By now, we're used to seeing the paparazzi catch Britney Spears acting strangely and dressing provocatively in public. But in a cover story due to hit newsstands around the country Friday in OK! magazine, the singer is depicted as having a complete meltdown during a planned "tell-all" interview she set up hoping to clear the air.
The usually celebrity-friendly magazine depicts a scene in which an erratic Spears is observed acting in a paranoid, confused and irrational manner; wiping her fried-chicken-stained fingers on an expensive designer dress; frequently leaving the interview for bathroom breaks; and finally storming out, leaving the magazine with no publishable pictures.
"At OK! we love celebrities, and we love bringing our readers exclusive photos and interviews with the stars at their happiest times — when they are getting married and having babies, or starring in blockbuster movies and winning Oscars," begins the story titled "Britney's Meltdown."
According to the article, Spears' handlers contacted the magazine recently to collaborate on a story in which "Britney could finally set the record straight about all the rumors surrounding her much-talked-about private life" (see "Britney Spears Admits 'I Was So Lost' In Online Letter"). The two sides agreed to an interview and photo shoot on Thursday with one of Hollywood's top photographers, to be assisted by wardrobe stylists and hair and makeup experts working in a "fabulous" rented mansion in Hollywood.
Before the shoot even happened, OK! reports that a new Spears assistant called the magazine July 17, the day the singer was photographed frolicking in the ocean in Malibu, California, in her underwear, to say that Spears would bring her own clothes to the shoot, despite the mag offering an "extensive and glamorous wardrobe."
On the day of the planned shoot, according to the article, the same assistant frantically called to say Spears would need wardrobe assistance after all. Once on set, Spears reportedly banished everyone except the hair and makeup team to another part of the house before everyone was told to leave so the singer's friends could prep her for the cameras. The magazine's editor in chief then reportedly stepped in to reinstate the professionals, but not long after, Spears is reported to have sent word that the large selection of designer clothes just weren't sexy, tight or short enough for her taste.
Just moments into the interview, Spears decided to break for lunch, and despite pleas from the wardrobe coordinator that she not dine wearing the fancy silk dress she'd chosen to wear, Spears refused to take it off and proceeded to rub the grease from her chicken meal on the outfit, ruining it in the process. Her new Yorkie puppy, London, added insult to injury by going "number two" on a $6,700 Zac Posen gown, which neither Britney nor her assistant cleaned up, according to OK!
After repeatedly excusing herself to use the bathroom without shutting the door, Britney was ready after two hours to sit for the photo shoot — but, according to the story, not before one more bathroom break, from which she returned seeming "disoriented." Looking uncomfortable as she danced to a Janet Jackson song while being photographed, Spears then abruptly took her CD out of the stereo and stormed out without explanation and did not return.
OK! Entertainment Director Rob Shuter was not at the shoot, but spoke to more than a dozen people who were and said that according to them, until Spears abruptly walked out, it had seemed that things were going well. "She seemed to be having an enjoyable time," said Shuter, who declined to speculate on why the singer made so many trips to the bathroom during the test shoot. "Britney hasn't done a photo shoot like this one for a long time. She's been on covers, but not one she posed for in a long time."
Worse still, the magazine reported that Spears walked out with a $950 pair of Lanvin heels, a $300 Mia Vita dress, an $87 gold bangle and a diamond-encrusted Kaviar and Kind cougar ring valued at $6,387. As for the photo shoot, OK! publicist Brian Strong has said the magazine had to use a recycled Spears photo for the cover because the ones shot last week could not be used for "legal reasons," but he told MTV News that the reality is that there were simply none that were publishable. Strong would not comment on whether Spears was paid to do the interview and photo shoot.
Though he would not name the "very well-known" photographer who was hired for the shoot — who he said knew Britney and had photographed her several times in the past — Shuter said unequivocally that Spears' decision to walk off with several thousand dollars' worth of clothing and accessories from the shoot was unusual. "We styled her and did her makeup, and she left wearing what you would have seen her wearing if we'd photographed her," he said. (The cover of the magazine was not part of the official shoot, but was taken as Spears left the mansion in a hurry.) "We borrow all the clothing from designers and we have to return it and nobody leaves photo shoots with the clothes on. It isn't done. You typically see someone arrive in jeans and a T-shirt, change into the costume for the shoot and then change back into jeans when they leave."
Shuter said the magazine will not pursue Spears to return the items, and she has not yet offered to give them back. He said he could not comment on whether OK! has spoken to Spears or her representatives since the failed interview, but he has been told that the singer has seen the issue. "It was absolutely shocking, heartbreaking and saddening, and we can't explain it," Shuter said. "We wanted to do a really positive, fantastic photo and interview."
"At OK! we'd love to have our old Britney back," the magazine's story concludes. "But what we experienced was a young girl who is desperately in need of help. And sadly, she has surrounded herself with too many people who are pretending that nothing is wrong."
A spokesperson for Spears could not be reached for comment at press time.
[This story was originally published on 7.25.07 at 1:46 p.m.]