13 Years After It Started, Britney Spears Fights Back Against The Conservatorship That Controlled Her Life
There was always more to the story of this 2000s superstar
We guess they had the battlecry right all along—free Britney!
You'd have to be living under a very large rock to miss all the headlines (and there are many) concerning one of the music industry's biggest scuffles of the decade, so far.
Music superstar Britney Spears is fighting back against her conservatorship which her father, James "Jamie" Spears, has been in charge of for over a decade. She claims that the legally binding contract has caused her irreparable suffering and countless problems in both her personal and professional lives. Britney Spears, who turns 40 this year, says she's done being at the mercy of her father and other ill-willed individuals who see her as their cash cow. And after 13 years of bearing it all in secret, she's finally ready to take things to court and do whatever it takes to break free.
There's a lot to unpack when it comes to Britney Spears fighting back against her conservatorship.
Let's start from the beginning
Do you remember that fateful day when Britney Spears made it to every single tabloid, newspaper, and website for shaving her head in a salon, seemingly in an episode of unhinged emotions? This was all the way back in 2008, and this head-shaving incident was but one of the few inexplicable things she did during the year. She was also caught driving around town with her baby unsafely seated on her lap behind the steering wheel, attacking a photographer's car, and eventually, allowing herself to be confined in a psychiatric facility.
Collectively, these incidents drove a court to decide that Britney Spears was not of sound mind to care for herself despite being a full-fledged adult. But being a public figure, extra steps had to be taken so that she would be protected (supposedly) from irresponsibly spending her wealth, further damaging her reputation, and of course, harming both her physical and psychological health.
And so, her conservatorship was born, and her father Jamie Spears was put in charge of it.
A conservatorship essentially puts another adult under the strict supervision of another, and the conservator makes all the important decisions in their life. It appeared to be reasonable enough at the time.
Jamie Spears would make sure his daughter would heal and once again be fit for work, helping her get back on her feet with recording, touring, training, and all the stuff that made Britney Spears, Britney Spears. However, even as she had moved on from 2008's painful events, the conservatorship remained in full force.
By 2009 and 2010, many of the singer's highly inquisitive fans raised the question of whether the conservatorship was still necessary. She was back on track, at least as far as how "on track" a celebrity must appear in the public eye, yet was still very much unable to live her life as her own.
Little by little, details started to reveal themselves
It eventually came to light that Britney Spears' conservatorship was extended four times, raising suspicion that it had morphed into something else entirely.
The biggest red flags that Britney Spears' supporters took note of is that in the time of her conservatorship, she'd released multiple new albums and even completed a Las Vegas residency while doing other shows on the side. Slowly, more and more people were raising the question of whether or not the conservatorship had turned into a giant loophole for Britney Spears' father to turn her into a cash cow devoid of all rights to protest the arrangement.
Britney Spears was occasionally asked about her thoughts on this in interviews with the media. And though she was likely discouraged (perhaps even not legally allowed) to talk about the nitty gritty openly, she did drop a few hints about the true state of her life.
She'd talked about wanting to spend more time with her kids and take an extended break from touring, concentrating on her romantic relationship that's been eclipsed by work, and possibly even retiring from showbiz entirely to live a more private and ordinary life. Yet despite these comments, she remained busy with projects left and right. Though suspicions about her conservatorship being a tool for manipulation and modern-day slavery never really waned, it was kept intact by both her father and the legal system.
Britney Spears was an active artist for more than a decade before things went awry for her father, but changed for the better in her favor—hopefully.
Come 2019, the Internet came to the rescue.
Never underestimate the power of fanbases
The thing about fandoms is that they don't just support their idols in terms of monetary gains. They want to see their favorite actors/singers living their best lives, and if they sense they're being harmed in any way, you can expect fandom members to band together to make noise and get the right people to take action.
The names to remember (and perhaps thank) are podcast hosts Tess Barker and Barbary Gray, and Anthony Elia, a blogger, who are all huge Britney fans that first sounded the alarm in 2017, and then again 2019. Anthony wasn't very subtle about his warnings of impending danger to his ultimate music idol, however, and it got him in a lot of trouble. He was constantly releasing content about the many abuses Britney Spears had to endure under her father's conservatorship, while Tess Barker and Barbara Gray were rallying her fans to stand up against this on her behalf. He made enough noise that the #FreeBritney movement became an actual thing, birthing a ton of conspiracy theories about the truth of her pained existence.
Their loud and proud support for Britney Spears got enough people to turn their heads towards her and wonder if there really was something insidious lying beneath the surface.
Anthony Elia was promptly sued for his work, by Britney Spears' father no less, and while that was enough to shut him down, the #FreeBritney movement was in full swing and nothing could stop it.
As things were starting to get serious when it came to investigating the conservatorship for what it really was, 2019 had other things planned for the Spears family.
Britney Spears' father suffered from a life-threatening medical emergency, Britney Spears was confined in a psychiatric hospital once again, the conservatorship was extended to more than 10 states (it was only effective in California, initially) and there was a formal complaint made about her father physically abusing her son. The string of events forced Britney Spears' father to step down as her main conservator, only to be replaced by her "care provider" Jodi Montgomery.
It was a messy, messy year for the Spears family, but it had become very clear that Britney Spears' life was truly worth taking a closer look at. The media was finally interested in reporting about the issue, thus offering Britney an avenue to finally tell her story.
2020's events were the most important
Britney herself hadn't directly addressed the rumors swarming around her, her family, and her conservatorship despite a spike in the public's interest.
When she appeared in the headlines in 2020, it was because another conservatorship extension was made lasting till February, and then another lasting till August. The ridiculousness of the matter had gotten a little hard to ignore by mid-2020, and just as people thought the saga would go on forever, Britney Spears herself came clean.
She filed a motion to permanently remove her father as her sole conservator, but was denied. The court instead pushed for yet another conservatorship extension lasting until February 2021. Britney's decision to finally speak up about the matter was taken as a go signal to friends and family who had previously stayed silent in fear of implicating themselves should they publicly defend her.
Britney's photographer, Andrew Gallery, revealed that she had written him a letter outlining all the things she was forced to do (including divorcing her then husband and sending her children away). He went on social media to share its handwritten contents.
It was also discovered that Britney Spear's younger sister, Jamie Lynn, was made a trustee of her estate without her consent or knowledge, giving her a large amount of control over how Britney Spears' money and assets should be handled.
Finally, it came to light that Britney Spears' mother had been working behind the scenes to help her daughter (read: by directly opposing her ex-husband) regain control of her life for quite some time. She wanted Britney Spears to be reimbursed for her legal fees that she spent in court trying to break free of her conservatorship, and she wanted to be a lot more involved in her daughter's overall care. She deemed her ex-husband untrustworthy, hitting the final nail in the coffin and proving Britney fans' worst fears to be true.
Finally, this brings us all to today
2020 was pretty much a continuation of the hardships of 2019 for Britney Spears, with the added difficulty of the pandemic coming into full swing.
However, in February 2021 came a documentary released by Hulu that completely changed the name of the game. It was titled Framing Britney Spears, and by the title alone, you can safely guess that it was designed to be a big masks-off moment for the real villains in her life. It was the first-ever attempt to put together the pieces of Britney Spears' complicated life, with prime focus on how her conservatorship was the biggest source of her suffering. It didn't lead to any arrests or major legal decisions, but it did add fuel to the #FreeBritney movement. It wasn't just fans standing behind the hashtag anymore; the likes of Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Halsey, and more came to Britney Spears' side.
All eyes were on the Spears family to see how they would handle the documentary that gave the public all the reason they needed to support the end of her conservatorship.
In March, a month after the release of the documentary, Jamie Spears suddenly changed his tone and publicly announced that he, too, wanted the conservatorship to end and wished to see his eldest daughter live a normal life.
This must have really struck a cord in Britney Spears because, just a couple of weeks after her father's eyebrow-raising statement, she requested for a court appearance for the first time to directly address the conservatorship issue once and for all.
By June, Britney was in a court of law, revealing every painful detail of what her father and others forced her to do while under their control, such as being made to perform in a concert despite being incredibly ill, not being allowed to leave her house without explicit permission from her father, stopped from having more children and having her IUD (a form of internal birth control) removed, and not being allowed to marry.
"I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” she said.
"Basically this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life. I’ve worked my whole life. I deserve to have the same rights as anybody," she added.
Britney Spears' court testimony lasted for 24 minutes.
The latest updates
Now that you're up to speed on this issue that's been 13 years in the making, you should know that practically new additions to the story come at an almost daily rate.
The biggest positive change in Britney's life so far includes her manager and attorney resigning just a month ago. Today, she's finally being represented by someone of her choosing, someone not connected to her father and her conservatorship.
She's definitely been more vocal in the last few weeks following her court appearance, so much so that she's posting a lot of honest and scathing words about her family members in Instagram posts like this one below.
The ultimate goal is, of course, to finally free Britney Spears from her conservatorship which, in light of recent events, still stands.
It does come with a caveat, though. She'll have to prove she doesn't need supervision and extreme guidance to function in this world, something all Britney fans will all just have to hope for and patiently wait to happen.
Lead photos from @britneyspears