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Britney Spears Tells A Judge That She Wants Her Life Back


Britney Spears was finally heard yesterday. In a legal proceeding, the pop star broke her silence on her conservatorship, the court-dictated legal agreement that places her father in charge of every aspect of her life. Spears described having no autonomy over her own choices. NPR arts reporter Andrew Limbong is here with more on this. Hi, Andrew.


MARTIN: Tell us more about what we heard from Britney Spears.

LIMBONG: To set the stage a bit, Britney Spears has long been silent, you know, about talking about any of the details about her conservatorship. But yesterday, she went through a lot of specific details about what her life is like. You know, professionally, she isn't in control of her schedule. She has to perform when her managers tell her to perform, rehearse when they tell her to rehearse, and even though she crafts the choreography of her shows, she has to fight for artistic decisions. Personally, she has, you know, no say in anything - in who her lawyer is, what medication she takes, or how often she goes to therapy, or even who that therapist is.

And she described how these two aspects of her life often works, you know, together against her. For example, she told this story about how she didn't want to do an additional run of shows in Vegas - right? - because she was burned out and needed a break. Then her therapist, you know, called her and sat her down a few days later and said, you know, she was being uncooperative and then put her on lithium against her will. And she revealed other details as well, such as how she wants to have another child, but she currently has an IUD. And according to the conservatorship, she isn't allowed to have it removed...

MARTIN: ...Which is really hard to hear and...


MARTIN: ...Spurred a lot of reproductive rights advocates to pipe up publicly on her behalf. I mean, we should just take a second and remind people, she was put into this conservatorship 13 years ago because of concerns over her own mental stability.

LIMBONG: Her mental health, yeah.

MARTIN: Right? So, I mean, there was no recording from these proceedings yesterday, and so we can't play it on air. But can you tell us just what her tone was, how she seemed?

LIMBONG: Yeah, it was a really intense statement. She was angry and frustrated, but she, you know, really wanted to get it out to the public. The judge actually had to stop her a few times and asked if she could slow down because the court reporter couldn't keep up. And she was emotional, and to my ear, she sounded, like, stern and clear-eyed. She knew exactly what she wanted, you know? She wanted out of the conservatorship without being evaluated. And it's caused her nothing but grief and sadness.

You know, she also pretty plainly called out who the people responsible, including her father, Jamie Spears, you know, for gleefully controlling her life. You know, she called out the management and the people around her for doing his bidding. And she also called out the state of California for just letting this all happen. By the way, speaking of her father, through a lawyer, he said that he misses her and is sad to see her in so much pain.

MARTIN: I mean, Andrew, we have to say, if you can set aside the fact that Britney Spears is this huge global pop icon, this is the story about a 39-year-old woman who has no control of her life, right?

LIMBONG: Yeah, exactly. This story got renewed attention when that New York Times documentary came out early this year, "Framing Britney Spears." And it got a lot of attention because it's about women and agency, right? Yeah, like you said, her life is literally and, you know, legally, I should add, like, being controlled by a man, her dad, with whom she has a contentious relationship with. And there's a lack of any help being had because, like, the state of California, thus far, is just letting all of this happen. And she has a lot of money and more fame than most people, but that's an aspect of her life that's super relatable to a lot of women, unfortunately.

MARTIN: Thank you so much, Andrew. NPR's Andrew Limbong.


BRITNEY SPEARS: (Singing) But now I'm stronger than yesterday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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.