It was so much worse than any of us could have ever imagined.
For the first time in 13 years, Britney Jean Spears has publicly spoken out about the conservatorship that has ruled her life, finances, career and her every decision since it was first implemented in 2008.
When Britney spoke in a Los Angeles special open hearing on 23 June, gone was the smiling, dancing woman fans have grown accustomed to seeing on the singer’s always-active Instagram, the same platform where she, or a member of her team, assured us over and over again that she was happy. Today, the woman who spoke to the judge was angry, speaking in a low, clear voice about the state of her life. “I am traumatized,” she said. “I’m not happy. I can’t sleep.”
Continuing for the better part of 20 minutes, Britney said everything her #FreeBritney fans and followers have wanted her to say for years. The moment should have been a victory. And in some ways, it was. In other ways, Spears’s testimony made clear how she, at 39 years old, has almost no say in anything that happens in her life — but has, she alleges, been forced to work to the point of exhaustion for years. What she described went even further than what her #FreeBritney crusaders have theorized.
If she is to be believed, Britney isn’t just under “control” by a conservatorship — she is apparently forbidden from having children, getting married, driving in a car with her boyfriend, everything from the life-altering to the completely mundane. She has a laundry list of doctor’s appointments, some of which take place in the public neighborhood of Westlake, California. Britney argued that the choice of such a public place was made on purpose, so paparazzi waiting in the wings could take unflattering photos that would uphold the optics that she is still mentally unwell.
In other instances, she said, was allegedly forced to work for days on end, without breaks. If she refused any of these things, if she pushed back, what few freedoms she had were taken away. At one point, she claimed, she was forced to take lithium, which made her feel “drunk”, after she resisted doing another Las Vegas show.
“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” she said. “I want to end the conservatorship without being evaluated.”
At one point, Spears even said that she wished to sue her family for how she’d been treated. “I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work. The laws need to change,” she said. “Now I’m telling the truth, OK, I’m not happy. I’m so angry it’s insane, and I’m depressed. I cry every day.”
“Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing,” Spears continued, “my dad was all for it. Anything that happened to me had to be approved by my dad,” who, she said, “loved the control he had over me. He loved it.”
Prior to this, we had only the slimmest notion of how Britney really felt about living under the conservatorship, which has been largely overseen by her father, Jamie. The most telling evidence, until very recently, came from an interview Spears gave on MTV’s For The Record documentary in 2008, where she said, “I think [the conservatorship is] too in control. 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 … It’s like, it’s bad. But I’m sad.”
Back then, Britney was sad. She was mournful. Thirteen years later, she is livid. And if what she’s saying is true, we should be too.