At times sounding desperate, banging her hand on a desk for emphasis and with her voice wobbly with emotion, Britney Spears made an extraordinary bid for freedom this week.
The pop star has been the subject of a ‘conservatorship agreement’ since suffering a nervous breakdown in 2007 – this is an order, made by a judge, appointing a guardian or protector to manage the financial affairs and daily life of someone who’s deemed unable to look after themselves.
It meant her father Jamie was placed in charge of her £36million fortune, and her entire life.
And so, for the last 14 years, this 39-year-old mother of two, who conquered the world as a gloriously effervescent teenager with smash hit songs like Baby One More Time and Toxic, has been given an ‘allowance’ of £1,400 a week to live on.
At times sounding desperate, banging her hand on a desk for emphasis and with her voice wobbly with emotion, Britney Spears made an extraordinary bid for freedom this week
Up until recently Britney always insisted she was happy with the setup. But this week the world heard, in a dynamic 24-minute public deposition in court in Los Angeles, that she was anything but.
She described how she cries daily and is begging for emancipation from what she believes is a form of legally sanctioned slavery dictating her therapy, medication and even contraception – all against her will.
Now in a new relationship, Britney says she wants to be free to get married and have a baby. She wants to be allowed to travel in a car which her boyfriend is driving. She wants to go on holiday with her children without a therapist in tow.
And – most pressingly – she wants nothing to do with any of her family or their lawyers who she describes as crooks and abusers. ‘I just want my life back,’ she told the court.
So what is she asking for, who does she accuse – and will she win her freedom? ALISON BOSHOFF reports.
Recovering alcoholic Jamie Spears (pictured with his daughter), 68, is said to be ‘obsessed’ with his daughter and has been the conservator of her estate since the arrangement began in 2007
LOCK UP MY FATHER!
Recovering alcoholic Jamie Spears, 68, is said to be ‘obsessed’ with his daughter and has been the conservator of her estate since the arrangement began in 2007. Back then Britney, just 25 years old, had recently filed for divorce from Kevin Federline, her husband of three years and the father of her two sons, Sean Preston and Jayden, now aged 15 and 14.
As they fought for custody of their boys, Britney started to unravel, culminating in her shaving her head and attacking a photographer’s car with an umbrella. She was hospitalised under a ‘5150 hold’ – a temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment, granted when individuals represent a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness.
That was the point of the conservatorship order which, Britney says, enabled her father to seize control of everything and he started to rule her with blackmail and fear. She said: ‘The control he had over someone as powerful as me – he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000 per cent. He loved it.
‘My dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship and my management who played a huge role in punishing me… they should be in jail.’
Britney (pictured leaving the Ventura County Sheriffs’ office the day before she is due to address the court at her latest conservatorship hearing) compared her living conditions to that of a sex slave and detailed, in lurid detail, what life under the order entailed
Considering he’s been in charge of Britney’s vast fortune for the last 13 years, there’s certainly no sign of riches around Jamie Spears. He was bankrupt before Britney hit the big time and is divorced from her mother Lynne. He currently lives in a motor home parked at a storage facility in rural Kentwood, Louisiana.
He apparently ‘hosts crawfish boils, visits the VFW bar and keeps to himself’ while all items from Britney’s career are housed in the storage facility where he is parked.
His lawyer said in a statement yesterday: ‘He is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain. Mr Spears loves his daughter very much.’
In November 2020, Jamie’s legal team said his ‘sole motivation’ was ‘unconditional love for his daughter and a fierce desire to protect her from those trying to take advantage of her’.
However, Britney is having none of it: ‘I would honestly like to sue my family. I also would like to be able to share my story with the world, and what they did to me, instead of it being a hush-hush secret to benefit all of them. I’ve been so angry and I cry every day.’
A demonstrator holds a poster reading ‘Terminate the conservatorship’ as hundreds demonstrators rally during a #FREEBRITNEY protest in front of the court house
She accuses her father and family of ‘telling lies about me openly’ – perpetuating the image of her as a dead-eyed, mentally disturbed woman approaching middle age.
‘Even my family, they do interviews to anyone they want on news stations,’ she said, ‘and I can’t say one thing. My own people say I can’t say anything.’
MONITORING AND MEDICATION
Britney compared her living conditions to that of a sex slave and detailed, in lurid detail, what life under the order entailed. She said: ‘In California, the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking. Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away – credit card, cash, phone, passport – and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them.’
She added: ‘They all lived in the house with me, the nurses, the 24-7 security. They watched me change every day – naked – morning, noon and night. My body – I had no privacy door for my room.
‘If I didn’t do any of my meetings and work from 8am to 6pm, I wouldn’t be able to see my kids or my boyfriend. I never had a say in my schedule.
‘I’ve lied and told the whole world, ‘I’m OK and I’m happy.’ I thought just maybe if I said that enough maybe I might become happy, because I’ve been in denial. But now I’m telling you the truth, OK? I’m not happy.’
CONTRACEPTION SHE DOESN’T WANT
The star is often seen on social media rattling around her large house in Thousand Oaks, California, doing dance routines and posing for pictures without her children, who live largely with their father. She has been dating male model Sam Asghari, 27, since 2016 after meeting him on the set of a pop video.
She said: ‘I want to be able to get married and have a baby. I have an IUD (intrauterine device contraceptive) inside of myself right now so I don’t get pregnant. I wanted to take the (IUD) out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children – any more children.’
WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO COMPLAIN?
She has always had the power to end the conservatorship if she files a petition to do so – but even though legal papers suggest she was complaining about the arrangement in 2016 to a court investigator, she has never done so.
Britney claims she simply didn’t know she could. ‘I’m sorry for my ignorance, but I honestly didn’t know that,’ she told the court. ‘I was told I have to sit down and be evaluated, again, if I want to end the conservatorship.
‘But I don’t think I owe anyone to be evaluated. I’ve done more than enough. I don’t feel like I should even be in the room with anyone to offend me by trying to question my capacity of intelligence.
‘I don’t owe these people anything… it’s embarrassing and demoralising what I’ve been through, and that’s the main reason I’ve never said it openly. I honestly don’t think anyone would believe me. I thought people would make fun of me or laugh at me.
‘I just want my life back. And it’s been 13 years. And it’s enough. It’s been a long time since I’ve owned my money. And it’s my wish and my dream for all of this to end without being tested.’
She went on: ‘I’m not willing to meet or see anyone. I’ve met with enough people against my will.’
She believes that her father will fight her: ‘Considering my family has lived off my conservatorship for 13 years, I won’t be surprised if one of them has something to say going forward.’
SHOWS IN VEGAS AGAINST HER WILL
Britney’s contracts to perform in Vegas are known for being some of the most lucrative on the strip. From 2013 to 2017 she was on stage in the Piece Of Me residency at Planet Hollywood and revenues reportedly stood at £103million.
In October 2018, she announced a new residency called Domination, this time at the MGM resort.
It was obvious from the launch event that there were issues. She didn’t dance or sing after her great unveiling but simply walked, smiling and assisted by minders, down a steep staircase and off stage.
It was announced in January 2019 that the residency had been cancelled, with reports suggesting this was happening because Britney wasn’t taking her medication.
Britney, however, had another version of events. She told the court: ‘I’d been doing Vegas for four years and I needed a break. But no, I was told this is the timeline and this is how it’s going to go.
‘I rehearsed four days a week. I was basically directing most of the show. I taught my dancers my new choreography myself. I take everything I do very seriously. I wasn’t good – I was great.
‘Yet they all said I wasn’t participating in rehearsals and I never agreed to take my medication – my medication is only taken in the mornings, never at rehearsal. They don’t even see me. So why are they even claiming that?’
ROW OVER ‘WRONG’ DANCE MOVE
The Domination row all centred around her objecting to one dance move, she claimed. ‘It was as if I planted a huge bomb somewhere,’ said Britney. ‘My management, my dancers and my assistant of the new people that were supposed to do the new show all went into a room, shut the door and didn’t come out for at least 45 minutes.
‘I was told by my at-the-time therapist, Dr Benson, that my manager called him and told him I wasn’t co-operating or following the guidelines in rehearsals.
‘And he also said I wasn’t taking my medication, which is so dumb, because I’ve had the same lady every morning for the past eight years give me my same medication.
‘I remember telling my assistant, ‘I feel if I say no they’re gonna come back and be mean to me or punish me or something’.’
REHAB AND STRONG MEDICATION
Three days later, she said she was made to go to rehab where she was put on the strong anti-psychotic medication Lithium. ‘It’s very, very strong and completely different medication compared to what I was used to,’ she said.
‘I felt drunk. I couldn’t even have a conversation with my mum or dad really about anything. I was scared. They wouldn’t let me get in my car to go anywhere for a month.’ She said of rehab: ‘Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it. A lady came into my home for four hours a day, sat me down and did a psych test on me.
‘Then after, I got a phone call from my dad, basically saying I’d failed the test: ‘I’m sorry, Britney, you have to listen to your doctors. They’re planning to send you to a small home in Beverly Hills to do a small rehab programme we’re going to make up for you. You’re going to pay $60,000 a month for this.’ I cried on the phone for an hour and he loved every minute of it.’
ABUSE, PHOBIAS AND THERAPISTS
She revealed this week that 14 years later she is still obliged to undergo therapy, three times a week, with people who she complains she doesn’t know. When her previous therapist, Dr Timothy Benson, died in 2019, Britney was pleased to see him go. ‘I got on my knees and thanked God,’ she said.
She would like to do one meeting a week. ‘I actually know I do need a little therapy… but it takes too much out of me going to this man I don’t know. Number one, I’m scared of people. I don’t trust people with what I’ve been through.
‘I have trapped phobias being in small rooms because of the trauma, locking me up for four months in that place (rehab). It’s not OK for them to send me to that small room twice a week with another new therapist that I pay that I never even approved. I don’t like it.’
SO WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NOW?
Now Britney has given her public deposition, evidence will be gathered from everyone else involved in the case. This, it is believed, will be done ‘under seal’ – in secret. Considering the length of her care and the number of people involved, it is expected to take many months before the judge makes a decision.
Britney turns 40 in December – whether she sees her fifth decade as a free woman is once again in the hands of the authorities.