Fans and friends of Britney Spears rallied round the pop star last night as fears grew for her mental health.
The 25-year-old’s behaviour has become increasingly erratic, including reports that she had checked into a rehabilitation clinic but left after only 24 hours. In a bizarre sequence of events, Spears was filmed shaving her head in a Los Angeles hair salon on Friday evening before heading to a tattoo parlour, where she reportedly had a tattoo of a pair of lips put on to her wrist.
Psychologists said yesterday that the behaviour was worryingly erratic and required attention, while fans of the pop star set up a website — ‘Help Britney’ — to collect messages of support. Footage from a Los Angeles television station of Spears’s behaviour showed her taking the clippers to her hair in full view of the paparazzi gathered outside.
Esther Tognozzi, the owner of the salon, told US Weekly that after Spears had cut off her brunette hair extensions she “just looked in the mirror and said with tears in her eyes: ‘Oh, my God, I shaved it all off. My mom is going to be so upset with me’.”
Crowds of passers-by later gathered at the window of the Body and Soul tattoo parlour, as the singer, wearing a hooded tracksuit, and looking pale and drawn, ordered the tattoo.
“She just wanted something real small on her wrist, something dainty,” said Max Gott, a tattoo artist. “She got some cute little lips on her wrist.” Emily Wynne-Hughes, another employee, was quoted as saying that Spears “wasn’t making sense at all and you could tell she’s not in a good place at all, and that she is totally freaking out. After she left the shop we all just looked around and said to each other, we just saw a huge celebrity on the verge of a nervous breakdown”.
Her behaviour came on the same day as a variety of US media reported she had checked into, then out of, a rehabilitation clinic owned by Eric Clapton. It was claimed that she lasted only 24 hours at the Crossroads clinic, on the Caribbean island of Antigua.
Spears, who became famous in 1999 with the hit Baby One More Time, has sold more than 70 million albums in a career that has recently become as notable for bad behaviour as it once was for her teenage innocence. After her separation from her husband Kevin Federline, pictures of the singer baring her crotch have shattered her clean-cut image.
A short-lived friendship with Paris Hilton, the hotel heiress, and Lindsay Lohan, the actress, led her to admit that she had gone too far.
Last week a former personal assistant, Felicia Culotta, made public her concerns for the singer, posting an e-mail on a fan website suggesting that Spears was facing a huge personal crisis. “I cannot save her from herself nor can I commit her to any type of treatment programme against her wishes,” Ms Culotta wrote.
Last night fans besieged the singer’s MySpace website offering their support.
Professor Cary Cooper, Professor of Psychology and Health at Lancaster University, said: “She’s obviously quite a disturbed girl at the moment, she doesn’t know who or what she is. I think it’s very worrying, and I hope there’s somebody out there, in her family or friends, who will take charge of her. Partly, we created that, we take these young kids and turn them into celebrities, but they don’t necessarily have the infrastructure to help them deal with the pressures they are going to face.”
Last night what purported to be the singer’s locks appeared on sale on eBay, the auction website. It was not immediately clear whether the item was genuine.
— In 2004 Spears married Jason Allen Alexander in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted 55 hours
— In the same year, her video for Everytime had to be reedited to remove scenes showing her drowning in a bathtub after slitting her wrists
— She married dancer Kevin Federline in 2005. Their divorce was announced in November last year, just two months after she gave birth to a second son
— Fans were upset when photos were taken of her without underwear
Source: Times archive