Britney Spears spoke publicly about her controversial conservatorship for the first time in thirteen years and her version of events was truly shocking - and often heartbreaking.
On June 23, the singer, who has stayed largely silent on the topic, made a rare public appearance to address a Los Angeles courtroom. It was the first time in over a decade that the star’s feelings about her situation were made public.Spears has been living under a court-ordered conservatorship for 13 years whereby her father, Jamie Spears, and other legal guardians have control over her estimated $60m estate, career, personal life and medical decisions.
In court, the star, who has sons Sean, 15, and Jayden, 14, with ex Kevin Federline, made several revelations - including that she is “traumatized” by her conservatorship and “can’t sleep” due to her anger over the situation she finds herself in. She called the legal move “abusive” and said she wanted to “sue” her family over it. Britney also compared her every day reality to sex trafficking, in that she is forced to work without access to money, phone or passport.Despite often looking happy and promoting a positive image on her Instagram page, Britney said at times she had been under 24 hour surveillance, wasn’t allowed to have another child, was forced to remain on contraception, and was blocked from marrying her boyfriend, Sam Asghari.
Here’s how Spears, one of the most famous and powerful pop stars in the world, got here…
Spears suffers a public mental health breakdown. She splits from husband Kevin Federline, loses custody of her two sons, shaves her head and is admitted to a psychiatric hospital several times. Her father Jamie Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet are granted temporary conservatorship over the star’s finances and medical decisions, before the order is extended indefinitely.
A behind-the-scenes documentary about Spears’ life is released on MTV. Britney: For the Record gives a hint at how the megastar feels about the conservatorship. “If I wasn’t under the restraints I’m under right now, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me every day, if that wasn’t there, I’d feel so liberated. When I tell them the way I feel, it’s like they hear, but they’re really not listening.”
She releases three albums: Femme Fatale (2011), Britney Jeans (2013) and Glory (2016) - and pulls off a four-year residency in Las Vegas called Piece of Me which reportedly grossed nearly $138 million. She also appears as a judge on The X Factor and American Idol. In September 2016, she appears on The Jonathan Ross Show to promote her Glory album and is reported to have said: “OK, so I have this conservatorship. I’ve been under this conservatorship for three years and I felt like a lot of decisions were made for me, so I wanted [Glory] to be my baby and I’ve been really strategic about it.” When the interview aired the comments had been edited out.
Spears’ father, Jamie, becomes the sole conservator after Andrew Wallet resigns. Spears is due to embark on another Vegas residency called Domination but pulls out and announces an “indefinite work hiatus” due to her father’s health problems. “I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make,” Spears wrote on Instagram.
Jamie is temporarily replaced as conservator by professional conservator Jodi Montgomery, though Jamie still oversees the finances.
Spears’ lawyer, Samuel D, Ingham III files an objection stating that the singer is “strongly opposed” to her father being conservator and would like him to be suspended. The judge doesn’t remove Jamie but adds the Bessemer Trust as co-conservator. It’s reported by Variety that Spears’ lawyer tells the judge: “My client has informed me that she is afraid of her father. She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.”
Jamie hits out at the #FreeBritney movement and addressed allegations he was stealing from his daughter’s estate: “All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue,” he told Page Six. “It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business. I have to report every nickel and dime spent to the court every year,” he said, adding, “How the hell would I steal something?”
The whole matter is dredged up again by The New York Times documentary Framing Britney Spears which chronicles the traumatic events which led to the conservatorship and also depicts the singer as having a fraught relationship with her largely absent father. The documentary also reignites the #FreeBritney movement (a group of fans who campaign for her to be released from the conservatorship).
Spears has her day in court (virtually) and makes a passionate plea for the conservatorship to be ended. Among the key revelations, the singer says she was forced to work without access to her money, phone, and passport. “The only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking.” Spears says her conservators blocked her from removing her IUD “because they don’t want [her] to have any more children” and suggests her father should “be in jail” for the way he treats her. “I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive.”
In a statement read out in court by his lawyer Vivian Lee Thoreen, Jamie Spears said: “[Jamie] is sorry to see his daughter in so much pain. [He] loves his daughter and misses her very much.”
A week later, Judge Brenda Penny refuses the request by Spears to end the conservatorship.
Hope for Britney after her second court appearance in July as she’s granted a lawyer of her choice. Hollywood lawyer Mathew S Rosengart is handpicked by Spears to represent her, with his appointment confirmed by a judge. Clearly delighted, Spears celebrates the news by posting a video of herself thanking her fans and doing cartwheels on social media.
Fans will have to wait and see whether this is the beginning of the end of Britney’s conservatorship.