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Britney Spears speaks: “I’m so angry it’s insane”

In an explosive court appearance, Britney Spears has asked for her conservatorship to end.

#FreeBritney activists protest outside a courthouse in Los Angeles during Britney Spears’s conservatorship hearing on April 27, 2021.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

In explosive testimony before a Los Angeles court Wednesday afternoon, Britney Spears officially requested that the conservatorship under which she is living be terminated.

Since 2008, Spears has been confined by the courts to a conservatorship that leaves both her personal life and her considerable fortune in the hands of a conservator — currently her father, Jamie Spears. But on Wednesday, Spears told Judge Brenda Penny, “I want to end the conservatorship without being evaluated. I want to petition to end the conservatorship.”

Spears’s testimony was one of the only times the singer has spoken out publicly about her conservatorship. For most of its 13-year history, Spears has been mum on the subject in public, and few details about her experience living under it or how controlling it was have filtered out into the press. It wasn’t until this Monday that a New York Times article revealed that Spears has been quietly pushing to find a way to end the conservatorship for years.

But Wednesday’s testimony was, on Spears’s insistence, very public. “They’ve done a pretty good job of exploiting my life,” she said, “so I think this should be an open hearing.”

Over the course of her remarks, Spears alleged that her conservatorship has become abusive, and has extended to preventing her from seeing friends she made in AA and taking away her reproductive freedoms. “I have an IUD in my body right now that won’t let me have a baby, and my conservators won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out,” Spears said.

Spears further said that she was forced to perform against her will during her 2018 tour, and that her medication was changed to lithium without her consent after she announced a hiatus from performing. “It was like I was drunk,” she said of being on the drug, adding, “Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it.”

Spears maintains that she is of sound mind. “I taught my dancers my choreo myself,” she pointed out. She said that when she told her father she didn’t like the way he was handling the conservatorship, he was unresponsive.

“The control he had to hurt his own daughter, he loved it,” she said. She compared her labor conditions to those suffered by sex trafficking victims. “I was working seven days a week,” she said. “I didn’t have a credit card, cash, or my passport.”

“It’s enough and it makes no sense at all ... I’m done,” she said. “I want to sue my family, to be totally honest with you.”

The anger Spears expressed at her hearing was a fairly new look for her. For a long time, Spears has maintained a determinedly sunny public presence. Britney’s Gram, the podcast that popularized the #FreeBritney movement in 2019, initially described Spears’s Instagram as “the happiest place on the internet.”

In court, Spears said that she has been in denial for years. “I’ve lied and told the whole world I’m okay and I’m happy,” she said. “If I said that enough, maybe I’d become happy. … I’m in shock. I’m traumatized. … I’m so angry it’s insane.”

She added that her lawyer, who she was not allowed to choose for herself and who is paid a stipend under the terms of the conservatorship, told her that she could never let the public know “what has been done to me.”

If she did go public, Spears said, “I didn’t think anyone would believe me. I thought people would laugh at me and make jokes about me.”

Spears told the judge that she did not know it was possible for her to petition to end the conservatorship until recently, and that she had been told that if she did petition to end it, she would be subject to another psychiatric evaluation. “I’m scared of people. I don’t trust people with what I’ve been through,” she said in reference to the idea of seeing another psychiatrist.

After Spears’s testimony, Penny told Spears’s attorney that he could file a petition to end the conservatorship. Jamie Spears responded in a statement through his lawyer, “Mr. Spears loves his daughter and misses her very much.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article said Spears says she is being treated for dementia. Spears did not make this claim in her remarks.

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