Britney Spears broke her silence with explosive fury.
In one of the most anticipated celebrity court proceedings in years, the pop star testified on Wednesday, asking Los Angeles Superior Court judge Brenda Penny to end the conservatorship that has controlled her every move for 13 years.
“I just want my life back,” Spears said, cataloguing how her life had been stolen by those who vowed to protect her, especially her father Jamie, the lead conservator.
“They’ve done a good job at exploiting my life.”
Contrary to the brave face she puts on, Spears added, the conservatorship has left her feeling “angry,” “depressed” and “traumatized.” She cries every day. She compared her situation, including working against her will, to sex trafficking.
This conservatorship was like being a “slave.”
According to multiple reports and a tsunami of live tweets sneaking out of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, other comments were equally stunning.
Spears alleged there is an IUD in her body she is not allowed to have removed, despite wanting to get married again and have another baby. She said she was put on lithium after begging for a break from the grueling schedule of her four-year concert residency in Las Vegas that ended in 2017.
She characterized some of the experts tasked with her medical care as uncaring. She said she is sick and tired of paying the very people who control her finances. She painted a haunting portrait of life as a living hell.
As for why she was only coming forward now to voice concerns, Spears told the judge she didn’t realize she could ask for the conservatorship to end.
And just like that, Britney Spears joined the #Free Britney movement.
Her testimony, the first public statements since the conservatorship started, was a vindication for the grassroots campaign once dismissed as a kooky conspiracy. It is now a global phenomenon. On Wednesday, in cities around the world, fans waved flags and hoisted signs and called for their heroine to be freed.
But given her testimony, the situation is worse than they imagined.
This week, before Wednesday’s hearing, the New York Times published a blockbuster based on confidential court records. Those documents revealed Spears has “expressed serious opposition to the conservatorship earlier and more often that had been previously known.”
In a 2016 report, for example, a court investigator wrote: “(Spears) articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her.” This included everything from rules around whom she could date to strict budgetary controls on home renos as modest as refinishing kitchen cabinets.
Think about that. TikTok teen millionaires are impulse-buying Lamborghinis and jetting off to Turks and Caicos. But Spears, who turns 40 next year, needs permission from a legal team before hitting up Benjamin Moore.
The conservatorship, designed to provide guardrails, had turned into a prison.
And the super-villain, as Spears now alleges, was her father Jamie.
Maybe he did have her best interests in mind when he petitioned the courts for control in 2008 after a perfect storm — unrelenting tabloid scrutiny, a war over custody of her young sons and unfathomable pressures — caused his daughter to have a mental health crisis that resulted in involuntary hospitalization.
But the truth now? This conservatorship is also his moneymaker.
According to the Times, he earns $ 16,000 a month as conservator, plus $ 2,000 in office rental allotments. He also gets a percentage of any new revenue, which included a 2.95 per cent commission for her 2011 Femme Fatale tour.
Forgive me, but this sounds more pimp than dad.
Given Britney’s testimony, it’s clear Jamie Spears should do the right thing and set his golden goose free. At one point, she raised the possibility of suing him. It is also telling that everyone in her life not connected to the conservatorship — from ex-husband, Kevin Federline, the father of her sons, to boyfriend Sam Asghari, to friends and former colleagues — talk about Jamie with the same level of visceral disgust as vegans direct at pork chops.
Britney did not deny that she still needs some help navigating the challenges of a life few will ever understand. The question is what kind of help — and how much. At what point does a legal shield, raised to protect someone, become a cudgel that inflicts harm? Why is she forced to attend therapy sessions outside her home, arriving to find the same paparazzi that tormented her for the last quarter century? Why can’t she go for a drive without a chaperone or take an impromptu vacation or buy a new armoire or make her own artistic and career decisions?
Why does one of the most popular singers alive have no voice?
Therein lies the central paradox.
If Britney Spears is unfit to make her own decisions, how is it that she continues to support everyone who claims she is unfit? Since the conservatorship was established — this was supposed to be a temporary measure — she has released four studio albums, was a judge on “American Idol” and “The X Factor,” had multiple TV appearances and, from 2013 to 2017, performed more than 250 shows at the “Britney: Piece of Me” concert residency in Las Vegas, which grossed nearly $ 140 million. This is the most lucrative conservatorship in history.
Her career never slowed down after she was ejected from the driver’s seat.
Now it’s time to give her back the keys.