Britney Jean Spears, a 38 year old woman of multiple talents, watched by the world, as she transformed from a young girl into an adult through the public eye. Her entire life has been one advertisement after the other, she is quite frankly a commodity. A singer, an actress and a dancer who began her television career in 1992 when she was cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, alongside stars such as Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake. Britney is now a well known household name, not only for the talents she became so famous for, but also for a number of mental health issues that have been highly publicized over the last decade.
Born in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, her early life saw her sing in the local church choir and follow a wholesome upbringing. From a young age it was clear that she had talent and when asked about her ambition she would say ‘I was in my own world,…I found out what I’m supposed to do at an early age’. Her parents encouraged this ambition and with industry agents beginning to notice, her mother and younger sister moved to an apartment in New York so that she could attend the Professional Performing Arts School. A few years on and she was cast in the show (The Mickey Mouse Club) that would soon become the beginning of a lifetime rise to fame.
The cancellation of this show in 1996 didn’t end Britney’s hunger to achieve, it merely steered it in another direction. After being asked to join a girl group, her mother consulted with a family friend, Larry Rudolph, who also happened to be an entertainment lawyer. It was his decision to pitch Britney to a variety of recording labels that began the battle of rejections and success. Although she had the ability to deliver emotion and content in her singing, her voice simply wasn’t poppy enough. After working with producer Eric Foster White, her voice was reportedly shaped into the ‘distinctively, unmistakably Britney.’
She was well on her way to stardom and in 1999, having performed as the opening act for NSYNC, her début studio album ‘Baby One More Time’ was released. It was a hit and went straight to number one and after just one mouth, was certified two times platinum. Over the next few years the Britney brand would grow from strength to strength, with the release of more hit records, film débuts, perfumes, sell out tours and television documentaries.
Fans were fascinated with her life, both professional and personal. She shared a young romance with ex Mickey Mouse Club co star Justin Timberlake and after a whirlwind marriage to her old friend, Jason Alexander (which was annulled before the ink had even dried on the paper), things looked like they had finally settled down romantically for Britney when in 2004 she married one of her backup dancers, Kevin Federline. After a scandalized beginning, the pair became parents to two boys, Sean and Jayden.
You Drive Me Crazy: The year 2007 is the well documented and somewhat abused year, in which Britney’s life changed forever. You only have to type in the words Britney and 2007 to witness the immortalized memes and articles that she will never be able to escape. For many of us, the past mistakes we have made will have been forgiven and forgotten. Those close to us will have shown understanding and the issues we faced 10 years ago will no longer hang over our present life. For Britney, this isn’t the case. In 2007 she had an extremely highly publicized breakdown. She shaved her head, lashed out at photographers with an umbrella and checked into rehab for substance abuse, finally ending up in a psychiatric facility. She was mocked by the public with merchandise that showed pictures of her with a bald head and the slogan ‘I feel like Britney 2007’ across them. In today’s society, this flippant and somewhat mickey taking of someone’s mental health, seems uneducated and wrong. Having lost custody of her two sons, Britney’s relationship with their father also broke down and it was in this same year that the pair got divorced.
It was shortly after this time that Britney was held in a conservatorship. Recently resurfacing on social media, the #FreeBritney movement fights against the fact that this legal arrangement, which controls most of her life, exists. A conservatorship is normally associated with severely mentally ill individuals, the elderly or people in a coma. For the past 12 years, Britney Spears has had no control on her lifestyle choices, her finances or what she does with her body and her image. Instead, it has been her lawyer, her father and more recently a ‘care manager’ who have legal and professional control over her. She is not allowed to drive a car or vote without their permission.
On April 22nd, 2019, fans held a protest outside the West Hollywood City Hall, their intention was to draw more attention towards the prolonged conservatorship, as many suggested she was being detained against her will. In recent months, concerns have grown and suspicious fans believe that Britney is calling for help through her social media posts.
The rebirth of the #FreeBritney movement came after it was alleged (according to information from an anonymous para-legal source) that Spears had been held against her will in a psychiatric facility, following her father’s near fatal colon rupture and the cancellation of her Britney: Domination tour. Questions were raised as to why the conservatorship was still in existence when it was supposed to have ended after The Circus Tour in 2009.
As well as her fans, she has had many celebrities supporting her, including Miley Cyrus shouting ‘Free Britney’ while she was performing on stage last year and singer Cher tweeting ‘Question…Why is a women being worked, if it’s known by her conservator that she’s not well enough to care for herself?’
Over the coming month the courts will look at whether it is time for Britney’s conservatorship to end. Many fans believe that she should have the right to employ her own lawyer, worrying that the truth will not be heard. Britney Jean Spears has always worked incredibly hard, her success has been a result of years of blood, sweat and tears. However, in a world where we increasingly begin to realize the importance of mental health, should this young lady still be expected to perform? Through her dedication of performance, has she not earned the right to make her own lifestyle choices?. It is through the support and commitment of her beloved fans that she may soon be able to ‘break free’.