Britney’s back. The release of her memoir The Woman in Me has reignited conversations about her status as a pop icon and the need to reconcile public perspectives with the truth.
She was world-famous, a hero for teenage girls everywhere, and also just a girl herself, fighting against addiction while struggling to achieve her own independence. After years of withstanding the media frenzy and focusing on breaking free of her conservatorship, Britney Spears is finally ready to share her side of the story.
For many people, Spears is a hallmark of their childhood. Like other young stars, she got her start on a Disney show, starring in The Mickey Mouse Club in 1993. From there she took off, seemingly becoming world-famous overnight and regularly selling out stadiums. Her first two albums, …Baby One More Time and Oops!… I Did It Again, released in 1999 and 2000, launched her into the upper echelon of pop royalty. She was only 18 years old.
As she got older, Spears adopted a more provocative style with the release of more chart-topping albums. With more fame came more paparazzi. The girl who sang because she loved it quickly became overshadowed by the media’s invasiveness and a narrative that portrayed her as unhinged. After shaving her head and hitting a paparazzi’s car with an umbrella in 2007, Spears was temporarily hospitalized. At the time, she had just split from Kevin Federline and was engaged in a custody battle for their two children. Her aunt had also just passed away. “I was out of my mind with grief,” she wrote in her memoir. “I didn’t even really know how to take care of myself.”
This incident would lead to Spears being placed under a conservatorship controlled by her father Jamie Spears. Intimately justified as a measure to protect Spears against herself by the court and Jamie, the conservatorship became a tool of oppression that prevented Spears from taking ownership of her assets and life trajectory. It would also come to control her life and the public’s perception of her for years.
The highly publicized nature of Spears’ conservatorship generated extreme controversy and kept her in the public eye as she fought a legal battle against her father. It even inspired the movement #FreeBritney, where fans in a mass outcry demanded that Spears be released from her father’s chokehold.
According to the California Courts website, a conservatorship is where a judge appoints an individual or organization to care for another adult deemed unfit to care for themselves or their own finances. Until 2021, Britney Spears was in this predicament. Her father Jamie controlled her life and her money, and her every move was subject to his approval.
In 2021, when testifying about her conservatorship, the star called the legal arrangement “abusive.” Spears insisted on keeping the trial public. “They’ve done a pretty good job exploiting my life, so I think this should be an open hearing,” she said.
After a public legal battle that lasted years, Spears finally renounced her conservator status and was able to shed the skin her family had forced her into. Her book was born. Once out of her conservatorship, she felt “free to tell my story without consequences from the people in charge of my life.”
In the book, she details her childhood, her early days as a kid from Louisiana, and the early exploitation and abuse she was subject to as a young star in the ’90s. Spears revealed that from age 13, her mother Lynne supplied her with alcohol, calling the daiquiris they shared “toddies.” By ninth grade, Spears had become a regular smoker and lost her virginity.
In a story fraught with family dysfunction, Spears alludes to the refuge she was able to seek in performing. But even singing and dancing for millions of fans became overshadowed by the personal struggles she faced when grappling with depression and the conservatorship. “The conservatorship stripped me of my womanhood, made me into a child. I became more of an entity than a person onstage. I had always felt music in my bones and my blood; they stole that from me,” she wrote.
Spears calls out the double standard she was forced to uphold. “Think of how many male artists gambled all their money away; how many had substance abuse or mental health issues,” she wrote. “No one tried to take away their control over their bodies and money. I didn’t deserve what my family did to me.”
With the release of her book, Spears is finally shedding light on the realities of fame, and what it means to gain control of your life at the age of 39. “It took a long time and a lot of work for me to feel ready to tell my story,” she wrote. “I hope it inspires people on some level and can touch hearts.”
For too long, she was failed by a system that oppressed her and people who should have been in her corner. Publishing her book has been an act of defiance and incredible strength. Perhaps now we can experience the life of Britney Spears the way it was meant to be: not through grainy paparazzi photos or sensationalized tabloid sites, but told to us by the woman herself.