In June 2021, Britney Spears spoke to a Los Angeles courtroom, giving an impassioned 23-minute statement about her struggles under the conservatorship that had controlled her personal and business decisions for 13 years.
“I’ve been in denial,” she said. “I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. I just want my life back.”
It was the first time the pop star, who rose to fame in the late 1990s, had provided a window into her realities of the legal arrangement that her father, James P. Spears, had petitioned for in 2008, citing her public mental health struggles and possible substance abuse. During the decade-plus that Spears was restricted by the guardianship, she performed a Las Vegas residency and released four albums; behind the scenes, she said, she lived in terror and shame, unable to make decisions about her work or her own body.
Five months after Spears’s speech, Judge Brenda Penny terminated the conservatorship.
Spears embraced her sudden freedom to speak freely, unloading about family betrayal and years of isolation on her Instagram, her main outlet for communication with her fans. Now, Spears, 41, is making her biggest statement yet with “The Woman in Me,” a memoir that will be officially released on Tuesday. In it, she says that since the end of the conservatorship she has tried to “rebuild my life day by day.”
“I’m trying to learn how to take care of myself,” she writes, “and have some fun, too.”
Here’s what’s happened since the end of the conservatorship — in the public sphere, at least.
Spears’s personal life
When Spears gave her emotional speech to the Los Angeles judge, she said that two of the conservatorship’s restrictions that pained her the most were limitations on getting married and having another baby.
Several months after the arrangement ended, she married her boyfriend, Sam Asghari, whom she met when he was in her music video for the song “Slumber Party.” The marriage lasted just over a year; he filed papers asking for a divorce in August. (The book does not get as far as the split, mentioning their relationship only in positive terms.)
In April 2022, Spears announced that she was pregnant, but the next month, the couple said that she had had a miscarriage. It would have been her third child, after two sons with her ex-husband Kevin Federline.
“I’d been so thrilled to be pregnant that I’d told the whole world,” she writes in the book, “which meant I had to un-tell them.”
In the immediate aftermath of the conservatorship’s end, Spears was outspoken on her Instagram about the ways she felt her family had wronged her, but earlier this year, she signaled in an Instagram post that she may be softening, at least toward her mother. Lynne Spears — who, she writes in the book, supported the creation of the conservatorship — showed up at her doorstep, and her daughter appeared to embrace a reconciliation. “Time heals all wounds !!!” she wrote.
Tensions between Spears and Federline over their teenage children spilled into public view last year, when the singer’s ex-husband gave an interview in which he said their sons had been unwilling to see their mother. Spears responded by criticizing Federline’s decision to speak publicly about their children; in her memoir, she writes about the highs and lows of motherhood but does not discuss any estrangement with her sons.
Spears last released an album, “Glory,” in 2016; the final date of a limited tour supporting it was in 2018.
In her book, Spears says she’s hesitant to jump into making music again, but one person who did entice her back into the studio was Elton John. She says the 76-year-old rocker sent her a video message asking her to collaborate on “Hold Me Closer,” a duet that remixes some of his hits, including “Tiny Dancer.” The recording session took a few hours in the basement of a producer’s Beverly Hills home, she writes, describing the track, which was released in 2022, as the first new song made on her own terms in a long time.
“Mind Your Business,” a song with a former collaborator, Will.i.am, was also released this past summer. And a long-gestating Broadway musical about fairy tale princesses fighting for their emancipation that featured her music opened in June, closing a little over two months later. (The singer offered some support to the show in an Instagram post, but she did not attend, and some fans remained leery of a project instigated amid the conservatorship.)
Since the termination of the conservatorship, there has been an ongoing legal battle around wrapping up the arrangement that long managed the fortune that Spears had made as an international pop sensation.
A judge rejected a request from Spears’s father, known as Jamie, that she be deposed, but he was ordered to sit for a deposition; its details have not been made public. There has been ongoing legal wrangling oversome of the accounting from the conservatorship years, as well as over who will pay Jamie Spears’s legal fees.
One specific area of dispute involves Jamie Spears’s attempts to secure documents from an investigative firm that accused him in court papers of directing a surveillance apparatus over his daughter’s activities, including placing a “secret recording device” in her bedroom. The singer’s father denied authorizing such a device in a court filing, and he has said for years that his intentions in the conservatorship were always to protect his daughter.
Still, the biggest issue at the heart of the case — whether Spears should be in charge of her personal life and estate — remains resolved.
“Her civil liberties were stripped away and now they are back, and I think that’s what anyone would want,” Spears’s lawyer, Mathew S. Rosengart, said in a statement this week.
Moments in the spotlight
Perhaps Spears’s most widely discussed public debacle in the past two years involved a rising N.B.A. rookie named Victor Wembanyama.
In July, according to Spears’s account, the singer tried to greet Wembanyama outside of a hotel in Las Vegas when a member of the player’s security team backhanded her in the face. She demanded an apology, but the security team denied that she had been hit directly, saying that a guard had pushed her hand off Wembanyama. No charges were filed.
The most consistent magnet for attention in Spears’s life, however, has been the singer’s unfiltered and often eccentric Instagram account. Tabloids regularly seize on photos and videos of Spears dancing in her home and posing in various outfits, at times in the nude.
In her memoir, she seeks to explain her instinct toward revealing her inner life to fans.
“I know that a lot of people don’t understand why I love taking pictures of myself naked or in new dresses,” she writes. “But I think if they’d been photographed by other people thousands of times, prodded and posed for other people’s approval, they’d understand that I get a lot of joy from posing the way I feel sexy and taking my own picture.”
Since the end of the conservatorship, the posts have regularly stirred up debate among fans and observers about whether she has the support she needs post-conservatorship. Earlier this year, fans called the police to check on Spears after her Instagram account disappeared, and last month, another call was put in to the police after she posted a video of herself dancing with a pair of what appeared to be kitchen knives. She clarified on Instagram that the knives were, in fact, props.
“So unacceptable for cops to listen to random fans and come in to my home unwarranted,” she wrote on Instagram. “I’ve been bullied in my home for so long now…ITS ENOUGH!”
In her book, she writes, “Freedom means taking a break from Instagram without people calling 911.”
As some fans fret on social media about how the pop star is handling the effects of being suddenly released from intense, long-term oversight, others insist that this is exactly what the #FreeBritney movement had been working toward: uninhibited free expression.
“We always said that we wanted Britney to live her life on her own terms, whatever that may look like,” said Kevin Wu, who started organizing within the #FreeBritney movement in 2019, when fans began to coalesce in opposition to the conservatorship. “I’m trying to live by that and leave Britney alone because I think that’s what she would want.”