Meet Dale Crites, a.k.a. BritneyGirl Dale
Story and pictures by Kaitlin Newman, a Baltimore Sun photo intern.
The morning is chilly, but not too cold. Dale Crites, 42, opens the front gate to his house, an average-sized suburban home at an undisclosed location, and gives an animated wave, gesturing me to come in. Dale is no stranger to animated waves. His trademark gesture, as he struts up and down Ritchie Highway, has turned him into somewhat of a local celebrity.
“Oh my God! Thank you so much for coming!” he says, flipping his curly blonde wig over one shoulder. Dale prances over to the living room couch and sits down, crossing one leg over the other, toe pointed and smiling from ear to ear.
The living room consists of a medium-sized TV, a giant painting of a Rottweiler dog, a comfy chair and a coffee table filled with print outs of screen shots from Dale’s Twitter account.
“They all follow me, honey. They love BritneyGirl Dale,” he says, fanning out the various screenshots of Twitter followers such as the Human Rights Campaign, America’s Got Talent and NoH8.
Dale’s alter ego, BritneyGirl Dale, or most recently, Ke$haGirl Dale, is inspired by the likes of Britney Spears, Madonna and Ke$ha. Typically, he wears a lot of sequins, spandex and most notably, a stuffed bra turning himself into a collage of fabric and color.
“They loved me on ‘America’s Got Talent.’ I’m even going to New York. Oh my God, you’ll have to come see me,” he says, flashing the biggest smile I’ve seen on anyone in days. His blue eyes light up, not at the prospect of potential fame, but at the thought of being loved by others and being seen in a positive light. “Here, they hate on me but that just pushes me to keep doing what I do. Haters can’t keep you down,” he says, tossing his blonde curls to the opposite shoulder.
I ask him if he was always BritneyGirl Dale or if there was a time before that. His grin straightens out and his eyes lock with mine. “Can I tell you something? You have to promise not to start crying or anything because you might,” he asks. I promised I wouldn’t cry and told him to tell me whatever he felt comfortable telling me.
“I was molested when I was 7 by [a relative], and then again in my teenage years by [a different relative]. I hate them,” he says, curling one strand of hair from his wig around a finger. “I really hate them. But you know what, honey? Karma got them.”
He tells me one of those relatives met their match when they wronged someone else who was beaten to death with a 2×4. “Because of what happened to me, it really made me hate Dale. I hated being myself and I just didn’t want to be reminded of me,” he says, his face contorting into a sad grimace.
He said he told his mother of the abuse when he was a teenager, and she then contacted the police. But that didn’t erase years of emotional and physical torture. Dale used to walk up and down Eastern Avenue playing Madonna in his Walkman to escape his situation. Despite naming himself after Britney Spears and Ke$ha, it’s Madonna who is Dale’s highest inspiration. “Madonna was the thing when I was growing up” in the ‘80s, he says, the smile coming back.
Dale began his transformation into BritneyGirl Dale when Britney Spears’ clothing line, Candie’s, hit shelves. He loved Britney so he figured he would love her clothes, too, and he did, saying they made him feel amazing. He remembers trying on his first wig, one that was very similar to the one he dons now, and says it was life changing. “When I first put it on I felt like I didn’t have to, you know, hate myself anymore. It was like I was someone else and it felt good,” he says, twirling his hair in his fingers. “Sometimes I even sleep in the boobs, just because I hate waking up as Dale. I try to get dressed as fast as possible.” The first time Dale stepped out in full BritneyGirl attire was in 2009. He immediately loved the attention people gave him, honking and yelling. He felt accepted.
We took a walk up Ritchie Highway. Dale twirled and waved, posing for me, sometimes in mid-sentence, every time he noticed my camera against my face. Cars honked their horns, “Hey BritneyGirl, I love you!” someone screamed from the opposite lane. “Love you too, baby,” Dale yelled back, blowing a kiss. “They just love me out here.”
We pass a friend of Dale’s – a short woman who looks much older than she probably is. She tells Dale about how she has relapsed because of a man she was with and how she has now lost everything. “You got a dollar?” she asks. Dale says no and tells her she needs to get her life in order and that no man is worth it. After the lady passes us, Dale says to me, “God is my best friend. God gave us talent and life; we aren’t supposed to destroy it.”
A big truck pulled up and Dale ran over, smiling from ear to ear. Cars honked in annoyance at the stopped truck. In the car behind the truck, an old man gave him the middle finger, a disgusted look on his face. The man in the truck said he would just pull over, pulling into the parking lot of Value Village, right off 16th Street.
The man in the truck, Roy Johnson of Severn, smiles and waves Dale over. “They treatin’ you nice out here today?” he asks Dale. “Oh yes baby, it’s a good day. My friend is even here, she’s from The Sun! (I awkwardly wave). They’re writing a story on me, BritneyGirl,” Dale says, hanging onto the window of the truck. “I had to put my dog down today, he had Lyme’s Disease and was old. I was pretty choked up on the way down here, not gonna lie. But then I saw her over here on the highway and knew I had to stop and say hi for puttin’ a smile on my face,” Johnson said.
I ask Dale if he has ever had a boyfriend. He says yes and that his first love was a police officer. “I just love men in uniform!” he says with a smile. This statement holds true – Dale’s social media is full of photos of him posing with smiling police officers.
We turn around to walk back to the house and pass a small eatery. Dale says this particular establishment banned him – but not entirely. According to Dale, the manager had told him as long as he was dressed as a woman, he could purchase food, but he was not allowed to eat in the store. In response to the incident, Dale said he attempted to contact the corporate offices but received no response. Ultimately, Dale filed a complaint with the Maryland Commission of Civil Rights against the store. Dale said he has also dealt with what he says are false accusations from a chain supermarket that cited him for indecent exposure.
“It’s not easy trying to be myself but getting banned from places. The [incident] really put me over the edge.” Dale says he tried to commit suicide but was taken to the hospital in time and later admitted to a mental institution. He says he wouldn’t try again but in that moment he says he just couldn’t handle it anymore. “I just wanted to finally get it over with,” he tells me.
I asked Dale what it is he is trying to accomplish. A Madonna music video plays in the background as he thinks. “A boy once asked me if I was gay. He was really young and I told him I thought he was too young to be asking me that. He whispered to me, ‘Well, I think I’m [bisexual] but I don’t know how to tell people.’ I told him to start with his parents and when he asked which one, I told him to tell his mother first. The boy did but endured a lot of bullying at school when he came out. I heard in the news that that kid hung himself. He was so young,” Dale said. “I’m ready to show the world who I am to an even bigger audience.” By doing this, Dale hopes to encourage others to be themselves.
“I became BritneyGirl to escape Dale because I hated Dale and this is who I am. I feel most like myself this way,” Dale says, as he watches Madonna dance across the stage on the television, his smile returning.
Jan 02, 2018 @ 13:21:24
Dale keep up the good work you do. Haters are all around us buy we must not let them get to us.I am hated to for having a mixed race Gay family. I was also raped at a very young age but God has keep me from hating the ones that did it by giving me love to share with others that have less then I do. You have me a lot even tho you do not know it, you saved my son when he was down and suicidal he seen you on Ritchie Hwy and it gaved him hope that being gay was alright. You go on having hope and GOD BLESS YOU
Mar 06, 2015 @ 20:04:13
Dale you are awesome and u are amazing u keep ur head high and ur spirit’s lifted I will always have ur back and always be ur friend no matter what anyone says true friends have each others backs no matter the situation
JERRY ROME BASS
May 02, 2014 @ 20:55:06
We all breath the same air .. we are all apart of each other .. and we are all a product of our envinorment ! YOU COULD OF BEEN LIKE DALE CRITES ? THIS WORLD NEEDS TO ACCEPT AND LOVE ALL LIVING THINGS ,, AND HATERS ARE THE ONES TO HATE !! #$SAFETYFIRST MY FRIENDS VIA @SAFETYMENTALST .. @TWITTER .. TYVM !! FOR ALLOWING THIS FREEDOM OF SPEECH !!
Jan 28, 2014 @ 21:07:32
Its not often that I see dale but when I do it most sertanly makes my day my kids day and my husband. We all have our problems and dreams dale takes his to a higher level I see that he loves to make people smile and laugh and to do it so openly. I’ve been told by several people that he gets rood but who wouldn’t after so much ridicule and hatred .. dale thankyou for bringing a smile to so many faces just by being a goofy person. I see nothing wrong qith bringing joy and laughter no matter how you do it. Next time you are in honey bee tell my hubby roberto that I said I love you!!!!! You go girl
Jan 02, 2014 @ 07:55:50
Dale is such a wanna be the only talent he has is collecting a check each month he is such a waste of space and time and a absolutely a waste of skin his mothet should of swallowed or took it up the ass. There has to be some point inlife where you go up what he needs is a good therapist. The best thing he could ever accomplish is a disappearing act. No body wpuld miss him
Nov 29, 2013 @ 09:11:52
I know this is right Dale, i’ve always told you to be true to YOU and WHO you ARE as to who YOU want to be.
I’ve known you for a long time … I love you for you it’s never bothered me when we are out and about i’ve neva cared of what others thought or said about us being seen together .. as i’ve told you PEOPLE hate on you because they can’t be true to themself … those who HATE ON YOU must feel some type of way about themself to HATE YOU so much for being true to who you are.
I’ll always support you and always love you for who you are …. and as i’ve always told you your like a baby brother to me we all love you keep up the TRUE YOU !!
I would like to thank the SUN for doing his story …. he needed such a SUPPORT !!!!!
Nov 29, 2013 @ 08:57:38
Way to go bgd on all of your accomplishments. Good luck on agt i know you can do it. Keep being yourself dont let other people tell you, you cant do it. I see you every day with my daughters as we drive down ritchie hwy. We think itd awesome.
Nov 28, 2013 @ 17:06:37
I hope someday that Dale can be Dale and accept who he is. He is not the abuse. He is this wonderful strong human being. I give him the utmost respect and love.
Nov 28, 2013 @ 12:18:22
How have I never seen her/him? I live right off of Ritchie hwy and take it to the city and back very often! I love the clothes! 🙂 Great story!
Nov 28, 2013 @ 11:46:44
Dale is truly an amazing person all the way around. … loves him alot… ♡♥♡♥
Nov 28, 2013 @ 09:07:35
Too bad they didn’t tell the whole story. The clothes he has on in this photo shot certainly are conservative compared to what he normally wears, underwear. In addition to waving to everyone, they left out his pole dancing with traffic signs, lying on the highway with his legs up in the air, his head in the crouch of men, even in Popeye’s, pictures of his hands full of someone’s crouch, climbing up on dining tables.
He bad mouths cops when they reprimand him – calling them jelly donuts; he calls the residents of Anne Arundel County and Brooklyn Park all sort of vulgar names. He belittles women claiming to be better than any woman when it comes to body and the ability to sexually satisfy men. He brags about the accidents he has caused, I just pray that no one will be killed as a result of his distractiing actions.
He lost America’s Got Talent last year. He lost the dancer of the week (or day) on Ellen DeGeneres and bad mouthed Ellen saying her breasts were smaller than egg yolks, as if his were any better.
All this is on his Facebook page, unless he has removed it.
I’m not against gays or people who dress differently, but I don’t appreciate this in my face much less in the face of the children who also travel that highway. At least TV has ratings to keep this sort of behavior from the face of young children, but there is no off button on Ritchie Hwy.
Nov 28, 2013 @ 07:57:54
We love seeing Brittney Girl. Such a beautiful person, who has a love for life and people. She brings smiles to peoples faces. Keep smiling Brittney. You have a lot of people that really do love you.
Nov 27, 2013 @ 13:43:45
What a great read! Fascinating! Dale Crites is a truly remarkable person. He pulled himself up after being molested and found his true self. I applaud him! I wish him Britney Girl Dale all the luck in the world. Thank you Kaitlin, this story should open peoples eyes to be more tolerant of others.