Is Britney Spears imprisoned?
The 38-year-old pop star’s lawyers, her father and most recently a “care manager,” have had legal and professional control over Britney for the last 12 years as part of a complex conservatorship.
But in recent months, concern over the arrangement has grown among sceptical fans who are calling to #FreeBritney.
The devotees have rallied around petitions and chat rooms after what they perceived to be eyebrow-raising social-media posts from the pop star in quarantine – some linking the troublesome messages to her conservatorship.
“I burnt my gym down,” deadpanned a shaky Britney before showing her followers her at-home workout routine in April. “I had two candles and yeah, one thing led to another.”
Fans piped up: “Britney are you OK? We’re all really worried about you,” wrote one commenter. Another: “This reeks of gaslighting.”
The story of Britney’s mental health is unfortunately nothing new. She’s had a few bouts in rehabs and mental-health facilities, most recently in 2019 for some “me time” according to the singer. But fans fear her faculties are intact and that her management and family are keeping her on a tight leash, and with a firm grasp on the purse strings of her nearly $83 million fortune.
Representatives for Britney have not responded to The Post’s request for comment on the status of her conservatorship or fans’ theories surrounding it.
Here’s everything we know about the Britney saga.
WHAT’S THE LATEST?
Britney’s mum, Lynne, is seeking to be more involved in the star’s legal affairs going forward since petitioning the court earlier this month.
On August 22, the issue will go to court. The case is being heard by Judge Brenda Penny, who has previously ordered an expert investigation into Britney’s competence.
Just one of the online petitions in support of Britney, specifically for her to be able to “hire her own lawyer,” instead of the court-appointed one she has, has 241,515 signatures to date.
According to the court, Jodi Montgomery, Britney’s new temporary conservator who she has worked with since September last year, can’t block Spears from meeting with her court-appointed lawyer but can take out restraining orders on her behalf, hire and fire security guards, and has full access to her medical records. Ms Montgomery took over the role of conservator after Britney’s dad, Jamie Spears, passed on the job to her due to his own failing health.
The Womanizer singer’s social feeds are still being updated with selfies, snaps of her beau Sam Asghari, homemade fashion shows, and most recently, a bizarre video of Britney demonstrating how to use a rose-shaped soap.
On July 28, the star posted another Instagram picture of herself, covered in henna, writing, “I guess I’m demanding attention.”
Commented one #FreeBritney diehard, “You have our attention Britney! We see you! We hear you!”
Neither Montgomery nor a representative for Britney’s father Jamie have responded to The Post’s request for comment.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
The Toxic star dominated the tabloids in the early 2000s for her relationship with Justin Timberlake, a 55-hour marriage to her childhood friend Jason Alexander and, of course, her head-shaving breakdown after her marriage to Kevin Federline fell apart.
In 2007, she voluntarily checked out of the Crossroads rehab centre in Antigua and famously shaved her head in a Los Angeles salon.
Afterwards, she went to a tattoo parlour to get an inking of a woman’s lips on her wrist. The tattoo artist claimed that Britney told her, “I don’t want anyone touching my hair. I’m sick of people touching my hair,” when asked about her new look.
In 2008, Britney was placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold after not sleeping for five days. It was her second stint in a hospital that year; the first came after refusing to return her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James, then 2 and 1 respectively, to their father, Federline.
In October 2008, Jamie and her then-lawyer Andrew Wallet obtained “temporary” control of Britney’s finances and estate after those well-publicised incidents, her father being named as his daughter’s conservator.
WHAT IS A CONSERVATORSHIP?
According to California law, a conservatorship is when “a judge appoints a responsible person (a conservator) to care for another adult who cannot care for herself or her finances”.
The legal guardianship is usually used to protect the very old or those who are mentally or physically disabled to make sure they’re not being taken advantage of.
Eagle-eyed fans on Reddit dredged up paperwork from 2008, filed by Jamie, claiming Britney had dementia, which would give him even more power over the pop star under California code, including “(the ability) to make most medical decisions without the court’s permission”.
All of the pop princess’s expenses, including trips to Starbucks and iTunes purchases, according to the New York Time s, are turned over to the court.
WHY DOES THIS HAVE FANS WORRIED?
In December 2008, Britney released the Circus album, which debuted at No. 1 in the US and became one of the fastest-selling records of the year. It also kicked off her comeback.
More albums, world tours, awards and a stint as a judge on X-Factor followed.
In 2016, she announced her four-year residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas called Britney: Piece Of Me.
Fans have since wondered if the comeback was really her decision.
But Britney took to Instagram to squash rumours over her agency in April 2019.
“My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment,” she wrote in part under a video in which she assured fans, “All is well. My family has been going through a lot of stress and anxiety lately so I just needed time to deal.”
WHAT IS #FREEBRITNEY?
Tess Barker and Barbara Gray, hosts of the Britney’s Gram podcast where they dive deep into Britney’s social media, are credited with launching the movement in 2017.
But fans took a renewed interest in Britney’s conservatorship last year, when the star announced an “indefinite hiatus” from her music career and residency.
She was checked into a mental health facility in March to cope with the stress of her father nearly dying of a ruptured colon.
In the same month, Andrew Wallet resigned as co-conservator, asking the court to quickly approve his resignation, saying “substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger will result to the conservatee” if the resignation was not approved, due to “ongoing business activities requiring immediate attention”.
He hasn’t responded to The Post’s request for comment.
A court hearing in May 2019, where Britney made a rare appearance, led to an investigation of the conservatorship, fanning the flames of #FreeBritney.
A subsequent restraining order was placed on Jamie Spears by Federline, barring him from seeing Sean and Jayden after a blowout fight between the boys and their grandfather, in which Jamie allegedly knocked down a door.
The campaign gained even more steam when a former photographer for Britney, Andrew Gallery, read a letter that he claimed was given to him by Britney over a decade ago when the conservatorship was first set up. Written in the third person, it claimed she was “controlled”.
Followers use the hashtag #FreeBritney to follow the ongoing case and trade rumours and conspiracies surrounding the star.
A few of the unproven theories: That she’s not allowed to drive or use the internet – including Instagram – without permission from her father, that her naturally deep voice has been altered to sound higher and more pop-like to sell more records for her entire career, and that she’s being held against her will in an undisclosed location.
Britney’s song choice, wardrobe and captions are all dissected by the movement for subliminal messaging. Even the emojis she uses in her social media posts or a subtle marking on her hat are examined with a high level of scrutiny by the #FreeBritney-ers.
They showed up in real life, too, protesting outside West Hollywood City Hall to “free” the celeb during one of her many recent court hearings, which are closed to the public.
WHO PROFITS FROM THE CONSERVATORSHIP?
Britney’s leaked financial docs from 2018 reveal that conservator and legal fees set the star back an eye-watering $1.53 million that year, with $178,000 going to her father as his court-approved fee.
Court documents from November 2018 reveal that then-conservator Mr Wallet was requesting a raise to the tune of $593,000 per year for tending to the crooner.
Mr Wallet had claimed that he deserved the bump for helping clean up Britney’s estate which he says was “total chaos with tremendous liabilities,” and for keeping the star performing by making sure she wasn’t being given drugs during her career comeback.
Her exploding bank account from the years of steady work also prompted Federline to petition to triple his monthly child support from Spears back in 2018.
HAS THE SPEARS FAMILY WEIGHED IN?
Britney’s siblings have entered the #FreeBritney fray in the past week.
Jamie Lynn Spears, the star’s younger sister, vaguely called for the public to “respect the situation with privacy for the person, and the family trying to protect their loved ones”.
A fan called out the star in an Instagram post writing, “How about your sister’s OBVIOUS mental illness? Why don’t you speak on that?”
“You have no right to assume anything about my sister, and I have NO right to speak about HER health and personal matters,” Jamie Lynn shot back. “She is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that’s the only thing that is OBVIOUS.”
She later wrote: “I’d rather take all the hate than speak about someone else’s personal matter, that they want to be kept private.”
Britney’s brother, Bryan, said in a podcast interview the next day, “(Britney’s) always wanted to get out of (the conservatorship),” but defended the arrangement saying, “It’s been a great thing for our family, to this point.”
On March 4, Jayden, now 13, took to Instagram Live and described his grandfather as a “pretty big d **k” but heaped praise on his dad, Kevin. “I have the best dad,” he said, adding that he was “like Jesus”.
And, in June 2019, Lynne Spears, Britney’s mother, “liked” various pro-#FreeBritney posts.
A-LISTERS COME TO HER DEFENCE
#FreeBritney isn’t just made up of internet obsessives. Other A-list activists have also taken up the singer’s mantle, including Paris Hilton, Rose McGowan, Miley Cyrus, Mario Lopez, Lindsay Lohan and Courtney Love.
“Stay strong @britneyspears We love you,” wrote Real Housewife Leah McSweeney on Instagram adding #freebritney.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as The truth about Britney’s conservatorship