You might not follow your mom on Instagram, but you should definitely follow someone else’s mom, that specific mom being Britney Spears, owner of the most joyful Instagram feed ever to exist. Far from the perfectly curated feeds of your favorite celebrities that feature sexy photo after sexy photo in a series of perfectly lit and angled and filtered selfies, Britney’s living through Instagram as her realest self, smudged mascara and all.
Britney Spears, it should go without saying, is a beautiful talented queen with dream abdominals. Hot off the Vegas circuit, the 34-year-old has solidified her place as a legendary diva, as revered as J.Lo, Mariah Carey, and Celine Dion (even if she doesn’t have the vocal prowess to compete with the latter two). And despite not having the business savvy of contemporaries like Beyoncé, or the news-cycle dominating controversiality of a Miley or a Gaga, Britney is a mainstay in the pop world, with a legacy that’s as reliable as it is immense. She’s both the everywoman and the everything woman of pop—equal parts mall rat and celebrated icon. Her pop star accolades are unimpeachable, of course. As a teenager performing “…Baby One More Time,” she changed pop music forever, as a young woman with a sound and persona traditionally reserved for boy bands. She set the tone for Millennial pop music and women in it. And yet beyond Brit’s chart-topping achievements and her mastery of the music video as an art form, it was the singer's very public meltdown in 2007 and subsequent triumphant recovery that truly made her the perpetual teen queen of our hearts. It’s a truism that everyone loves a redemption story and in Brit’s despair—reduced to a wide-eyed, shaven-headed, umbrella-wielding woman whose disintegration culminated with the singer strapped to a gurney as the flashbulbs popped in her face—she became a figure the media and her fans would loyally champion forever after. Ultimately her vulnerability wasn’t her Achilles heel so much as the making of her.
Which is probably what makes it so easy for her to post the first selfie she takes, sans filter, and Instagram with abandon. While the rest of us jerks are out here taking approximately 30,000 selfies just to post one, Britney has so little fucks to give she just posts the first one and gets on with her life. With rubbed off makeup, frizzy hair, and sometimes hilarious expressions, Britney has embodied her true self in the way we could only wish too. And why shouldn’t she? We know Britney is epic—we’ve seen the music videos and the stage shows—she doesn’t need washed out perfection to prove anything to us.
LOL this caption
While we tout other artists as “real” when they do “no makeup” selfies, what we’re really celebrating is their ability to make their concealer look transparent, catch light on their cheek bones in just the right way, meanwhile having potential hours to spend editing photos to filter out any imperfections. Not Britney. When we say “Britney is being real,” what we mean is “damn girl, you’re not hiding anything.” And a woman with nothing to hide can sometimes be super fierce. Or maybe Britney just doesn’t know how to use filters, and what we really mean is “Come on mom, it’s not that hard!”
The only addendum to this is that one time Britney tried to photoshop her supine poolside body into a Khloe Kardashian-esque bum-to-back ratio. Because she is the “Shut up mom you’re embarrassing me!” type of Instagrammer, the Photoshop was immediately noticeable, stirring up a little bit of controversy, but mostly bemusement. It wasn’t like she was trying to be professional—Britney’s Photoshop fail was the kind any of us would have if we tried to carve out a Pythagoras theorem from our backsides. All it served to remind us of was the basic fact that Britney is best without the editing. Her real deal is much more compelling than the contrived bullshit that celebrities pull every day.
There’s also a lot of very serious nonsense on Britney’s feed which, if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face, should be a good sign that you should go back to the door and uncheck your sense of humor. Weird quotes, from the inspirational to the meme-y, and photos of babies that aren’t hers being hilariously cute is Brit’s zone of terror. Yes, it’s just like your Aunt who doesn’t know the difference between “like” and “share” on Facebook and winds up posting a lot of inspirational stories about miraculous things children have said or old people who were in love for eleventy billion years. Except that Britney isn’t annoying: she’s brilliant.
Sure, Britney posts her share of Bible quotes, but she also posts memes with bad puns, and ones intentionally intended for the empowerment of women (insofar as a meme can empower a woman, I guess). My favorite quote she’s posted so far is one about adulthood—it’s the kind of thing my a friend would post while coming home drunk at 6 AM and feeling frisky. Which obviously makes me feel like Britney could be my friend.
Then she casually throws down a #tbt selfie with Leonardo DiCaprio and you remember that this is Britney, bitch. Even if that photo does look like she’s an excited fan who ran up to Leo in a mall and asked for a photo. That’s the allure of Britney and her amazing Instagram account—you could easily forget you’re looking at the life of one of the biggest pop stars of our generation, unless she unwittingly jerks you back to reality with a candid photo of DiCap. The real star of Britney’s feed however, are the photos that make you think Britney is the most loving, proud and fun mother on Earth, without her ever rubbing it in. Which is where so much of the appeal of Britney’s Instagram lies: she presents her wonderful self and her wonderful life without any of the long, saccharine captions that make you spew in your mouth a little bit.
Britney’s Instagram is, in the weirdest way possible, exceedingly intimate. Unlike a Rihanna or a Beyoncé or a Kardashian (not that I’m diminishing their brands at all, just using them for contrast), Britney doesn’t have a team of professionals following her around making sure every photo is picturesque and gorgeous. Britney presents her life the same way anyone you know personally would. Nothing in it is designed to create an image (if you’re cynical, maybe you’d say that’s the exact image she’s curating, but no one can do “regular” so very regularly if they’re being truly contrived). Scrolling through Britney’s feed, you get the distinct impression that Britney Spears is just living her life and is completely unaware of the 9.3 million people following her. Britney is as Britney does.
And then, of course, there’s the inexplicable stock photo of corn.
Britney’s making some a-maize-ing moves (sorry, I couldn’t resist), and not only is she humbling our greedy hearts on Instagram, she’s gearing up a comeback blitz in May with her new single, “Make Me (Ooh)” (wonder what that's about!) and a hotly anticipated performance at the Billboard Awards on May 22. I’m expecting nothing less than another breathtaking “You better work bitch” hook. Let’s hope it buries the memory of last year’s Iggy Azalea collaboration “Pretty Girls” deep in her vast past discography. Regarding her ninth full length, the phrases being bandied about so far are include “totally different” and “somewhat unexpected.” Britney told V Magazine she’s been taking her time on her forthcoming album in order to get it just right—although if you look at her Instagram feed, you might be mistaken into thinking she was taking her time because her life is just that wonderful, work doesn’t always take precedence.
But there’s more to Britney’s Instagram feed than all the adorable, unpredictable, totally nonsensical shit going on there. It’s evidence that we can rebuild, and that in rebuilding, sometimes the most mundane of things, the type of stuff we turn our noses up at as “uncool,” are the foundation for true joy. After we watched Britney meltdown in the mid-aughts, there’s a serenity in watching her enact happiness without pretension or filters. It reminds us that we can live through anything if Britney made it.
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