End of the Britney Spears Conservatorship and #FreeBritney
The entire trajectory of the singer’s conservatorship since 2008 to it’s recent ending, and how the Free Britney movement’s involvement helped end the conservatorship.
Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2nd, 1981 in Mississippi to Jamie and Lynn Spears. She always had an interest in singing and dancing. When she was 11 years old, the singer was part of the 90’s ‘All New Mickey Mouse Club’. Her true stardom began in 1998 after the release of her single “Baby One More Time”, which sold over 25 million copies, sending the young Britney on a life-long journey of fame. Throughout her career the music star released 9 albums, went on 3 world-tours and did several Residency shows in Las Vegas, being one of the most well-known pop stars in the world.
After a very successful start of career with several songs released that were number one on the music charts such as “Oops!... I did it Again”, “I’m a Slave 4 U”, and “Me Against the Music”, several performances in the MTV Video Music Awards, such as her beloved 2003 performance alongside Christina Aguilera and Madonna, Britney successfully shifted her image from southern girl to a big pop star. In 2004, Spears married backup dancer Kevin Federline, after only a few months of dating, and in September of 2005 and 2006 they welcomed their two children, Sean and Jayden Federline. At this time the media was observing her every move, judging her parenting abilities and constantly invading her privacy. In 2007 Britney filed for divorce. Their separation sent her into a downward spiral, alongside the increase in paparazzi pursuit that began following Spears’ in the same year, rendering moments such as her shaved head, smashing a paparazzi’s car, and being admitted into a psychiatric hospital. In the meantime she was going through an intense court battle against Kevin for the custody of their two sons, and recording music for her album “Blackout”.
In January 2008, after an incident where Britney did not want to return her kids to Federline at the court appointed time, she was taken to a hospital, in a psychiatric 5150 hold, for an evaluation and lost custody of her children. After seeing the alleged effects Spears’ old manager, Sam Lutfi, had on her life at the time, both Lynn and Jamie Spears agreed they needed to intervene. In the same month Mr.Spears filed for the ‘temporary’ conservatorship, which is when a court gives a person complete control over either someone’s finances and estate, or their personal life. Legally, Britney Spears was not allowed to make any decisions regarding her health, estate, finances and contracts as she was not deemed an individual person. In court documents released it was stated that Ms.Spears suffered from ‘dementia’ and wasn’t able to properly care for herself.
Instantly after news was released about the conservatorship Britney was placed in, fans became concerned if the agreement was made with the singer’s best interests. Only a year after it began, in 2009, worried fans created the FreeBritney.net website, to advocate as to why they believed the popstar shouldn’t be under control of her conservators, because of where she was both in her life and career. The movement began small, and was dismissed by Mr.Spears as a group of ‘conspiracy theorists’, and even Brtiney’s younger sister, Jamie Lynn, denied any rumours that Britney was being held against her will or being harmed. In an attempt to shut it down, Mr.Spears hired a group of investigators to infiltrate the movement and assess the potential ‘threats’ it posed.
Throughout her conservatorship, despite it having been stated that Britney Spears suffered from dementia, she released 4 succesful albums, went on 3 worldtours, starred as a guest judge for X-Factor, appeared on ‘How I Met Your Mother’, and maintained a 4 year long Residency show in Las Vegas (2013-2017). In 2019, Ms.Spears announced that she was cancelling a part of her tour because of her father’s health issues. Around this time is when the FreeBritney movement kicked off, after rumours were released stating that the singer was being placed involuntarily in a psychiatric hospital. Soon after this, her father steps down as her main conservator. The same year it was released by the star’s lawyer, Samuel Ingham, in a court hearing that Britney would not go back to performing if her father was still her conservator, because she was afraid of him.
In October of 2020, Britney Spears was granted permission to choose her own legal team after having sent a petition to the court. Her wishes are that her father is removed from his position of main conservator of her estate, and co-conservator of her finances, instead she would prefer to direct the role to a third party, Jodi Montgomery, who is already a temporary co-conservator. Spears had already petitioned in 2020 for her conservatorship to be terminated, but her statements in court remained private. Meanwhile, fans organized rallies, social media posts, and travelled country wide to organize showings in the courthouse, showing their support for the performer. The singer also expressed her wishes that the transition of conservator’s happened publicly, as her father was deemed unfit to be conservator of her finances, as Jamie Spears earned a $16,000 USD salary a month, whilst Britney received a 2,000 USD allowance, as she was making millions.
February of 2021, a documentary was released by the New York Times, it’s called ‘Framing Britney Spears’. The documentary was about how for years the media oversexualised, and scrutinized Britney, and her sudden rise and fall from grace. It was eventually nominated for 2 Emmy Awards, and garnered much more necessary attention to the singer’s ongoing battle against her father and the conservatorship. It revealed the truth behind many, previously hidden, court documents and reflected on how the media played a huge role in the singer’s very public 2007 breakdown. The documentary had interviews with members of Spears’ old inner circle, like a long-time family friend, and even had celebrities speaking out in defense of Britney, with Justin Timberlake writing an apology to her for his behavior after their break-up. Sam Asghari, Britney Spears’ fiance, thanked fans for their support and expressed his wishes to soon live a ‘normal life’ with her.
Due to the new rise in supporters, Britney appeared in another court-hearing to review her conservatorship in front of judge Brenda Penny, in June of 2021. This court-hearing was different from the others as her statements were public, and unfortunately members of the FreeBritney movement got confirmation of what they had been fearing for years. The singer claimed that she was forced to perform on multiple occasions, was exploited by members of her team, was forced to have multiple weekly consultations with different therapists and psychiatrists, had an IUD placed that she was not allowed to remove as they forbid her to have more children, and was forced to work tirelesly without having any access to the immense amounts of money she made during this time. Britney also stated she endured tremendous emotional and mental abuse through this arrangement, especially by her father and the other co-conservators, and said she has had enough of the conservatorship. Two months later, in August, Jamie Spears stepped down as his daughter’s conservator, and his lawyer sent a statement in which Mr.Spears said he felt sorry that his daughter was suffering through the last 13 years.
Two months after this court visit, Britney sent out a message on her Twitter account, after being able to have control over her social media platforms again, thanking fans for their relentless support for her during this process. It was also alleged that Spears’ was prepared to sue her father for conservatorship abuse, which includes elements such as excessive restrictions and financial misconduct through exploitation, for his inadequate management of both her person and her income. Finally, after 13 years, on November 12th 2021 the termination of Britney Spears conservatorship was approved, outside the court fans cheered and cried tears of joy for the pop star's long-awaited freedom.
The #FreeBritney, a human rights movement, has created a legacy, as it now fights for the rights of other people placed in unfair conservatorships, working with legal groups in California to change legislations, and advocate for the rights of those with mental disabilities. It was also greatly praised, if the fans hadn’t pushed the government with petitions and rallies, it was like Spears would still be in the arrangement. For Britney, this means she will be able to be in control of her life, and live freely.