NEW YORK — Christmas is upon us, and for a top ballerina at New York City Ballet, that means one sure thing: suiting up in tulle and sequins as the Sugarplum Fairy in the annual classic, “The Nutcracker.” What Jenifer Ringer surely didn’t expect was to be accused of having “eaten one sugarplum too many.”

That remark two weeks ago by the nation’s most prominent dance critic reverberated across the Web, with many coming to Ringer’s defense and calling the reviewer a cad.

Worse, angry fans wrote on chat boards, Ringer has been public about struggles with eating disorders earlier in her career, but triumphed to become one of NYCB’s most popular dancers. How cruel, then, to criticize her body now.

Through two weeks of chatter, though, Ringer remained publicly silent, as most dancers do – until Monday, when she appeared on NBC’s “Today” to address the controversy swirling around her like the confetti in “Nutcracker’s” famous snowflake scene.

“I’m not overweight,” said the ballerina, who at 37 is not only a company veteran but one of only three mothers in its ranks. “I do have, I guess, a more womanly type than the stereotypical ballerina.”

But she declined to demand an apology from New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay.

“It’s his opinion,” said Ringer, whom NYCB would not make available to The Associated Press for comment. “He is a critic and he’s paid to put his opinion in the paper.” She added that “there were 2,000 people probably out there … and everyone else had a different opinion as well.”

“Perhaps she is not the thinnest dancer on the stage, but who cares?” said Wendy Perron, editor of Dance Magazine. “What she has is warmth. She is just wonderful in the role of the Sugarplum Fairy, welcoming Marie and her prince to the Land of the Sweets. Not every dancer can pull that off.”

Rapper will serve two years on gun charge

NEW YORK — Ja Rule agreed Monday to go to prison for two years in a gun case, becoming the second platinum-selling rapper set to do time after arrests in the aftermath of a star-studded hip-hop concert in July 2007.

The rapper-actor – whose gravelly voice, thuggish tough talk and duets with R&B divas made him one of rap’s stars in the early 2000s – pleaded guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon. Superstar Lil Wayne was arrested separately the same night and later pleaded guilty to the same charge.

Police said they found a loaded .40-caliber semiautomatic gun in a rear door of his $250,000 German-made Maybach automobile after it was stopped for speeding.

Rocking reality: Marriage

LOS ANGELES — Nicole Richie and Joel Madden have gone from reality star and rocker to husband and wife.

Richie’s publicist Nicole Perna says in an e-mail to The Associated Press Sunday that the 29-year-old socialite and her longtime boyfriend Madden were married Saturday in Los Angeles.

The 31-year-old Madden fronts the band Good Charlotte.

The couple, who dated for more than four years, have a 2-year-old daughter, Harlow Winter Kate, and a 15-month-old son, Sparrow Midnight.