In the last few months, pop icon Britney Spears has been in the news almost weekly, with updates about her frightful conservatorship coming through. In addition, several documentaries have recently emerged to show exactly how little control Britney has been allowed over the last decade and a bit, one of which, Britney vs Spears, has dropped some shocking bombshells.
The singer has been legally stripped of her rights, essentially, since 2008. She has been in the hands of her ‘legal guardians’ following a public mental health crisis. This gave her father, Jamie, complete control over her estate, work and other aspects of her life. Recently, however, Jamie was removed from the conservatorship after 13 years. In huge moves to #FreeBritney, the court has ruled in her favour. But what exactly does this all mean? Well, the new Netflix docuseries Britney vs Spears looks at the conservatorship in more detail. Here are some of the most shocking revelations in the show.
1. Court documents show the reason for Britney’s conservatorship
Despite the fact that Britney has been working continuously throughout the last 13 years, the court documents show that the reasonings provided for the conservatorship were listed as ‘orders related to dementia placement’.
Both the filmmakers, Erin Lee Carr and Jenny Eliscu, commented on this abnormality. Whilst the singer was in a mental health crisis when the conservatorship was signed; it was not dementia. Between her mental health break and allegations of Sam Lufti crushing drugs into her food, enough was going on to get the documents signed.
At the time of the conservatorship, Sam Lufti, her manager and handler has denied these allegations and claimed he was a scapegoat to allow the conservatorship to go ahead.
2. She had to sign documents in secret
From 2009 onwards, Britney wanted her own legal representation. She had a distinct lack of confidence in her court-appointed lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III. He was appointed to her case when she was hospitalised on an involuntary psychiatric hold in 2008.
In order to get a new attorney, she had to engage in a covert operation with journalist Eliscu. She allegedly snuck into a bathroom with Spears so that she could help the star sign the necessary documents to ask for a new attorney.
3. She was completely alone, and others noticed
In 2007, Britney started dating Adnan Ghalib, a paparazzi photographer. Their relationship was temperamental, and Adnan spoke in the documentary about staying awake with the star for 3 days at a time. He said he wouldn’t want to leave her or go to sleep because “if anything happened to her, [he]’d get blamed”. He said he was taking Adderall at the time and that it was very clear to him that “she didn’t have one person she could trust – not her mum, dad, sister, anybody”. He went on to say how much of a “scary, dark place” she was in at that time.
4. Britney wrote a secret letter
A few months into the conservatorship, Britney wrote an open letter. She wrote the letter about her situation and gave it to friend and documentary filmmaker Andrew Gallery, telling him to get it out to the public. The letter, written in 3rd person, reads:
“This year, Britney’s been silenced to speak about anything that’s really going on. The people controlling her life have made 3 million dollars this year. She’d love for new eyes to see her situation, but if she brings it up, she’s constantly threatened that the conservators will take her kids away.” It goes on to say: “So how long does this go on for? As long as the people are getting paid and she has no rights, it could go on for a while, but it doesn’t make it right at all”.
“Britney’s given her brother a $2m apartment, her mother an estate in Louisiana, and her father the best job in show business. She’s a very giving person and would love to get the respect she deserves”.
Andrew Gallery said that she would often share things and stories with him and even try to use his phone to contact people. He goes on in the documentary to say that the letter caused a “huge fire alarm” to go off in the conservatorship, and he stopped working with Britney after that.
5. Rocky waters even under the conservatorship
Even though the conservatorship was set up supposedly to make her life easier, it was actually chaotic. In 2012, Britney requested that her fiance, Jason Trawick, become the conservator. Rather than add him in place of Jamie, he became a co-conservator. This meant the two of them had to agree on all of the decisions surrounding Britney’s estates and life.
One such example of the conservatorship’s damage comes with Britney’s multimillion-dollar deal with The X Factor. She had signed on as a judge, but the medical team for the conservatorship advised against it, and her management team pushed back on that decision. During this time, she was being given doses of ‘stimulant’ medication each day, with the dose depending on whether they were filming X Factor.
6. The paparazzi could get hefty paycheques for images of Britney
At the beginning of Britney vs Spears, the viewers get to see the world of paparazzi culture and how intense it was back in 2007/2008. The docuseries shows how lucrative it was for photographers to snap a picture of Spears, with the chance to earn up to a few hundred thousand dollars per picture.
7. The conservatorship was not seen as an act of care
Conservatorships are usually used when a person is incapable of taking care of themselves, whether that be due to disability, illness, or another reason. They are usually done as an act of care and to provide assistance to those who need it – however, the documentary shows that Britney’s conservatorship was very much like a business model. Her father, Jamie and the attorney in charge of the guardianship made millions from her work and controlling her estate, and it seems clear that this was the priority, not Britney’s health and wellbeing.
8. Most conservatees do not work
In the docuseries, conservatorship attorney Tony Chicotel is interviewed. He talks about what stands out with this case in comparison with other conservatorship cases he has worked on. Chicotel has represented plenty of conservatees in the past, but he states in the documentary that not one of them has had a job. Alternatively, Britney is a successful, professional and hardworking pop star – it seems very odd to viewers and Chicotel alike that she can’t be in control of her own affairs.
9. Even during the conservatorship, Britney’s talents are unmatched
Even throughout all of this, her struggles never stopped her talent. Britney wrote the entirety of the Blackout album on a napkin in a Starbucks. The album went on to win MTV Best Album in 2008, International Album of the Year 2008, and be listed in such articles as the Top 50 Albums of 2007, Critics’ Best Albums of 2007, Best Pop Albums of the Decade, The 100 Best Albums of the 21st CEntury, and even The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
10. Jamie Spears threatened to take Britney’s children away
It was revealed in the documentary that Jamie had been threatening his daughter. Britney said he had threatened to take her children away from her in the past, and in a 2009 voicemail sent from Britney to a lawyer, she says that he had threatened this “several times”, and that she wanted to ensure her custody rights would not change.
11. Britney cared less about money and more about her livelihood
Jamie Spears had complete control of Britney’s person and finances, as that’s what the conservatorship was for. This meant that her personal affairs, finances and estate were controlled by him. One thing the Netflix docuseries demonstrated was that Britney’s focus on wanting out of the conservatorship was not her finances – despite “the people controlling her life” making “three million dollars” in one year – but instead her livelihood. Britney even says that “[she] just wants [her] life back” in the documentary.
12. She toured out of fear
One of the other things Britney says in the documentary is that she was doing tours out of fear. She was told that if she didn’t do them, she would have to find legal representation and her management team could sue her. She went on to say she wasn’t even allowed breaks in between tours and show dates in Las Vegas.
13. Britney wants the people involved in her conservatorship to be under more scrutiny
Understandably, Britney does not just want out of the conservatorship. Instead, she wants those involved to “not be able to walk away so easily”, claiming that her father “loved every minute of it”. She then went on to say that:
“My dad and anyone involved in this conservatorship should be in jail. The last time I spoke to [the judge], you made me feel like I was dead, like I didn’t matter. It’s embarrassing and demoralising what I’ve been through. I just want my life back, it’s been 13 years, and it’s enough”.
14. Britney never wanted Jamie in charge
Back in 2009, Britney was working with Adam Streisand, a lawyer who advocated to the court for her. According to him, at the time, she was willing to cooperate with the conservatorship but did not want her father involved at all. He explains that he said, “Your honour, she doesn’t want her father to be the conservator. She wants an independent to be the conservator”. He said Britney understood the concept and what was going to happen and wanted to have some control over it.
Unfortunately, the judge had decided that Britney was incapable of choosing her own attorney, and Streisand had to leave the courtroom.
One reason Spears may not have wanted her father to be involved due to his past issues with alcohol abuse. In fact, during the conservatorship, Trawick (Britney’s ex-fiance) said that Britney began to complain about Jamie’s drinking in 2011. He went on to say that she felt “that if she is being drug tested, so should he be. And if she were to suffer a grave penalty like losing her kids if she tested positive, he should suffer an equally great penalty for his drinking”.