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Book & Movie Club - The Woman In Me

I did not expect to be inspired by Britney’s memoir. Like many people I read it for the gossip. What I got was insight into the power of self-awareness and how a lack of it can turn a dream career into a nightmare.


It’s a quick read (I finished it on a plane ride to Arizona). I imagine Britney is still in the earlier stages of self-discovery and self-awareness. She’s honest and raw enough to share what it was really like to be her at the height of fame.


Success came quite young to Britney. She started her career on The Mickey Mouse Show when teen and pre-teen programming was really starting to explode. Her career as a recording artist saw even more monumental success. 


Her first two studio albums “...Baby One More Time” and “Oops … I Did it Again” are among the top selling albums of all time. Both were released before she turned 20.


In the bio, Britney shares how happy she is when she’s making music. The recording studio is a safe space where she can express herself. She works with collaborators and producers who nurture this in her. In the studio she sees herself as an artist. This is where she feels most like herself.


The nightmare begins when she has to promote these works. Similar to the recording studio, Britney is a creative collaborator on the set of music videos. This is another safe space for her. 


It’s the contrast between what she creates and how she’s presented in media that chips away at her soul.


If you think back to the early aughts, pre-teen and teen culture was exploding. So was the nation’s obsession with virginity. In the United States, there was a trend of “virginity pledges” and virginity rings. Young people promising their parents to save themselves for marriage. Specifically, young women promising their chastity to their dads.  


The Jonas Brothers talked openly about their virginity rings. Websites would count down to when teen stars turned 18.


It’s as gross as you can imagine.


This is the cultural environment surrounding Britney Spears’ rise to fame. Her management forced her to keep up the image of a virginal temptress. A sexually inexperienced Lolita unaware of her own sexuality. This is problematic enough on a cultural level. 


For Britney it was also a stone-cold lie. She lost her virginity at 16, before she even had a recording contract. It was a normal right of passage. So normal it barely registers in the bio. And yet this tension, and the pressure to live a lie, to not be able to claim her own sexuality, haunted Britney throughout her adulthood.


I keep thinking about her meteoric rise to fame. We often think notoriety, success, even going viral will be the best thing to happen to us. But what foundation are you launching from? And are you surrounded by people who support you and allow your authentic self to shine through?


Fame and influence can do a lot of good. They’re often rewards for contributing something a lot of people want. Just make sure you know who you are in pursuit of this level of success. Otherwise you’ll be swallowed into the depths of other people’s opinions and you might find yourself disappearing.

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