, who has a cameo in the hit flick Coyote Ugly (and also sings four of the film's songs), is suing her father and her manager, claiming they withheld more than $7 million of her earnings.

"It's been a very stressful time," she tells TV Guide Online. "I have to take criticism from people who really don't know what they're talking about. And they think they do because they read The Enquirer and the big magazines. I love my family very much. It's been a lesson to learn not to mix family with business. And my father and my mother, I love them as my father and mother. And I want to keep it that way. And then I get along with them fine."

Rimes is not letting her legal woes hold her back creatively, however. In fact, she happily shed her wholesome image in Coyote Ugly, in which she's seen dancing on a bar in cowboy boots, a halter top and snakeskin leather pants. "I've gone from a little girl to a kind of sexy image in front of everyone's eyes," says Rimes, who will release a new album early next year with a world tour to follow. "But when I'm, you know, around the house, I'm in a T-shirt and jeans and people would never recognize me. Sometimes the image and everything you portray is completely different from who you are ? which I think goes hand in hand with acting."

The rowdy Coyote sequence ? which was added during a last-minute reshoot ? was significant for another reason, Rimes reveals. "It was a lot of fun jumping on the bar, especially since I'm too young to get into a bar," she says with a laugh. "Though I never danced on a bar before, I've been dancing ever since I was really little. So it all came naturally."