Britney Spears Pleases Herself: Rolling Stone's 2002 Cover Story

'I'm a people pleaser,' says our national pop princess. But starting now, she's looking out for number one

Photograph by Albert Watson for RollingStone.com
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Do you mind if I put on my pajamas?" Britney Spears asks, heading toward the bedroom of her suite at Manhattan's Trump Plaza. It's four o'clock in the afternoon, and her plans for the remainder of the day are limited to an evening workout and, if she's not too pooped, a trip to the movies with her personal assistant, Felicia. These days, Britney is a woman of leisure. This summer, after her world tour ended with an aborted show in Mexico City, she revealed that she would take the next several months off. "I need Britney time," she says, unaware of how impossibly cute she sounds. Britney is obviously a girl's girl — warm, goofy, sentimental and yearning to be liked. Although the twenty-year-old hopes to land another movie role before the year is through, she'll spend most of her vacation catching up with her girlfriends ("We all recently broke up with our boyfriends") and hanging out at her new apartment in New York's East Village, "just farting around."

Photos: Britney Spears, The Rolling Stone Covers

What effect do you think being a woman has had on your music?

At first it was kind of hard because I think people don't take you as seriously. And for people to take you seriously, they make you think that you have to be ballsy. But I think there's a way to balance the two — being who you are and saying how you feel but not going over the top with it. I'm trying to be a little bit more assertive.

This article appeared in the October 31, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue is available in the online archive.

You don't seem like the kind of person who is very brazen about saying what you think.
I observe people's actions before I state my opinions. I'm not a loudmouth at heart. It's retarded, but I'm a people pleaser.

You don't lose that feeling a little when you get really famous?
I'll always care what people think about me. It's not to the point where you're just "F this and F that." I don't want to be that kind of person, because that's just not me. I hate to bring this up, but I'm gonna. I heard that Pink said some really negative things about me.

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Have you met her?
I met her, and she was really nice. She sent me flowers at my hotel room. And the next week she said something like, "I don't think it's cool the way that she's like a puppet and she's really smiley and happy all the time." She's probably doing that to protect her whole gimmick thing. I respect that, but don't be a hypocrite and put me down when you're, like, performing with your belly showing, too. And the reason why I'm smiling is because I'm grateful. I'm not the type of person to walk around and be like, "Shit, I'm the coolest girl." I still think her music rocks. But the whole thing hurt my feelings. I felt like, "I thought you liked me. You sent me flowers."

What have you learned in the past year?
I feel changed. I'm a little more serious than I was. It's really weird, because you're a star, and everything is about you all the time — and I'm tired of that. I want to have a different perspective. And not have all my family and all the people I know working for me. I want to hang out with my friends and be a nobody. Because that's how you become reinspired. Do you understand what I'm saying?

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Yeah. You're sick of living in a bubble.
Definitely, and that's why this time is so important for me — to be able to fuckin' pump my own gas and not have people do that for me. It's like, "No, you don't have to go get me a Starbucks. Let me just go get it myself." I sneak out of my hotel room all the time just to have that sense of freedom.

Where do you go?
I go to my brother's apartment and hang out with his guy friends. It's not like I'm sneaking out. I just go without my security and stuff like that.

So you're on a break. Are people making too much of a big deal out of this?
I'm supposed to take six months off, but I probably won't. The whole point of me taking a break is to be out of the public eye and not see my face on TV, because I'm sick of myself. This is more of a spiritual thing for me. I want to not have my hair and makeup done all the time.

Do you think that people wouldn't be making such a big deal about this break if you hadn't walked offstage in Mexico?
I think it's that, and my relationship with Justin, and everything combined. And the Globe saying I'm a lesbian.

The Globe said you were a lesbian?
They said I have an obsession with sex tapes. And that probably the reason I am taking a break is because I can't deal with that and being a lesbian. Whatever!

You've said that your parents' recent divorce was a relief. Was there a lot of tension in your household growing up?
Yeah. They just didn't get along at all. I love them both dearly, but I'm so happy that they're not together. That may sound kind of sad. You should want your parents together, but I look at it differently.

Do they still talk to each other?
They talk every day. See, I think it's cool that they're still talking, 'cause if that was me, it would be the other way around. I'm very stubborn. When it comes to relationships, if I'm not happy with something, I'm like, "Peace. Bye." I'm so bad.

Do you have more empathy for your parents' situation because you just went through a breakup?
It's a lot harder for them, because they were together for twenty-five years. It's hard when you not only have the love thing but the habit of being able to just pick up the phone — and you can't anymore. It's like a drug, and you feel like, "What do I do now?"

What do you think their divorce taught you about your own relationships?
It's probably gonna be a really long time before I'm in a relationship because, I don't know, I'm just not there. [Pauses] I'd have to meet somebody really, really cool. I just can't see myself going there right now — with all the arguing. You know what? I'm being really selfish right now. I don't want to have to call somebody. It's only hard when you go places and you see couples together and you're like, "Oh, man, I wish I had a boyfriend right now." But I'd rather be by myself forever than be with somebody because I'm lonely.

From The Archives Issue 908: October 31, 2002