One of the perks of being a superstar is that it frees you from worrying about the little things, like what clothes to wear to a photo shoot, how to style your hair, how you're getting to the recording studio and where your next meal is coming from.
Sure, hands-on multitaskers like Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani make a point of being involved in even the most minute decisions about their next project or a product bearing their name, but they also know when to let go and listen to the advice of their trusted teams of advisers, managers, publicists and assistants.
So why does it seem like Britney Spears — who is estimated to be worth more than $300 million — does everything on her own? From reportedly acting as her own publicist/manager/stylist to helping direct the still-unreleased video for her current hit, "Gimme More," to driving her two young children around Los Angeles (without a valid license) and picking the outfit for her ill-received VMA performanceVMA performance, Spears has been painted as an artist-as-island.
Reportedly feuding with her mom and recently dropped by both her attorney and manager, Britney not only doesn't follow the advice of the dwindling members of her professional team, according to reports, she appears determined to listen to no one but herself. And given some of her recent choices, the decision seems to be seriously affecting both her personal and professional lives — and it could have its roots in some troubling causes.
There are two likely reasons for this type of seemingly reckless go-it-alone behavior, according to Dr. Drew Pinsky — host of the syndicated radio show "Loveline" and a board-certified addictionologist — and both of them are potentially disastrous.
"Everyone is looking at this woman and trying to make rational the disease we call addiction, and it's not rational," said Pinsky, who is not treating Spears, but explained that the singer must be suffering from some form of addiction because a person cannot be admitted to a treatment center in California — as Spears was earlier this year — without meeting certain criteria for addiction. "Work, people we love, eating — everything is usurped by this desire to do drugs and alcohol, and all that thinking serves a broken motivation, so the things people do can look nutty because they're not making sense."
Someone suffering from what Pinsky speculates is a combination of different drug addictions in Spears' case is likely to act irrationally and suffer from paranoid delusions, usually directed at friends, family, co-workers and neighbors. Getting someone in that condition to listen to the advice of those around them is a major challenge.
"Involving law enforcement and the legal system — anywhere you can create a consequence where you can break that addiction — will help," Pinsky said, citing the judge's ruling this week to temporarily remove Spears' two children from her home after the singer reportedly failed to attend the court-ordered parenting classes and submit to random drug tests (see "Britney Spears Lost Custody Because 'She Didn't Follow The Rules,' Source Says"). "That's what the judge and [ex-husband Kevin] Federline are trying to do."
But depending on what issues are ailing Spears — which, Pinsky said, could be a serious psychiatric problem that may encompass postpartum depression, addiction to multiple drugs, personality issues and the rigors of a stressful career and personal life — getting the singer to start listening to those around her will not be easy and could be impossible — unless she begins to understand that "her very life hangs in the balance."
So from her meltdown at a magazine photo shoot earlier this summer to driving her kids around repeatedly without a valid California driver's license, why does the 25-year-old singer insist on keeping her own counsel?
There are many reasons why an artist might shut out their most trusted advisers, from a chemical imbalance to the substance-abuse problems Pinsky suggested. And, perhaps most importantly, fear could be the biggest factor, according to a publicist who worked closely with some of the biggest and most notoriously unwieldy rock acts of the 1980s and early '90s.
"Fear of a lack of control, fear of having regrets," said the publicist, who requested anonymity. "Generally people who are hugely successful don't have any preparation for that fame when they're growing up, and dealing with fame is very, very destructive. It takes people down faster than money."
But at the end of the day, publicists, managers, lawyers and assistants can't help until the artist is willing to be helped, the source said.
"You have to just listen and pay attention and wait for that moment when you can insert a suggestion," the source said. "You can't sit them down and slap them silly like a parent, because you're not a parent and you don't have any authority when you're working with someone who can fire you at a moment's notice.
"I've been in situations where I cared deeply and wanted to do everything I could to help, but it's like holding onto a comet," the publicist added. "It's like Michael Jackson, who doesn't do himself a lot of good and is sometimes his own worst enemy. When they become their own worst enemy, you try to protect them from themselves, but there's no legal basis for you to do that, so you sometimes have to just wait for your moment."
Looking at how Spears has isolated herself, another veteran entertainment publicist who has worked with a number of "very challenging" celebrities said that kind of lone-wolf attitude is what happens when you don't hold on to long-term personal and professional relationships.
"When you're someone who doesn't have anyone in their life who you've had a longstanding relationship with, then you can get into these modes of distrusting everyone," the publicist said. "Because they're never really sure what their motivations are. 'Are they being nice because they're being paid to like me?' It's the nature of the celebrity beast [to have those feelings], but drugs really don't help."
You combine those two factors and you have an artist in a place of complete distrust. "And then they won't listen to anything and they think their way is the only right way."
For more on Britney's child-custody setback, check out:
· "Britney Spears' Custody Loss Met With Sympathy From Fans, But Not Surprise"
· "Britney Spears And Parenting: A Timeline Of Tumult"
· "Britney Spears, Legally Speaking: Top Lawyers Say She Can Get Kids Back, If She Follows Advice"
· 'Things Are Looking Really Bad' For Britney Spears, SuChin Pak Says"
· "Britney Spears, Bad Parent? Perez Hilton, 'Leave Britney Alone!' Guy Weigh In"
· "Britney Spears Ordered To Give Up Custody Of Her Children"