Twenty years ago, Britney Spears released one of the greatest bops of all time, “Baby, One More Time...”. In honor of the anniversary, Variety re-released an 1999 interview between Spears and music journalist Karen Bliss.
Att first blush, nothing contained within is super-revealing. At the time, Spears was a teenager with a huge, chart-topping song, but she was still a teenager nonetheless. She answers Bliss’s questions with the kind of generic but earnest enthusiasm we’re used to hearing from first-time celebrities. Everything is “really, really sweet” and “really nice,” and the truth is, I believe her. She might have been on tour with N*SYNC, but back then, she was still just a high schooler from Louisiana, as evidenced by the number of time she says “oh my goodness.”
The interview, then, is interesting because it shows gives us a look at a young person grappling with fame who still doesn’t know how much more is yet to come. Bliss brings up the question of fanmail, which Spears describes as “sweet” and “flattering”:
Do you have a lot of young girls approaching you for your autograph and wanting to know how you got into music?
When I go to places, they’re really, really, really sweet and really nice. They’re like, “We love you” and stuff like that. And I get a bunch of emails saying, “How did you get started?,” and I explain to them.
Do you respond to fanmail yourself?
Some of them. It got to the point where I was doing a lot of them at the very beginning, like four or five months ago. Then it got kind of overwhelming and there was no way. So now I do like one email and send it to all of them. But I try. Some of the letters, I definitely write back because they’re really, really sweet and I just think it’s really nice that they’re taking out time in their day to say they totally admire me. It’s really flattering.
Likewise, when asked whether people come up to her on the street, Spears says it happens, but not to the point where it’s annoying or difficult to deal with:
Are you getting recognized in the street?
Sometimes I do, but it’s not really overwhelming. It’s at the point where it’s okay. It doesn’t get on my nerves. It’s cool.
But when Bliss gets a little more specific and asks Spears about whether she gets more attention from guys as a result of her work, we hear Spears start to show some trepidation:
Are you getting more attention from the guys now?
Yeah, actually. I did a show in Philadelphia and I was like, “Oh my goodness.” I was so thrown because it was a radio show for ‘Nsync, and there were a lot of guys and they were all waiting outside. It was like, “Oh my goodness, these guys are, like, old.”
And that opens another door, at which point Spears shares a story about an older man who staked outside her house and asked Spears’s mother if he could meet her:
How old? 18 or 19?
No, like 24 — like old, and I was like, “Oh my goodness, this is not good.” It was kind of freaky. And actually, one guy came to my house when I was home. Thank goodness I wasn’t home by myself. It was so weird because he parked like half a block away from my house and was snooping up on me. And he asked my mom, “Can I meet her?” And my mom was like, “She’s busy right now,” because I was freaked out, especially if you’re a senior in high school. If you’re going to drive that far — he [lives] like two hours away from me — you would bring someone along with you, right? I could see myself, if there was someone I totally admired and I even thought of going there, I’d bring a couple of friends with me. So for him to do that, I was totally freaked out.
I don’t know what else Spears or her mom could have possibly done in that scenario, but it makes me a bit sad to hear Britney try to rationalize the episode, offering that maybe she would do this herself if she was such a big fan, and ultimately realize that she can’t explain this man’s straight-up creepy behavior. Bliss follows up by asking Spears if anyone on her team has told her what to do in these situations, and if she has a boyfriend. Spears says no to both. Reading this now, I feel a little worried and protective of the rising superstar, even though I know that in the end, she turns out fine. “I don’t need a bodyguard or anything,” she says.
Read the full interview here.