ATLANTA - Two multi-platinum albums: millions in the bank.

An endorsement deal with a major company: millions of dollars more.

The costs some celebrities can incur when they achieve such success: pricey.

Atlanta-based rapper, singer and producer Akon is a bigger hitmaker at the moment than the performer he was slated to open for last night at Atlanta's HiFi Buys Amphitheatre.

Although headliner Gwen Stefani - a singer, songwriter and fashion designer - is clearly the most widely recognizable, Akon is selling more records.

He holds the No. 9 and 10 positions on Billboard's Hot 100 pop chart this week, with his single "Don't Matter" - a recent No. 1 - and "The Sweet Escape," a duet with Stefani. His latest CD, "Konvicted," has sold more than 2 million copies, one of only 13 albums on the Billboard 200 pop listing to do so. Stefani's latest album, "The Sweet Escape," has yet to reach the 500,000 mark, and Akon's CD has been out only three weeks longer.

And yet Akon is also facing what some call the price of success.

While high-profile artists may bank millions of dollars and draw the adoration of fans, that celebrity spotlight makes them an easy target for opportunists, excesses and worse.

The Senegal-born artist has drawn sharp criticism for performing a sexually explicit dance with an underage teen during a Trinidad concert last month. Though he says he thought she was at least 18 (she's reportedly 14 or 15), soon after the incident Verizon Wireless yanked its sponsorship of the "Sweet Escape Tour 07."

Gone, too, are the Akon TV spots for the cellular company, as well as his ringtones, music and artwork from Verizon stores and handsets.

"I want to sincerely apologize for the embarrassment and any pain I've caused to the young woman who joined me onstage," Akon said in a statement released Wednesday.

"We tried to make sure that the club did not admit anyone under 18 in the audience. Somehow that standard was not met."

Either way, when you've achieved Akon's level of success, you usually have a team of managers, label execs, publicists and security whose job is to protect artists from such sticky situations.

When you take an artist on the road, said longtime road manager Anthony Middleton, who has worked with Atlanta rap duo OutKast and R&B singer Monica, "you have to create this kind of soft bubble around them to protect them from being on the wrong side of a lawsuit - and from themselves."

In reference to Akon, Middleton said the situation was "really unpredictable. I mean, what is a 15-year-old doing in a club after midnight?"

For male performers in particular, women are an ongoing challenge, said security veteran Tim Melchor, who has worked with Bobby Brown, New Edition and LL Cool J. Artists like Brown, the late Tupac Shakur, and R. Kelly (who's facing molestation charges) experienced this. *