She’s one of the most enduring pop icons of her generation and in recent years, one of the most publicity shy. To mark the 10th anniversary of her first ever GLAMOUR cover, Britney Spears grants Sylvia Patterson a rare audience to discuss motherhood, her mistakes and living in the moment.
Back in late September 2001, Britney Spears was just a couple of months away from turning 20. She was on tour, on the phone to GLAMOUR from Australia for her very first cover story, and laughing about the 7ft, 15lbs albino python she’d held above her head at that year’s MTV Awards (“I was so scared in rehearsals, I broke out in hives”). She was also coming to terms with the cultural fall-out from the atrocity of 9/11. She was, she told me, both “completely heartbroken” and “in awe” of America’s Response, a nation determined to stride ahead with life, as she was with her own. “You just have to look up and look at the light and pray that everything’s gonna work out,” she says. “Every night.”
Exactly ten years on, it’s a sentiment, no doubt, that has steered Britney well through a decade of dazzling professional highs and painful lows. Now, with her 30th birthday in sight, she’s not only a unique cultural icon, but a mother to her two boys, Sean Preston, six, and Jayden James, five. In 2001, She’d sold 37 million albums, today she’s sold 100 million, and her adventures through fashion, musical experiment and lyrical fun – “it’s Britney, bitch!” – are touchstones of contemporary global pop. Currently in the middle of her triumphantly well-received, high-glam Femme Fatale tour, she sounds grounded, relieved and relaxed. “Everything’s been great so far,” she enthuses, on the phone from Boston. “The crowds have been just out-of-this-world good and it’s been a lot of fun for me every night to play with them. I seriously think it’s the best tour I’ve done so far. So – so far, so good.”
You’re bringing your Femme Fatale tour to the UK this October. How do our crowds differ from those in the States?
“I think the crowds overseas are just more excited and more pleased that you’re there. It’s actually really amazing, it’s so much more exciting. I’m not sure why, they just have more energy and they’re very welcoming.”
What are your favorite memories from the times you’ve visited the UK?
“My best memories are probably from the very beginning with my assistant Felicia, when we first went to London. It was my first time to see Big Ben and everything was so new and fresh. We went to all the amazing shops and just had so much fun with everyone – we’d all get together and it was just amazing. This time, we’ll check out the stores and go to dinners and just have fun.”
Will you be hoping to see Prince William and The Duchess of Cambridge at one of your shows?
“That would be amazing! That will be really crazy and cool. I think they’re a beautiful couple and i totally respect and admire them. They have done so well so far. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to watch the wedding but I heard it was beautiful.”
Does it feel strange to think Prince William used to have posters of you on his bedroom wall when he was a teenager?
“That is so funny. I had no idea that he did that! That’s hilarious.”
You’ve performed on another British institution in the past, The X Factor. Are you excited that it’s finally coming to the states this month?
“I’ll definitely watch it and I do think it will work. There are so many shows out like that, but that is one of the best.”
Are you a fan of Simon Cowell?
“I respect Simon Cowell’s honesty. I think it’s refreshing, but I don’t think I’d be able to be that honest! I’d be worries about destroying someone’s dreams.”
You’ve been in the business for a long time now- what’s the key to longevity and surviving such a tough industry?
“I seriously think it’s because I love what I do and I don’t take myself so seriously. I’m on this journey and I’ve had so much fun so far, and i genuinely have a blast. And I really don’t listen to critics or the haters or anything like that. I’m just in a really good place right now and really excited to be where I am.”
Where do you think that strength comes from? To carry on through everything…
“I think it has a lot to do with how you were brought up. I work hard and I’m a very grateful and thankful person.”
You’re turning 30 in December. How do you feel about that milestone?
“I think the older you get, the wiser you get. I can’t wait. I’m really excited and definitely gonna celebrate and do something pretty fun. A carnival of Britney? I don’t think I’ll be doing that! It’ll be something a little more low-key.”
Do you find it easy dealing with the aging process?
“It’s a part of life. It’s a beautiful part of life and that’s how I accept it.”
You’ve achieved so much. Is there anything you haven’t yet achieved that you hoped you would by the age of 30?
“I would love to do more movies and venture out into those aspects. It’s something I’m still hoping to do.”
You’ve had so many iconic looks over the years – do you keep or archive your costumes? Do you still have the school uniform? or the rubber catsuit?
“Some of them are in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, some of them I still have. My all-time favourite? Probably the school uniform. I think because it was my first video I ever did and the first experience with everything. That’s in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.”
Apart from dancing, what else do you do to keep in shape?
“I work out every other day, and sometimes every day. I run a lot (on the treadmill) in hotels when I’m on tour and I do light weights and a little bit of cardio.”
Do you find exercise is something that helps give you peace of mind?
“I do. It’s a spiritual thing, it helps your mind and your body and it’s all connected. So, yes. I think it’s really important to take care of yourself in that way.”
If you are having a day when you’re feeling insecure, what instant tricks do you have that make you feel more fabulous?
“The usual. Make-up. Chocolate. Shopping. For a good pair of jeans and shoes, I love Flying Monkey jeans and Steve Madden shoes. And Prada! And I just found a really cute piece at this store called Crush Boutique here in Boston. Not expensive at all – a dress, it shows my back and it’s really cute and short.”
Performing runs in your family – would you support Sean Preston and Jayden James if they chose to follow in your footsteps? What characteristics of yours do you see in them?
“They’re very artsy and creative kids, they are always entertaining and they’re full of energy, like I was when I was younger. So I’m sure they’ll definitely be attracted to the arts. They love to dance and paint and they’re always putting on shows, re-enacting things.”
Ten years ago you told me this: “I think God has a plan for everyone, and I think this is his plan for me. And you learn life lessons with each plan. I definitely think we have many lives and I think in my other life in the world ‘cos I feel this one is a breeze.” Do you still stand by those words?
“I think it’s true. I still stand by that and I still believe in that.”
But things haven’t always been breezy for you. You’re now a veteran and a survivor. You really think, for the most part, things have been breezy?
“Yeah. You know, I’ve gone through stuff, but it’s made me a stronger person, definitely. I take one day at a time, and embrace it fully and live in the moment.”
What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learnt about men over the past ten years?
“You can’t change them.” [Giggles]
Anything else ?
“That’s pretty much it.” [Laughs uproariously]
Is there one piece of advice you’d like to go back and give your 16-year-old, Baby, One More Time self?
“To have fun. I was having fun then but I would say to stay true to that, y’know? I’m still pretty much the same person I was when I started this, but in the beginning I think I was fearful. So I’d say, just try to embrace moments more. To have a good time with life and don’t take it so seriously. and right now I’m really excited about the show – this is the funnest show I’ve done in my career. so right now, I’m just having a lot of fun.”
BRITNEY’S QUIET NIGHT IN
Who is with you?
“My boyfriend, Jason [Trawick].”
What’s on the TV?
“Sex And The City.”
What are you wearing?
“Sweats and a tank top.”
What’s the soundtrack to the evening?
What are you cooking?
“Turkey burgers and vegetables.”
AND BIG NIGHT OUT
What are you wearing?
“A cute dress”
How long does it take you to get ready?
What’s in your clutch bag?
What restaurant are you heading o?
What gig, concert or theater show would you take in?
What song would get you up and dancing?
“Anything by Janet Jackson.”