A couple of weeks ago I received a quite delightful email from my friend David. He told me he'd seen a man on a breakfast television programme asking people to apply to be in a BBC Three documentary called ‘Britain on Britney’ about Britain's fascination with Britney Spears. David thought I should apply knowing how much I love the ‘Crazy’ star and I thought that was a brilliant idea so I sent them an email listing reasons why I'm a Britney fan, which included the fact I used to deface hot pants to mimic her photo shoots and perform as her in school talent contests.
I thought I probably wasn't a crazed enough fan to secure a place in their programme but they emailed me the next day asking me to come along the following weekend to take part in the world's biggest dance tribute ever and that the whole day would be spent learning and performing the routine from ‘...Baby One More Time’. They also asked for parental consent if I was under 16 years of age. I emailed back to tell them that I am 25 and then jumped around my work place like a 12 year old on sherbet due to sheer excitement.
Saturday 28th March came around quickly and I got up at 7.10am. I don't even get up that early for work so you can imagine how much this meant to me. The night before I’d attempted to get a head start on the dance routine but found, much to my dismay, that the rumours are true about Youtube taking music videos off for UK users. I'd managed to get my flatmate Halley to agree to come along; I'm usually happy to do things alone but the prospect of being at least ten years older than everyone was daunting and I didn't want to appear paedophilic. (I needn’t have worried as later in the day the girls I was dancing with guessed my age as either 17 or 19 so I was mollified.) We arrived on time but were made to wait outside in what was a freakishly cold and drizzly morning. My flatmate was not impressed by the fact we were definitely the oldest people there and even less impressed by an underage person asking her for a cigarette. We queued for what seemed like an eternity but I kept myself occupied by eating the massive tub of yoghurt I'd brought with some Ready Brek and banana thrown in. When I'd finished I was left with a dirty spoon, which I waved around in the direction of a cameraman who was filming the oh-so-interesting queue of overly made up tweens.
When we finally got in the doors we had to go through airport-style security and I asked them what I should do with my spoon. One of the security men took it and put it on top of the X-ray machine while he put the bags through. As I collected my bag and coat at the other side I heard a voice shout, "Don't forget your spoon!" I never thought I’d hear those words in my lifetime and so the moment will stay with me forever.
We were in. And we were queuing again. Halley and I got into a highly inappropriate conversation considering the four girls in front of us were all under nine years old. As we reached the doors of the studio we'd be performing in (I recognised it as the Top of the Pops studio that I'd been to when I was at university) Halley asked what I'd do if, as a surprise, Britney turned up. As I went to answer I could feel my voice breaking and I told her that I would definitely cry and that I was nearly crying just thinking about it.
Rehearsal started about two hours after schedule and we were taught the first few dance moves by 'choreographer to the stars', Paulette Minott. She then asked who was currently taking dance classes and told those who weren't to move to the side. Those of us that were moved to the side were then put right at the back in the smallest space imaginable and then I realised what they'd done. They'd stuck all the rejects at the back so they didn't have to teach us the whole routine. I was outraged. Just because we weren't taking dance classes at that very moment does not mean that we hadn't ever taken dance classes or we were incapable of learning the routine. In the position we were put in we couldn't do any of the full movements involved in the routine and my eyes welled up with tears. A 16-year-old girl next to me voiced her disappointment as she'd only just quit dance classes the week before and felt she had been tricked into the reject pile. I blinked quickly to get the tears to go away but they soon came back. I was surrounded by 14 to 18 year olds, and one random 50-year-old man-fan, so I got a hold of myself and told everyone near me that we should go on strike. I do love a good strike but can never seem to get people to take part in them at work or at Britney documentaries so we just got on with it but with minimal enthusiasm.
I could see Halley in the group in front and I was quietly seething that she'd wangled herself into a better group but in a break I found out that she too was not being taught the whole dance and was surrounded by people even younger than the ones surrounding me, and Hal does not like children. She asked if I'd mind if she left and I told her I wouldn't but that she should take advantage of the free lunch first. As we queued for food Hal pointed to a Britney look-alike who was in her group and I couldn't help but stare. Her face was so similar it was bizarre. I pocketed a massive handful of cereal bars for later and grabbed a couple of sandwiches and we ate together before she took off and I went to get into my school uniform. Once I was dressed I spied the Britney look-alike who looked even more like Britney with her uniform on. I wanted to ask her if she'd be my best friend but instead requested a photograph. She asked if I could wait for her to put her lipstick on and then asked if it was the same colour that Britney wore in the video but that she should probably know that given it was her job to be Britney. I asked her if she was a professional Britney look-alike and she said that she was. I said, "Good because if you weren't I'd have told you you should be." We had our picture taken about five times because she wasn't happy with the first couple and then we went our separate ways to embark on the routine that we'd have to perform 16 times.
The 16 repetitions became a little tiresome after about the fourth one so we really started to mess about on the back line pulling ridiculous faces as we danced. This got us some attention from the cameramen which in turn got the director and choreographer talking and they decided to mix things up a bit and let the rejects freestyle down the middle. We were so excited and made sure we held right back and I moonwalked really badly alongside a backward somersaulting girl and really hammed it up for the cameras. On the second take I was singing the completely wrong words at the camera so I've almost certainly ruined any chance I had of appearing on screen. This is probably a good thing because I have a feeling if they do show me at any point I'll be embarrassing myself quite horrifically.
By the 15th time we'd done the routine I was starting to get a migraine from all the head flinging that goes on in the dance routine so I went to watch the action from the tiered seating. It was then time for the freestyling section where you were allowed to dance or sing to a Britney song of your choice. I opted out and settled in to watch what was on offer. A couple of girls did an amazing dance to "Womanizer" which became rather distracting towards the end when one of the girls had done the box splits and on standing back up her tampon string seemed to have escaped and was swinging happily below her extremely short skirt. It was either a tampon string or a white string-like part of the girl’s knickers - I was so far away I couldn't tell but I'm sure the cameras picked up whatever it was better than I did so you'll be able to make your own conclusions when it gets aired in June, that is if tampon strings are pre-watershed material.
Some more people were doing their thing when a researcher came up and asked if any of us were Britney fans who weren't performing. I said that I was and she asked if I'd come and have an interview. I said yes. As we walked down to the interview room I told her that I'm not like a mental fan but she said that didn't matter. I had a press interview first where the man asked such questions as, "If Britney was here now what would you say to her?" to which I replied, "I'd say come round for a cup of tea and a counselling session." He seemed amused by this. I felt the way I feel when in job interviews - I never say the right thing and can never think of good examples so when he asked what it is I like about Britney I have a feeling I said the most clichéd things ever. Then it was time for the documentary interview. I went into a dressing room and was asked to sit on the dressing table which had one of those mirrors framed with bulbs behind it. I told the interviewer that I was sorry I'm not a gushy fan and she said not to worry because they wanted different types of fan. She told me she'd ask questions from the side but that I should look straight into the camera when answering them…
Now there is a time in everyone's life when they make a silly mistake but usually only a select few witness it and it's soon forgotten. What happened on Saturday could have been one of those moments - I said a couple of silly things in front of two people I didn't know. This would have been fine had one of those people not been holding a camera that was recording my word vomit for the whole nation to see. If they choose to use the 'material' I gave them I have the feeling I will be in a lot of trouble. Every time I think about the things I said I inwardly groan. After a few standard questions she asked what my favourite Britney song was to which I decided to say "Crazy" because I knew everyone else would be saying her more recent ones. And then I gave her the reason: "Because it reminds me of my boyfriend at the time who used to drive me crazy." What did I say that for?! I will blame that one on Adam Vear who used to say that song reminded him of my ex and me at the time it was released. A few more questions were asked and then she said, "Is there anything that's happened in Britney's life that you particularly relate to?" Now I could have chosen to say anything like, "When she umbrella-ed that person's window - I did that once," or, "I once told everyone at school that if they gave me £20 each I'd shave my head," but instead I began to say something and then stopped and said, "Oh no actually I can't say that," to which she exclaimed, "You can't say that and not tell us!" So I relented and this is what came out of my mouth: "The Britney and Justin thing reminds me of me and my high school boyfriend. People always wanted us to get back together and I think everyone hopes that Britney and Justin will get back together one day." I then added, "Please don't use that!" She followed this up with, "Do you want to get back together with him?" I laughed, "This is turning into therapy!" and then looked right into the camera and said, "No comment." What an idiot.
I have only in the last four months been back on speaking terms with my ex boyfriend because his girlfriend (now his ex) thought I was trying to break them up. If she, or even he, sees this documentary and they show me saying those ridiculous things that would have been more relevant when I was 19 than now then I am going to get it in the neck.
So I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise in advance. I don't know what I was thinking. I imagine it's like when you kill someone but don't remember doing it. It was just like that.
Unfortunately during the day I didn't get to engage anyone in conversation about poo but I did get punched in the eye and smacked in the back of the head, which perfectly paints a picture of how little space we had. It alerted me to the fact that I should be more careful when I go out dancing because I cannot recall a time when I haven't elbowed or punched someone with my erratic arm movements when on a dance floor and I had no idea just how painful it can be. I have also learnt that I should never get myself in interview type situations because I act like an amnesiac killer. If ever there are lessons to be learnt in life you have permission to learn from my abundant mistakes.
(Monday 29th June: Just received an email saying that 'Britain on Britney' is now called 'Britney Spears Saved My Life' and will be aired at 21.00 on BBC Three on Sunday night. Here's hoping they don't show my interview or me hamming it up in the dance bit. High school levelled humiliation potential. Arghhh!!)
29 June 2009 11:16