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Britney Spears Asks Court To End Conservatorship, Detailing Its Control Over Her Life

Britney Spears at a movie premiere in 2019. She pleaded with a judge on Wednesday to end a conservatorship that has controlled her personal and business lives for years.
Valerie Macon
AFP via Getty Images
Britney Spears at a movie premiere in 2019. She pleaded with a judge on Wednesday to end a conservatorship that has controlled her personal and business lives for years.

Updated June 23, 2021 at 9:22 PM ET

Addressing a Los Angeles Superior Court judge via a remote connection, Britney Spears on Wednesday afternoon made her most public statement to date about her long-running conservatorship. For over a decade, the pop star's life has been ruled by an atypical court-dictated legal arrangement that removes practically all autonomy from her life. Until now, she has remained mostly quiet on the subject.

In a passionate statement to the judge, she pleaded for the conservatorship to end. According to tweets sent by observers on the scene, and some audio that was heard by NPR, Spears was sternly open and outspoken about her situation.

"I feel ganged up on, I feel bullied and I feel left out and alone," Spears said. "And I'm tired of feeling alone."

She detailed parts of her life that had been unknown. She said that she is being exploited and that she can't sleep, is depressed and cries every day.

Spears recalled one incident in which she didn't want to do an additional run of shows in Las Vegas. She felt relieved when her handlers said she didn't have to do the shows anymore but suspected there would be consequences. Days later, Spears said her therapist told her that he heard she was being uncooperative. She said he then changed her medication regimen.

In another shocking revelation, Spears said that she wanted to have another child but has been forced to keep an IUD in place.

Throughout her statement, Spears reminded the judge that it was her work financially supporting the people controlling her — namely her father, Jamie Spears.

"All I want is to own my money and for this to end," she said.

The plea may be Spears' final public say on the matter. Through her lawyer, Samuel Ingham III, she said that the statement was all she wanted the public to hear and suggested that proceedings from now on be sealed.

Jamie Spears, who has been in charge of Spears' conservatorship, said through his lawyer that he's sorry to see his daughter in so much pain and that he misses her and loves her very much.

The hearing ended without resolution.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny called Spears' remarks "courageous" and said Spears would have to file a formal petition asking for the conservatorship to end before she could render a decision.

Before Wednesday, after a recent New York Times and FX documentary, Framing Britney Spears, reignited interest in her story and the wider #FreeBritney movement, she had shied away from public comment, but did share some thoughts on social media.

"I didn't watch the documentary but from what I did see of it I was embarrassed by the light they put me in," she wrote in an Instagram caption in March. "I cried for two weeks and well .... I still cry sometimes !!!!"

On Tuesday, The New York Times, citing recently obtained confidential court records, reported that Spears has been trying to fight her conservatorship for years.

"She articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her," a court investigator wrote in a 2016 report. The system had "too much control," Ms. Spears said, according to the investigator's account of the conversation. "Too, too much!"

"Ms. Spears informed the investigator that she wanted the conservatorship terminated as soon as possible. "She is 'sick of being taken advantage of' and she said she is the one working and earning her money but everyone around her is on her payroll," the investigator wrote.

"In 2019, Ms. Spears told the court that she had felt forced by the conservatorship into a stay at a mental health facility and to perform against her will."

You can find more details about the history of her conservatorship here, but these are the broad strokes:

In 2008, Jamie Spears gained control of all aspects of his daughter's life after the singer publicly struggled with her mental health. (As the Framing Britney Spears documentary brought new attention to her case, it also started some soul-searching among media types who farmed her mental health issues for tabloid headlines.) Everything from her performances to her finances to her relationships with her two now-teenage sons was under her father's control.

The pop star's fans began to question the ethics and legality of the arrangement, and under the banner #FreeBritney, they have sustained a lengthy campaign to see it end.

During this time, Britney Spears continued working — putting out platinum-selling albums, doing TV gigs and mounting a hugely successful four-year residency in Las Vegas. She had no control over the financial arrangements of any of these projects.

In a 2020 court filing, Spears asked the court to suspend her father from his role as conservator and refused to perform if he remained in charge of her career. As a result, a wealth-management company became a co-conservator for her finances, but her father presently remains the main conservator for all other aspects of Spears' life.

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Corrected: June 27, 2021 at 8:00 PM AKDT
An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Britney Spears wrote the Instagram caption in March 2020. She wrote it in March of this year.
Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.