Miss American Dream

Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Matter
Published in
33 min readJun 9, 2014

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How Britney Spears went to Vegas and became a feminist role model. No, really.

By Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Illustrations by Geoff J. Kim

AA t the top of the steps of Planet Hollywood, on the Las Vegas Strip, an elderly woman dressed in a black wig and a tiara and a fur coat over an evening gown lodged a formal complaint with a woman holding a clipboard.

“She’s fucking up my day,” said the woman loudly. “This is where I work.” This was her turf, it seemed, a place where she allowed tourists to take pictures of her or with her in exchange for a dollar or two. This is a common occupation up and down the Strip, but most practitioners are dressed as familiar characters like Darth Vader or the Minions from Despicable Me. It was harder to discern who this lady was supposed to be. The Queen of England, maybe?

Either way, there would be no pictures today. About an hour before dawn on a windy morning last December, several tired-looking men had rolled out heavy metal equipment and slowly assembled the various components into what seemed to be a stage: high-intensity lights, a long red carpet, an industrial-looking 360-degree rotating platform. Security guards had taken their seats at strategic corners, settling in for what they knew was going to be a long day with a chaotic ending.

“You better believe she’s going to fuck this up, like she fucks up everything,” the Queen said. “How am I going to get paid? Who will pay me?” The woman with the clipboard listened to her sympathetically and then pretended to be called away.

Britney Spears’s Las Vegas
Welcome. (Denise Truscello/ WireImage via Getty Images)

A surprisingly forceful wind began to blow, and more and more people emerged from the 150,000 hotel rooms along Las Vegas Boulevard and began to gather around the barriers. They shared no clear demographic, unless being people who chew gum loudly is a demographic, which maybe it is: families with small children; drag performers off their nightly shifts; women who were anywhere between their late 20s and early 40s and who had the aggressively stripey blonde highlights and severe, long-in-front, shorter-in-back haircut…

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Taffy Brodesser-Akner
Matter

Contributing writer for GQ and the New York Times Magazine. Making fun of my name demeans us both