“If Britney Spears survived 2007, then you can make it through this day.”
It’s a safe wager to assume that despite your actual level of knowledge regarding the 35-year-old entertainer, you’re probably well aware of how that constantly-meme’d mantra got its origin: ten years ago, while at the height of the pop game and seemingly unstoppable from ultimately surpassing the music idol she locked lips with during an unforgettable 2003 MTV performance, Spears’ life began crashing down all around her as the world looked on — and it all hit a fever pitch inside of a small beauty salon that was located inside of a residential city on the west coast.
“10 years ago today,” an Instagram post from one Jason Michael Martin begins, “Britney Spears walked in Esther’s Haircutting Salon in Tarzana, California, and asked Esther, the owner, to shave her head. Esther refused, so Britney took matters — and a pair of shears — into her own hands and sat down in one of Esther’s chairs to do what Esther wouldn’t.”
10 years ago today, Britney Spears walked in Esther's Haircuttimg Salon in Tarzana, California, and asked Esther, the owner, to shave her head. Esther refused. So Britney took matters – and a pair of shears – into her own hands and say down in one of Esther's chairs, and proceeded to do what Esther wouldn't. Now, when I think back to this as a 24 year old, I was just… stunned. I couldn't understand why she would do such a random thing. I couldn't fathom what had happened to the world's biggest pop star since Madonna that would make her want to do this. They said drugs. I didn't believe them but then again anything is possible. She HAD been on them but when I don't know. Maybe it was. I'm not her or around her to know for sure and I don't speculate when it comes to that. After she shaved her head, she then went to a tattoo parlor and got a tattoo. One of the employees asked her, point blank, why. Britney's response? "I don't want anyone touching me. I'm tired of everybody touching me." We were literally watching Britney, America's sweetheart, have a meltdown in front of us. The whole world was watching. The paparazzi had a field day with her, making sure she was top priority now to see who would get the newest picture so they could speculate what happened and where she was heading and what she was doing. She further made headlines, even more so than ever. People magazine had her on their cover issue many times in the comin months: "Britney's Mental Illness"; "Inside Britney's Meltdown"; "Help Me," and many more. They spoke of her children and her career and her life. "The Battle for Britney's Boys" was one such cover. A photo of Britney post-shaved head (August, 2007), holding her boys and the cover read, "Is she a danger to her kids? Is Kevin just after more money? As the custody fight turns ugly, friends and family take sides." This didn't help her with her mental illness. It compounded it. She hung out with people she really shouldn't have (even if most of the gays think they're iconic, which, in a way, they are). She did things and went places she shouldn't have. Even she said so in the 2008 MTV documentary "For the Record." #mentalhealthawareness
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As a long time Britney fan — 17 years long, to be exact — it’s an image and story that I am far too familiar with and have no interest in retreading in full (if you need a more complete timeline, however, Contact Music has got you covered), but on this day, a decade after headlines such as “Spears Sheared!” and “Britney’s Breakdown” started to pop up daily on every website, newspaper, gossip publication and status message from non-fans who simply never liked her, it’s hard not to share my take of what I felt witnessing my saving grace, the legendary Miss Britney Jean Spears, begging to be saved.
“Britney Shears,” the New York Daily News headlined in big, bold print on February 18, 2007.
“Shocking [pics] as superstar teeters on edge of a breakdown.”
I had, of course, heard the term before Spears’ 2007 experience; mostly in a comedic sense and perhaps once or twice in a classic yet underrated Mariah Carey jam, but I had never been through one myself (not at that time or at the level of Britney’s anyway) or watched someone that I wholeheartedly admired live through it — and yes, live through it, she did — but not knowing that at that time, I was absolutely terrified about what might become of the young, talented woman from Kentwood, Louisiana.
— Aiden Swan (@SWXNLXKE) October 20, 2015
The thing is, whenever I was dealing with something dark and deep in my life, it was always Britney who got me past it with her bubbly spirit, her amazing performances, and last but not least, her still-amazing music. And for a moment that stretched on for far too long, I thought that we, just as we ultimately sat back and watched as Amy, Whitney, and Michael departed this Earth through similar feats of trying to block out levels of emotional and physical exhaustion, would lose her, too.
Of course, that was then, and this is now; five albums, massive personal growth, and a few broken romances here and there later. Britney is still very here, thank the Heavens, stronger than yesteryear and still able to bring me out of my worst funks with just the sound of her voice, and I’m so very grateful for that.
However, when I see comments and articles nowadays from other places that purposely pit artists against one another or trash certain icons who have a bad performance among their countless other lauded live takes as a way to exalt their favorite up-and-comers, I’m immediately brought back to Britney Spears’ 2007, when people were equally vicious to her for the sake of whatever they were trying to convey or promote instead of treating her like the human being she was and will always be.
We are not infallible creatures, and we need to remember that the next time a notable does something less than flawless, which will probably occur sooner rather than later. Britney, if this somehow reaches your eyes, please know that I, personally, am incredibly proud of you and continue to cheer you on toward your happiness with your boys, your career, your love life, but most of all, your overall existence. You made it, baby (one more time), and I love you beyond words for showing us what it truly means to be, dare I say it, stronger than yesterday.
And to everyone else, I say this; be a light. If nothing else, Britney Spears’ 2007 should’ve taught you just how easy it is for the darkness we all possess to become overpowering. Be better, be wiser, but most of all, be kinder to one another. We’re all we’ve got, y’all.
[Featured Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]