For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of the legendary Miss Britney Spears. As a young kid in dance classes, I was mesmerized the first time I saw the Baby One More Time video. I remember vividly staying up to see each VMA performance. I remember going to Sam Goody to purchase her albums in person. I remember calling to purchase tickets to see her in concert. As an adult, I made the trek to Vegasney many times to see her Vegas show. She has been a constant in my life. Her music won my interest, but Britney the person captured my attention and kept me a fan for life.
I remember when my mom showed me the paper the morning after Britney shaved her head and I was a bit in disbelief. I was sad and then when I read what she had said to those around her, I was heartbroken she felt so used. A year later, I was truly shocked to see her loaded in an ambulance for a 5150. Nothing could prepare me, or the rest of the Britney Army, for what was coming ahead over the next year (and lasting for another 12+ years).
Over the last year, a new movement called Free Britney has taken the internet by storm. The movement started in hopes of releasing Britney from the conservatorship set in place following events in 2008. I’m here to shine a little light on the path that got Britney in this situation and why the movement is growing.
On January 4, 2008, Britney locked herself in a bathroom in her house during a dispute with her ex-husband regarding their custody arrangement of their sons. Eventually, the authorities were notified and Britney was taken from her home in an ambulance for a 5150 call. There is video footage of the pop princess in the ambulance as well as hundreds of images, but I don’t feel comfortable linking that.
5150 refers to the California law code for the temporary, involuntary psychiatric commitment of individuals who present a danger to themselves or others due to signs of mental illness. This is typically a required 72-hour hold in the hospital. Britney was released the following day, a mere 24 hours later. Her quick release suggests she wasn’t suffering from serious mental health issues, but no official comment was made on the reason for her quick release.
By January 31, 2008, Britney was placed under a second 5150 hold. However, for this call, it seems it was planned. TMZ reported Britney’s family worked directly with the LAPD for weeks to arrange airspace for helicopter support and a motorcade to escort the ambulance to the hospital.
This very same day Britney’s dad, Jamie, had paperwork, which must have been prepared in advance, submitted to an LA Superior Court requesting Britney be placed under a conservatorship. In the court documents, her dad had checked the box coordinating with “orders related to dementia placement.” Under a conservatorship in California, the conservatee (Britney) cannot control their own money, cannot hire an attorney, cannot drive, cannot vote, or have visits with friends without approval. It has also been noted in Britney’s case, she also cannot have primary custody of her children and is unable to have control over her social media. All of Britney’s purchases are monitored and each year, the court even publishes her purchases.
A proposed conservatee is required to be given a five-day notice before a hearing, but Britney’s dad petitioned the court not to give Britney notice. Her dad worried she would alert someone to the plan for the conservatorship.
On February 4, 2008, Britney hired Adam Streisand, yes, Barbra Streisand’s second cousin, to represent her in court. Streisand is a high-profile attorney who specializes in celebrity estates. He went to court stating that Britney did not want her father in control of her finances. The court noted Britney could not hire her own attorney and he was ejected from the courtroom.
There are additional instances of Britney attempting to hire her own attorney and them not only being ejected from courtrooms but actually hearing phones wrestled away from her (yeah…).
Not even two months later after the courts decided Britney was incapable of making any decisions for herself, she would guest star on How I Met Your Mother. According to some reports, Britney had everyone laughing on set and apparently improvised a few of her lines. Reports also said the pop princess had impeccable comic timing, leading to her scene-stealing performance. The How I Met Your Mother team loved her cameo so much, they asked her to reprise her role a few episodes later. Not bad for a girl who apparently is dealing with “dementia-related illness.”
In September 2008, Britney would release a new single, Womanizer, that went straight to number one on the charts. Womanizer would kick off the Circus era, Britney’s sixth studio album.
In November, ahead of her album release, a documentary would air on MTV, For The Record. Some scenes where Britney spoke more openly about her feelings over the conservatorship were deleted but later leaked. Britney said her life was too controlled and that no one really listens to what she has to say. She says she’s just sad and breaks a bit. Later on, Britney gets to drive her car on what looks like a private track and speaks about how she’s no longer able to drive. Britney says she used to drive around for a sense of control of her life and now she doesn’t have that.
The album Circus was released later that month and debuted at number one on the Billboard chart and sold over 4 million copies worldwide. Yet, Britney didn’t see the profits from this amazing album. Instead, her conservator reaped the profits.
In January 2009, a voicemail is leaked in which supposedly Britney told an attorney her father threatened to take her children away from her if she didn’t comply. Britney most likely made the call from a burner that she was given by her former manager’s sister. Britney’s regular phone access was monitored by her dad.
Two months later, Britney embarked on her Circus Tour. The tour grossed $131.8 million worldwide, becoming the highest-grossing tour that year. She broke attendance records worldwide and performed for two hours every show with a physically demanding routine, yet was deemed “unable to make any personal or financial decisions” on her own due to a “dementia-related illness.” Make it make sense.
I went to the tour twice and I couldn’t do most of the routines or stunts performed in my best shape, let alone I’m supposed to believe she was “undergoing dementia related illness” at this time.
Later that year, it was reported that Britney’s business manager, Lou Taylor, convinced Britney’s dad, Jamie, the conservatorship was the only way to go. Lou Taylor had previously been a business manager to Lindsay Lohan and her family had fired her for trying to put Lindsay under the same setup.
2010 is actually one of the scariest years of the entire situation. We have no idea what happened this year. Britney came back in 2011 for her next album, Femme Fatale, and we could all see Britney was different. It appeared Britney was heavily medicated. She appeared sluggish, a little heavier than just the last time she was performing, and a bit robotic in the short interviews conducted.
In 2011, Brand Sense Partners, the firm that helped Britney launch her fragrance line, sued Britney and her father for over $10 million in a breach of contract suit. In their suit, the firm stated, “the notion that Britney Spears is mentally or emotionally unfit to testify under oath is a sham.” A few months later, Britney’s charity foundation was emptied out and filed for bankruptcy by her conservators.
The following year, 2012, Britney joined X Factor as a judge and mentor. Legal experts and fans began questioning how could she judge and mentor others if by law she wasn’t able to do this for herself?
The following year in 2013, Britney’s Vegas residency, Britney: Piece of Me, starts and her dad wants a raise. Britney’s dad wants 1.5% of gross revenue in addition to his $16,000/month salary (not including his rent, bills, etc all being paid for through the conservatorship). After close to 250 performances, the show grossed close to $138 million.
A few more lawsuits come and go dealing with Britney’s conservatorship varying from nannies to co-workers to lawyers all testifying Britney was more than capable to make decisions. Iggy Azaela explained in depth the lengths Britney’s team went to search her house when Britney came over for lunch. Britney’s exboyfriend in 2016, David Lucado, said in an interview that Britney didn’t need to be in a conservatorship.
When Britney’s ninth studio album, Glory, was released in 2016, she was doing press in London and appeared on The Jonathan Ross Show. She spoke publicly for the first time about the conservatorship, but this was cut from the program when it aired. Audience members all confirmed what was spoken and cut from the show.
In October 2018, the co-conservator, Andrew Wallet, asked for a raise due to Britney’s “increased well-being and her capacity to be engaged.”
A few weeks later, Britney’s new Vegas residency was announced. It was an even bigger financial deal than her previous residency, yet in January 2019, it was called off. Britney took to Instagram to note it was canceled due to her father’s illness. Yet, shortly after her post, her father is seen out and about looking fine.
A few weeks later, Britney is seen driving to In-N-Out with her boyfriend. She would then not be photographed for more than three months. At the same time, Britney is seen driving, her co-conservator, Andrew Wallet, asks the court to remove him as Britney’s co-conservator.
Three months later, it is reported Britney has voluntarily checked into a mental health facility. This is after fans noticed Britney had not been spotted since January 2019 when she drove to get burgers. There was some confusion with the fan base if this was really where Britney had been and if it was truly voluntary.
A popular Britney podcast, Britney’s Gram, received a voicemail from someone who wanted to remain anonymous but noted some things you couldn’t just ignore. According to this source, Britney had been in rehearsals for her new Vegas residency, when her dad noticed Britney was not taking her medication as prescribed. Jamie took her to a doctor, of his choice, and he wanted to put her on a new medication. Britney refused to take the new medication, according to the source. Her dad apparently told her to either take the medication or the show is off. The next thing her legal team knew was her Vegas show was canceled. Britney still did not follow through with taking the medication and then is seen driving with her boyfriend to In-N-Out, which if you remember, she is not allowed to drive under the conservatorship. Per the source, Britney entered the mental health facility shortly after these photos were taken of her driving, so mid-January. Not in April as her team’s statement said.
This is immediately when the “Free Britney” movement is born. Fans of Brit’s have questioned the conservatorship for years, but this set of the alarm, Britney definitely wanted out and was being punished for speaking out it appeared. Britney’s mom, Lynne, even began liking comments about Free Britney on Instagram.
Britney’s team responded with the press against Free Britney indirectly. The PR team began pumping out interviews stating Britney would have DIED had she not been sent to the mental health facility. (I thought she checked in voluntarily?) Britney’s Instagram had previously been full of selfies and work out videos, but fans noticed it was all old or previously posted images being posted. Eventually, Britney posted a video selfie stating “she was fine” but apparently it was from INSIDE the mental health facility.
While Britney was in this mental health facility, her manager, Larry Rudolph, secured screen rights to make a movie off a Britney musical on Broadway. According to sources, Larry was apparently heavily involved in getting Britney into the mental health facility.
Britney was eventually released and appears heavily medicated in photos released. In May, Britney goes to court over her conservatorship and tells the judge her dad ordered her to go to the mental health facility. In her next court appearance, Britney’s psychiatrist was supposed to testify but died of an aneurysm.
A few months later, Britney’s ex-husband, Kevin Federline, files a suit on behalf of his children, shared with Brit, against Britney’s dad. The suit and restraining order allege Britney’s dad physically abused one of her sons. This causes Britney to lose her 50/50 visitation with KFed.
Britney’s manager, Larry, eventually did an interview where he says Britney “may never perform again.” He even went on to say the new Vegas residency was pulled due to Britney’s meds not working. This doesn’t sound like the show was pulled due to Brit’s dad’s health? Britney was spotted out and asked directly if she would perform again and she responded, “OF COURSE!”
Britney has been to court a few times over the last few months. Recently, Britney lost her bid to have her father, Jamie, removed as her conservator, for now. The judge upheld Britney’s father’s bid to retain conservatorship over his daughter but added the judge added that she would consider future petitions to suspend or remove him from the role, which Britney’s attorney said he intends to file.
According to the Associated Press, Britney’s lawyer revealed during the hearing that Britney “has informed me that she is afraid of her father. She will not perform again if her father is in charge of her career.” He went on to explain that Britney and her father had not spoken in quite a while. Furthermore, he stated Britney is a “high-functioning conservatee” who deserved to be notified of the actions taken by her father on her behalf.
While we the public may never know the ins and outs of Britney’s day to day or how she truly feels about the conservatorship, like Britney says in her documentary “For The Record,” maybe one day she’ll write a book.
December, yes, has Christmas, Hanukkah, the Blu-ray release of Tenet and New Year’s Eve, but also is Kenzie’s birth month! In honor of December, Kenzie will be writing specific pieces inspired by well HER special month. Check back here weekly for a new installment in: @kenzvanunu: BIRTH MONTH