I've had a longstanding love and appreciation for Britney Spears. My penchant for Brit-Brit dates back 15+ years. When Britney first joined the music biz, I imagine her saying "Hi, ya'll!" and snacking on a Slim Jim while meeting with high-profile industry execs.
(Britney is many things, but she is not an elegant city girl, unless she is playing one in a music video.)
Soon, Britney came to symbolize the ideal look of an early-2000s teenage girl. She is largely responsible for any crunches that I did in high school and millions of bellybutton piercings across our great nation.
No one in my generation needs a reminder of what Britney looked like back then. Her PR team couldn't let you forget. Britney's impossibly chiseled waist and star-bright smile were plastered across every magazine cover and Sam Goody (RIP) display for years. To say that her label had a large marketing budget would be an understatement.
If you paid attention in the later 2000s, you recall that Britney went through a dark season of shaving her head, walking around LA gas stations barefoot, and recording high-larious videos with her ex-husband, K-Fed, that you can now find on YouTube.
Rolling Stone said that her situation was the "most public downfall in American history," calling her an "inbred swamp thing."
Okay, so, girlfriend went through some things. Britney, who many remember as just a child herself, ended up giving birth to two children with K-Fed. Her weight went up and down over the years, unlike her ability to stay in the headlines, which never fluctuated.
She famously performed "Gimme More" at the 2007 VMAs with a different body type than she'd displayed before. The new Britney looked thicker—although far from jiggly—and simply no longer 17.
I remember hearing people say she looked like a pig. It's hard to believe how hypocritical onlookers can be, considering that nearly three in four American men is overweight or obese.
But "Gimme More" was eight years ago. Britney turned her life around, and nowadays, she's probably making more money than ever. In December 2013, she embarked on a two-year performing residency in Las Vegas. She fronts a clothing line and a perfume brand that's still going strong. (I loved the Curious perfume in the blue bottle when I was 20.) Her new music still charts no matter what.
For someone who built a career out of maintaining a slim look, how did Britney proceed after everyone said she looked like a chubby pig? By all accounts, she bounced back in the healthiest way possible.
Looking at Britney now, I'm inspired by the balance in her life. She has two kids and a full-time performing gig. She wears revealing costumes in front of millions of annual audience members—costumes that I can't imagine any other 33-year-old I know wearing comfortably.
You can't hide a lot in those costumes, and there's nothing to hide. The itty-bitty thighs and super-trim hips of her youth may be a distant memory, but today's Britney is clearly strong, muscular, and confident. To perform at the level she does, you can tell that Britney isn't pussyfooting around in the gym while hardly breaking a sweat.
And she can still totally rock a headset.
Today, I get a sense of this real balance to Britney. While she looks fantastic and obviously works out, her Instagram cracks me up with references to the food she loves to eat.
Paparazzi images confirm it when they show her leaving Starbucks with frappucino after frappucino. (This woman does not have expensive tastes when it comes to her daily sugar dose.)
And this realism is what inspires me.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where many female celebrities are vague about why they look like they do. They say their guilty pleasure is ice cream, chocolate, or pizza and that they merely attend cardio classes a few times a week to maintain a trim figure. I've read hundreds of articles in women's magazines where such-and-such actress reveals that she still totally loves spaghetti or cheeseburgers or brownies, yet if you flip to the cover, you see no evidence that she eats anything but plain veggie broth and ice cubes.
There's even an Instagram called @youdidnoteatthat with photos of models posing with junky food that they probably didn't eat—or at least don't make a habit of eating.
I watched a video of Miley Cyrus a while ago in which her friends got In-N-Out burgers, but she just smelled the bag instead of eating one.
I'm not saying you can't look like a model and eat pizza. Hey, genetics are also a thing. I'm just saying that these images are likely uncharacteristic of how those women spend 99% of their time.
If one of these women would simply be up front with her fellow ladies, I would heave a mega sigh of relief. Maybe if they said, "Yes—to shape up for this role, I spent 4 hours with a personal trainer every day. I ate extremely healthy, low-carb, and low-cal. I didn't eat after 9 p.m. I had a cheat meal once a month." Then I would know that their lifestyle is unattainable for me. I have another full-time job besides looking good!
But Britney Spears doesn't look unattainable or like she eats only veggie broth. When Britney says she loves food, you can really believe it. (I can relate to this, because no matter how hard I try, I can't cure my palate of craving some really bad-for-me foods.)
Britney looks like someone who leads an active lifestyle and eats healthy—but an image of Britney drinking a venti frap isn't incongruous.
There's a fantastic article that compares photos of Britney leaving the gym to photos of Taylor Swift leaving the gym. I can't confirm its legitimacy, but regardless of whether Taylor is actually leaving the gym or just her apartment, it's clear that Britney is not concerned what you think about her when she's off the clock.
When she's on the clock, she brings it—she does her hair and flexes her abs. But when she's enjoying downtime, she gives herself plenty of room to breathe, and yes, maybe eat. It's endearing, refreshing, and a relief.
I'm sure the legendary Ms. Spears still goes on some slim-down diets before a big music video or photo shoot. Yet looking at her today, I see a body type that feels inspiring, not exclusive.
Whereas stick-skinny celebrities make me feel a little defeated (I will never be that thin—not ever), Britney makes me feel like I can do it. And that it's never too late—not even after an embarrassing VMA performance—to live the life of your dreams.
And maybe that dream life can include some venti frappucinos, too. Or in my case, some vegan grilled cheese. I can only hope.