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Revisiting Rolling Stone's "The Tragedy of Britney Spears"


On February 21, 2008, the first of two Rolling Stone covers starring Britney Spears that year hit newsstands. Using a portrait of Spears taken in 2004, it invited readers "inside an American tragedy," by way of a nine-page story by then-contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis.

Unable to secure a sit-down with her troubled subject, the journalist's contact with Spears, "a perfectly-proportioned porcelain doll with a nasty weave," was limited to distant encounters as she tagged along with paparazzi from Hollywood.tv. (Grigoriadis would later cite the website's founder, Sheeraz Hasan, as her primary source.)

"The Tragedy of Britney Spears" seemed to confirm several longstanding rumors about Spears—that she'd had, and swiftly removed, breast implants in her late teens, and had consummated her relationship with Justin Timberlake long before publicly proclaiming abstinence—and suggested that she'd been abusing pills prior to her first hospitalization on January 3 of that year. It painted her, not as a young woman in the throes of a mental health crisis, but as a chain-smoking "inbred swamp thing," "arrogant, anxiety-ridden and paranoid."

Below, eight of the story's most illuminating and/or sensational passages.

1. Mall Scene
"In person, Britney is shockingly beautiful—clear skin, ruby lips, a perfectly proportioned 26-year-old porcelain doll with a nasty weave.

"She rifles the racks as the Cure's 'Pictures of You' blasts into the airless [Betsey Johnson] boutique, grabbing a pink lace dress, a few tight black numbers and a frilly red crop top... Then she ducks into the dressing room with [then-boyfriend Adnan] Ghalib. He emerges with her black AmEx.

"The card won't go through, but they keep trying it. One of the shopgirls runs to Britney's dressing room, explaining the situation through a pink gauze curtain.

"A wail emerges from the cubby—guttural, vile, the kind of base animalistic shriek only heard at a family member's deathbed. 'Fuck these bitches,' screams Britney, each word ringing out between sobs. 'These idiots can't do anything right!'"


2. Crucible of Fame
"If Britney was really who we believed her to be—a puppet, a grinning blonde without a cool thought in her head, a teasing coquette clueless to her own sexual power—none of this would have happened. She is not book-smart, granted. But she is intelligent enough to understand what the world wanted of her: that she was created as a virgin to be deflowered before us, for our amusement and titillation. She is not ashamed of her new persona—she wants us to know what we did to her."

3. Family Ties
"She has pushed away her family: her brother and father ('It is sad that all the men in my life do not know how to accept a real woman's love,' she explained); her sister Jamie Lynn, whom she speaks to on the phone and sees rarely; and, most important, her preening, difficult mother, Lynne, whom Britney considers poisonous... Ironically, it may be Britney's family who succeeds in retaining control of her now, in collaboration with doctors who are advising that she remain in a hospital setting as long as legally possible."



"Lynne retained a minor management role over the years, but she disappeared from Britney's side, enjoying her newfound wealth and laying the star-machine groundwork for Jamie Lynn. Jamie was not in the picture. 'It was upsetting for Britney to be around her dad,' says a friend. 'He came backstage one night, and he was wasted. She was devastated.' Britney would tell friends that her father was emotionally abusive."

4. Growing Pains
"The first big blow to Britney's golden-girl image was her breast implants. According to a source, she and Lynne had made the decision for her to get them, on the assumption that the culture demanded it, but the press leapt on her scornfully. 'When Britney saw the papers, she was crying in the bathtub uncontrollably, asking Why is everyone being so mean to me?' says a friend. Britney regretted the implants, particularly because her chest was still growing, and when her natural breasts became larger, she had the implants removed."

5. 'Meat Pole'
"Kevin Federline (nicknamed 'Meat Pole') gave Britney license to fully embrace her white-trash side... But he liked the high life, buying a $250,000 silver Ferrari with monogrammed rims and getting stoned in their home recording studio while cutting his rap album. He made her feel a lot of her old insecurities—loneliness, fear of abandonment—and she started partying and spiraling downward, attributing her crying jags to postpartum depression."

6. Just Like Anna Nicole
"[Britney] had to go to rehab: Eric Clapton's Crossroads, in Antigua, but she stormed out one day later, flying to Miami and then coach-class to Los Angeles to see her family. She arrived at Federline's house for her babies, but he had joined forces with Lynne and [Larry] Rudolph, and wouldn't talk to her until she registered at Malibu rehab center Promises. She circled his house three times, furious at having to concede to their demands, before pulling into a random hair salon in the Valley and taking her hair off in big clumps, less as a penance than a liberation. Then she stayed up for forty-eight hours straight, driving around, sucking down dozens of Red Bulls, afraid that she was being followed by demons, or that a cell-phone charger was taping her thoughts, and obsessively listening to the radio for news about Anna Nicole Smith's death earlier that month. That was her fate, she declared—she was next."

7. Escape
"For the past few years, Britney has begged friends to help her run away, to leave everything behind and become a stylist or schoolteacher, or move to an island where she can work as a bartender. Ghalib helps her achieve her goal, evading the paparazzi for weeks on violent, terrifying chases. The relationship is just starting to build when Britney is taken to the hospital for the first time, and as soon as she comes out, Ghalib absconds with her to criss-cross the West Coast, making stops in Palm Springs and Mexico with his buddy, a paparazzo who would shoot the two of them for exclusive sale by Ghalib's then-agency."

8. Columbo
"'You must understand something about Britney,' Ghalib says, in arguing her side of the story. 'People turned on her. They were only there when the getting was good. She has become very Columbo-esque—she acts a certain way so that people don't think she's intelligent, and then people volunteer information, and she is able to put together what is going on... She knows that the people who had a responsibility to support her bailed out and is very hurt by their actions.'"



"'Look at George Foreman: He's the oldest heavyweight champion ever,' says Ghalib. 'That's what Britney's going to be. She said it best to me: She refuses to live her life anymore reflected in the eyes of others.' Then he gets very quiet. 'Be gentle to her,' he says. 'That's a personal request.'"

Full story at the source.

Shout out to frejasface, whose "Notorious" series inspired this post!
Tags: 2000s, britney spears, magazine covers and articles, rumors / gossip, time warp
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People forget celebrities are human. So sad what's taken place with Britney. I hope to see her rise above it all once again and to be living on her own terms again.. regardless of what anyone thinks.
Then she stayed up for forty-eight hours straight, driving around, sucking down dozens of Red Bulls, afraid that she was being followed by demons

🔥SHE! WAS!🔥

She has been quite literally stalked for the majority of her life. By the press, your sources, and you.

The journalist is trash, but it's very eerie that she predicted so much of what's coming to light right now.
They obviously meant demons in the religious sense. She was extremely mentally unwell at that time.
I know what she meant. But can you blame her when she was being stalked by hounds of people any time she left the house? All while her declining mental health was being talked about 24/7?

They are a huge reason why she got to that mental state. It's a miracle she's as competent and strong as she is today. I hope I'm not coming off harshly but I'm so sick of members of the press brushing off their responsibility in this.
LITERALLY, anyone would've lost their mind in that pressure cooker of abuse and horror
That video where that picture is from always makes me so sad 😔
Same. She's literally begging to be left alone.

mary_pickforded

July 22 2021, 03:53:47 UTC 3 months ago Edited:  July 22 2021, 03:54:09 UTC

Fuck Matt Lauer and the other "journalists" who exploited her, including Diane Sawyer years before.
She got torn apart for this interview and man I just can’t believe the nation was literally so evil to a pregnant 24 year old. 😭🤯🤬
i forget how young she was when she was pregnant
Knowing that Matt Lauer is a rapist and huge creep makes that interview even more infuriating. The audacity of men.
Kevin Federline (nicknamed 'Meat Pole')

that's truly unfortunate...
Truly all he was was a good piece of D!ck that messed our girl up bad. And then he stole the kids for coins. It's just vile ugh.. Life.
Truly unfortunate, yet strangely fitting
I'm not sure if it's supposed to be flattering or not.
"Adnan Ghalib". Thats a name I haven't heard in YEARS!!

""The first big blow to Britney's golden-girl image was her breast implants. According to a source, she and Lynne had made the decision for her to get them, on the assumption that the culture demanded it, but the press leapt on her scornfully. 'When Britney saw the papers, she was crying in the bathtub uncontrollably, asking Why is everyone being so mean to me

Build them up to break them down. Yeah the 90s period was you better have those busty boobs or get out lol. I've always been on the smaller size of things so I remember liking Gwen Stefani for small boob representation cause I think she was one of the few haha.

Poor Britney, and wow how very Kris Jenner of her mom to agree to let her get a boob job! >:(

sadteenager

July 22 2021, 02:32:27 UTC 3 months ago Edited:  July 22 2021, 02:32:55 UTC

someone posted the kimberly foster/for harriett video about Britney recently and she praised this article:



honestly I don't mind this article. I have similarly mixed feelings about her controversial first rolling stone cover story. Yes, the writing might have negative real-life consequences or might be in bad taste (and they certainly don't read the same now as they did then), but as pieces of writing, they do the job of creating an evocative image and a reflection of the time. Of course, this does raise the questions of how much responsibility writers should take for the (unintended?) impacts their writing has, especially over time.
i wish she had left her nose alone
she was so freaking pretty
yeah she literally had the perfect nose and smile and both are fucked up now :( but honestly I'm inspired by how britney embraces her looks.
Her nose job somehow aged her too. Her old nose was perfect for her face
I can't help but think all this media attention, though it's positive is still triggering her. She probably just wants to live her life like a normal person and maybe move to Hawaii idk.
If the media actually cared about Britney and her case they would stop publishing non court related articles and photos immediately. She's made it perfectly clear she wants to be left alone.

I'm not normally this anti-press lol but man it's just annoying as heck.
Sadly I don't the the media will ever leave her alone :(

missjersey

3 months ago

I just can’t wait for our girl to be free. Seeing her driving and playing songs for Sam really lit my heart up because she’s always said she LOVES driving to destress and I can totally relate. Hopefully she takes a few years for herself, watch her kids graduate and all that then, do what she wants. Be it music, a tell all that she’s always said she’s going to write, or just….nothing at all.
As a fan I literally don't expect anything from her at all anymore. She's given this world enough tbh.
Exactly. I do hope she can get married and have a baby when she wants to once that thing is removed from her. ☹️

tobago_88

3 months ago

same. I hope some of the fans *cough*especially the ones on twitter*cough* start accepting that Britney may not give them that confessional album, book, or any info at all.

All Britney owes them is a thank you for the support, which she has already been doing.
same. i just hope she gets to rest and live in peace
I loved the freedom of driving my banged ass pick up truck around to music, it was def theraputic!

richyrich909

3 months ago

karis_azura

3 months ago

tanglespiders

3 months ago

blorpz

3 months ago

richyrich909

3 months ago

I hope she can have more babies like she wants
The early 2000s tabloid culture was horrific and Britney went through the worst of it. She had a mental breakdown in front of the world and the reaction from the media was to mock her for it.

I wish she’s free and able to do what makes her happy. She deserves it
a perfectly-proportioned porcelain doll with a nasty weave

WTF....what an asshole
I mean, why she gotta be an "inbred swamp thing?" That's a pretty specific insult that doesn't sit right with my spirit.
Makes me wonder how different the insult would look (if there was an insult at all) if it wasn't popular knowledge that she's from Mississippi/Louisiana tbh
i remember being SO MAD about this article and the one that blender did. absolute trash, the writer should be ashamed.
Okay yeah i had to stop at #2, what a nasty passage to write and publish about a real person
The media and publics obession with virginizing and thinking that female celebrities/pop stars were there to be role models for their children is something I never understood even as a child.
Lazy ass parenting tbh.

Expecting celebs to be role models for your kids… do it yourself 🙄
It’s a particularly infuriating part of living in a patriarchal society. The way we expect young girls in the public eye to act and the way the media treats them when they don’t measure up is instructive to all women.
it's even worse when you consider that members of boy bands/young male singers tend to be infantilized and seen as non-threatening... it's quite alarming and scary to raise young girls to be scared of their sexuality and that boys can do no wrong.
The mean spirited part of me would want to tag these writers on social media and drag them for filth.

Including the editors
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