I once tried to explain Allure’s covers to a group of eight-year-old boys. They were visiting our offices on a school field trip (one of the boys was my son), and I was doing my best imitation of Miss Jean Brodie crossed with Jack Black. I revealed how we select our profile subjects, retouch the images, and craft over the cover lines (boys, do know what “alliteration” means?). One eager student’s hand shot up. “Have you ever had Paris Hilton on your cover?” he asked.
“No,” I said. “And if I ever do, you’ll know it’s a sign of the apocalypse.”
I wonder what those eight-year-old boys would make of Britney Spears on this month’s cover of Allure. I wonder how I would explain it to them.
The first time we photographed the former Mouseketeer, she was 18 years old and full of promise. It’s hard to remember that Britney. I’d seen her at the MTV Video Music Awards, when she ripped off her tuxedo down to a nude, sequined bodysuit and flung herself and her long blonde extensions around the stage. Anyone with a pulse could tell that this was an electrifying performer. For her second Allure cover, in 2005, Britney was slightly world-weary: newly married for the second time, she vowed to get her life, her body, and her career back in shape. This time, with two children, a divorce, a stint in rehab, and an apparently breakdown involving an electric razor, Britney seemed to be joining Paris Hilton in the tabloids with nothing to promote except questionable judgment.
Still, I had hope. Spears had been in the recording studio on and off for the past two years, slowly working on her next album. I thought we could present the profile as her comeback. Perhaps Britney’s story would be redemptive, like those of Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, and Mariah Carey before her.
Britney showed up for Allure’s cover shoot on time and ready to work. She was entirely unself-conscious: She took off her wig and then stripped down to the waist, for no apparent reason, before sitting for hair and makeup. She was agreeable and cooperative on the shoot and left at the end of the day, followed by a trail of paparazzi. And that was the last we saw of her.
Since then, Britney has had a dust-up with her mother, fired the cousin who drove her to the photoshoot, and been dropped by her publicist. She missed four appointments for an interview with Allure.
Britney has long lost her role-model status. That dream of a comeback seems to occupy an ever-more-distant speck on the horizon. Deeply flawed, confused, and unsure of whom to trust, Britney Spears still commands our attention — perhaps even more so now than before her life imploded. It is this phenomenon that Judith Newman captures in her story. Liberated from an interview, Newman delivers an insightful piece about the nature of celebrity in 2007. And that is why Britney is on our cover.
Linda Wells, Editor-in-Chief
Trackback from your site.