#FreeBritney: Britney Spears Opens Up About Her Conservatorship
All Britney Spears wants is her life back
Back in 2019, the reactions to the #FreeBritney movement were divided. This happened after the dedicated fan podcast Britney’s Gram leaked an anonymous voice mail from a former member of Britney Spears’ legal team. The informant told them that she was being held against her will in the mental health facility, and that she’s been fighting to end the conservatorship with her dad. The podcast premiered shortly after it was reported that Britney checked into the facility.
While one part of her fans believed that Britney needed freedom from the conservatorship, another part believed that they were overstepping. The viral movement and rally even reached Britney herself, who posted on Instagram to assure them that everything is fine. All she needed at the time was privacy during a stressful moment in her life. But two years later, Britney publicly testified in an open court for the first time about the conservatorship. And it was far from what she showed us on social media, with her calling it “abusive.”
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Conservatorship: the basics
Before we go through her testimony, we need to understand her current arrangement or a conservatorship. According to Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute, a conservatorship is a legal agreement that allows an adult, the conservator, to manage the financial affairs of the conservatee, who is another adult. In this case, the conservator is her father, Jamie Spears.
The legal agreement began in 2008 as a probate conservatorship, following the series of public breakdowns Britney exhibited as she suffered from mental health crises. These incidents drove her father to petition for the temporary conservatorship, which was extended indefinitely later that year. This then gave Jamie Spears and the hired professional wealth management firm to have full control over her assets, affairs and decisions.
NPR broke down the peculiarity of her case and the legal expert they consulted mentioned that it was “unusual.” Conservatorships are arranged for those with severe cognitive impairments. These individuals usually need help in managing their professional affairs, such as elderly people suffering from dementia or adults with developmental disabilities. Yet Britney was still able to show up and release multiple albums. She performed, went on tour and appeared on TV shows. Even Britney is aware of this. In the open court hearing, she said, “I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I can work and provide money and work for myself and pay other people…”
Hearing Britney’s side
Days before her court appearance, The New York Times published a story after obtaining previously confidential court records. These state that she’s been seriously fighting to end the conservatorship by her father as early as 2014. She called the arrangement “an oppressive and controlling tool against her.” The records also state her discontent with the arrangement, citing that her reservations and sentiments about her father and his behavior as a conservator were not being considered.
Fast forward to June 23, 2021. Britney Spears virtually appeared in court to testify what she went through in a petition to end her conservatorship. Britney wanted to address the situation in an open court hearing, angrily citing that her family had free reign to speak to anyone that they want about her condition. Here, she narrated how Jamie Spears, her management and everyone involved controlled every aspect of her life. Britney Spears was continuously threatened and bullied if she went against what they made her do.
She retells the story of her previously failed psych test. Her father called her and had her enroll in a small rehabilitation facility worth USD60,000 a month. According to Britney, “I cried over the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it. The control he had over someone as powerful as me—he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%. He loved it,” she said.
The conservatorship gave her father and his camp full control over her decisions and her sentiments are rarely considered. Britney wasn’t listened to when she protested against her new medications, and she even has an IUD she is not allowed to have removed. This arrangement has left her traumatized. Now Britney Spears made a statement, publicly and for the first time, because she wants the arrangement to end. She’s asking for her life back, to enjoy the liberties she hasn’t been granted: the joy of having a child, to ride in her boyfriend’s car and even go to the salon. Britney Spears is speaking up to relinquish autonomy over her finances, her decisions and her own body.
After the statement, Britney posted on Instagram to apologize for pretending that everything was okay in 2019. As of writing, there has been a lot of overpouring support for Britney Spears from millions of people. Britney’s Gram, the podcast and purveyors of the #FreeBritney movement rallied in Los Angeles on the day of the testimony. Celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Halsey and even her ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake took to social media to show that they stand with the singer.
Ending the conservatorship might be a long battle, especially when her lawyer, Samuel Ingham III, was not hired by Britney herself. Nonetheless, the public remains hopeful that continuous pressure and clamor make an impact to finally #FreeBritney. No woman should be deprived of their reproductive health rights, more so be treated like how she was.
Art Alexandra Lara