Britney Spears has given fans an unprecedented insight into her career and personal life in her highly anticipated new memoir The Woman in Me.
Released on Tuesday 24 October, the book follows the “Oops!... I Did It Again” hitmaker as she recounts the last 20 years of her life in the spotlight – weighing in on her treatment by the media, her former romantic partners, and her controversial conservatorship.
From 2008 to 2021, Spears was placed under a conservatorship controlled by her father Jamie Spears, who assumed control of all her legal and financial affairs. Following a protracted campaign from fans – dubbed #FreeBritney – and a dramatic legal battle, the conservatorship was brought to an end in 2021.
Spears’s relationship with singer Justin Timberlake is discussed extensively in The Woman in Me, which contains a number of candid revelations about her personal life, including details of her custody battle with ex-husband Kevin Federline.
Here are 10 of the biggest takeaways from Spears’s new memoir:
In one part of the book, Spears explains her penchant for a British accent, writing that her grandmother Lilian “Lily” Portell was from an “elegant, sophisticated family in London”.
Portell, whose mother was British and whose father was from Malta, married Spears’s grandfather Barney Bridges, an American soldier, after meeting during Second World War.
“All I knew was that my grandmother was beautiful and I loved copying her British accent. Talking in a British accent has always made me happy because it makes me think of her, my fashionable grandmother. I wanted to have manners and a lilting voice just like hers,” she writes.
Treatment by the media
In the book, Spears also weighs in on her treatment by the media, recalling an interview with MTV in which she was “sat down” in front of a monitor and made to “watch strangers in Times Square” offer their opinions on her [2000s VMAs] performance.
While some of the verdicts were positive, others focused on her “skimpy” outfit, claiming that Spears had appeared “too sexy”.
“The cameras were trained on me, waiting to see how I would react to this criticism, if I would take it well or if I would cry. Did I do something wrong? I wondered. I’d just danced my heart out on the awards show. I never said I was a role model. All I wanted to do was sing and dance,” she writes.
“Every time I turned on another entertainment show, yet another person was taking shots at me, saying I wasn’t ‘authentic’,” she continues in the memoir.
“I was never quite sure what all these critics thought I was supposed to be doing – a Bob Dylan impression? I was a teenage girl from the South. I signed my name with a heart. I liked looking cute. Why did everyone treat me, even when I was a teenager, like I was dangerous?”
Losing her virginity at the age of 14
Spears shares that she lost her virginity to her brother Bryan’s best friend when she was 14 “and the guy was 17”.
“As a kid, Bryan was funny weird, in the best way. But when he was a senior, he became king of the school, an absolute badass,” she writes. “His senior year, I started dating his best friend, and I lost my virginity to him. I was young for the ninth grade, and the guy was seventeen.”
She recalls how the relationship “ended up consuming a lot of my time” and that Spears would leave school to “spend the afternoon with him”.
Spears continues: “The age difference between me and that guy was huge, obviously – now it seems outrageous and so my brother, who was always very protective, started to hate him.”
When Bryan found out, she says, he “told on me to our parents” who allegedly made her “walk around the neighbourhood all day with a bucket, cleaning up garbage like a prisoner on the highway”.
“Bryan followed me around taking pictures as, crying, I picked up trash,” she adds.
Abortion during Justin Timberlake relationship
In one of the first excerpts released from the book, Spears sheds light on her decision to have an abortion during her relationship with Justin Timberlake, whom the pop star dated from 1998 until 2002.
Spears says she “agreed not to have the baby” because Timberlake “definitely wasn’t happy” that she was pregnant and was “so sure he didn’t want to be a father”.
She writes: “Abortion was something I never could have imagined choosing for myself, but given the circumstances, that is what we did.”
Explaining that the procedure was carried out at home to ensure secrecy, Spears describes the physical pain of the hours-long medication abortion as “excruciating”.
“I kept crying and sobbing until it was all over,” the singer recalls. “It took hours, and I don’t remember how it ended, but I do, twenty years later, remember the pain of it, and the fear.”
Elsewhere, Spears admits she’d been unfaithful in her relationship with the NSYNC frontman, explaining she’d kissed choreographer Wade Robson – but claims Timberlake had cheated on her first.
“Because I was so infatuated and so in love, I let it go, even though the tabloids seemed determined to rub my face in it,” she writes.
Learning about #FreeBritney in rehab
Spears first learnt about #FreeBritney – the fan-led movement seeking her freedom from the long conservatorship that controlled every aspect of her life – in 2018, while she was “locked up” at a rehab facility in Los Angeles’ Beverly Hills.
In 2008, the Grammy winner was placed under a court-ordered conservatorship controlled by her father, Jamie Spears, following a series of public breakdowns. When Spears tried to fight against the legal arrangement that left her unable to make any personal or professional decisions for herself –10 years after it was imposed – Jamie allegedly forced her to undergo further mental health evaluations and checked her into rehab.
“My father said that if I didn’t go, then I’d have to go to court, and I’d be embarrassed,” she wrote.
It was during her stay at the centre that a nurse showed her videos of fans banding together to #FreeBritney, adding: “That was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen in my life.
“I don’t think people knew how much the #FreeBritney movement meant to me, especially in the beginning,” she continued.
Marrying Jason Alexander in Vegas
Spears also gives an insight into her incredibly short-lived marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander.
The pair impulsively, and drunkenly, tied the knot in Las Vegas in 2004, but had the marriage annulled after just 55 hours.
“I don’t even remember that night at all, but from what I’ve pieced together, he and I lounged around the hotel room and stayed up late watching movies – Mona Lisa Smile and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – then had the brilliant idea of going to A Little White Chapel at 3:30 in the morning.
“When we got there, another couple was getting married, so we had to wait. Yes – we waited in line to get married.”
Spears admits she and Alexander were “not in love”, and that she was “just honestly very drunk” and “very bored”.
“The next day, my whole family flew out to Vegas,” she continues in the book. “They showed up and stared at me with these eyes of such fury. I looked around. ‘What happened last night?’ I asked. ‘Did I kill someone?’ ‘You got married!’ they said, as if that might be somehow worse. ‘We were just having fun,’ I said.”
At the behest of her parents, she then sought an annulment, with her family allegedly acting “like I’d started World War III”.
“I thought it was strange they got so involved so quickly and so decisively without my even having time to quite regret what I’d done,” Spears adds.
‘Why I love taking pictures of myself naked’
Elsewhere, Spears explains Instagram has become a way to reclaim her body after years of being photographed by other people.
In a section about her social media activity – including sharing videos and photographs of herself “naked or in new dresses” – she writes: “I know that a lot of people don’t understand why I love taking pictures of myself naked or in new dresses.
“But I think if they’d been photographed by other people thousands of times, prodded and posed for other people’s approval, they’d understand that I get a lot of joy from posing the way I feel sexy and taking my own picture, doing whatever I want with it.”
‘Absolutely hated’ being a judge on ‘The X Factor (USA)’
After its season one premiere in 2011, the American adaptation of Britain’s well-loved music competition show underwent a “shake-up” that saw judges Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul replaced by Demi Lovato and Spears respectively. However, the “Baby One More Time” hitmaker quit the series, created by Simon Cowell, after just one season on the judges’ panel – and “absolutely hated” her time “acting skeptical for eight hours straight while judging people on TV”.
Spears writes that while some musicians, such as Christina Aguilera and Gwen Stefani, “are really professional on TV”, she was “very, very nervous” of being filmed – and considering the long hours on set, “I didn’t like being nervous all day long”.
Spears admits she’s been “forced into things I didn’t want to do and been humiliated” but now feels comfortable drawing boundaries around the kind of work she will accept.
“Now, if you got me a cute cameo on a fun TV show where I’m in and out in a day, that’s one thing,” she continues. “But to act skeptical for eight hours straight while judging people on TV? Uh, no thank you. I absolutely hated it.”
Matching double-denim outfits with Timberlake
At the 2001 American Music Awards – which Spears hosted alongside LL Cool J – Spears and then-partner Timberlake wore matching denim outfits. In the book, she opens up about the memorable fashion moment.
“I still can’t believe that Justin was going to wear denim and I said, ‘We should match! Let’s do denim-on-denim!’,” she writes. “At first, honestly, I thought it was a joke. I didn’t think my stylist was actually going to do it, and I never thought Justin was going to do it with me. But they both went all in. The stylist brought Justin’s all-denim outfit, including a denim hat to match his denim jacket and denim pants. When he put it on, I thought, Whoa! I guess we’re really doing this!”
Spears continues: “With the matching denim, we blew it up. That night my corset had me sucked in so tight under my denim gown, I was about to fall over. I get that it was tacky, but it was also pretty great in its way, and I am always happy to see it parodied as a Halloween costume. I’ve heard Justin get flak for the look. On one podcast where they were teasing him about it, he said, ‘You do a lot of things when you’re young and in love.’ And that’s exactly right. We were giddy, and those outfits reflected that.”
Her sex life being ‘outed’ by Timberlake
Spears notes how some people pointed out that Timberlake’s admission that they were sexually active “depicted me as not only a cheating slut but also a liar and hypocrite”.
After their breakup in 2002, Timberlake revealed he had slept with Spears – who claimed she was a virgin – during an infamous radio interview.
“Given that I had so many teenage fans, my managers and press people had long tried to portray me as an eternal virgin - never mind that Justin and I had been living together, and I’d been having sex since I was fourteen,” she writes in her book.
“Was I mad at being “outed” by him as sexually active? No. To be honest with you, I liked that Justin said that. Why did my managers work so hard to claim I was some kind of young-girl virgin even into my twenties? Whose business was it if I’d had sex or not?” she continues.
Spears says the conversation around her virginity also “took the focus off me as a musician and performer”.
She shares: “The way Justin admitted to everyone that we’d had a sexual relationship broke the ice and made it so that I never had to come out myself as a non-virgin.
“His talking about our having had sex never bothered me at all, and I’ve defended him to people who criticised him for doing it. ‘That’s so rude!’ people have said about his talking about me sexually. But I liked it. What I heard when he said that was: ‘She’s a woman. No, she’s not a virgin. Shut up.’”