Britney Spears has had enough.
The pop icon virtually went before a court Wednesday to speak publicly for the first time about the conservatorship, overseen by her father, that has controlled almost every aspect of her life for 13 years.
“It is my wish and dream for all of this to end,” said Spears. “I want my life back.”
Her anger over her situation was palpable, and her tone starkly contrasted with the often saccharine persona she presents on her Instagram, which is awash with fluffy kittens, butterflies, roses, and dance routines. She seemed to be all too aware of this discrepancy.
“After I’ve told the whole world I’m OK, it’s a lie,” she said. “I’m not happy, I can’t sleep, I’m depressed, I cry every day.”
She said that she would like to be able to sue her family over the position they’ve left her in, and said that her lawyer, whom she did not choose for herself, never told her that she was able to petition to terminate the conservatorship.
“I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive,” said Spears. “My request is to end the conservatorship without being evaluated like before.”
She also said that the conservators are interfering with her freedom to decide whether to have more children. “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,” she said.
Her father, James Spears, petitioned the court for a temporary conservatorship in 2008, as Britney was in the throes of a major mental health crisis as a result of overwhelming media attention, rumors of substance abuse, and a custody battle for her two sons.
Conservatorships are a court-ordered arrangement that are typically reserved for the most extreme cases, in which someone is unable to care for themselves or their basic needs, such as very elderly people with dementia.
From the get-go, Spears was opposed to her once-estranged father’s asserting control over the conservatorship, according to the New York Times. Despite her position, a judge concluded that her father was best suited to take the reins.
A day before Wednesday’s hearing, the Times, citing confidential court documents, revealed that the pop icon had been trying to terminate the restrictive conservatorship agreement for years. Despite raking in millions of dollars through record-breaking albums and tours, she wasn’t allowed to have control of her own credit cards, had to seek her father’s approval for the most basic of decisions, like repainting her kitchen cabinets, and she wasn’t even allowed to make new friends without him signing off first.
“He loved the control he had over me, one hundred thousand percent,” said Spears at the hearing, in reference to her father, who was reportedly not on the virtual call.
And, she noted, she didn’t understand why she was restrained by a conservatorship when she’s working. The Times also revealed that her father makes $16,000 per month as a salary for being her conservator, which is twice the monthly allowance she’s given. He also gets a cut from her world tours.
“I shouldn’t be in a conservatorship if I’m working and am able to pay other people,” said Britney Spears.
Her hearing is, in many ways, the long-awaited vindication that her devoted fanbase—these days known as the #FreeBritney movement—have wanted. And only in recent years have her troubles become more widely known: The fact that she was living such a repressed life was not really public knowledge until a string of bizarre Instagram posts in 2019 sent alarm bells ringing among fans, who took it upon themselves to investigate her life. Then, a documentary by the New York Times about her conservatorship took the #FreeBritney movement mainstream.
Earlier on Wednesday, Britney Spears’s boyfriend of five years Sam Asghari posted a selfie to his Instagram story showing him wearing a #FreeBritney T-shirt. Asghari made his position on Britney’s situation clear back in February when he referred to her father as a “total dick” in an Instagram post.
In a testament to the widespread interest in Spears’ plight, the website of the LA court where her hearing was meant to stream live was overwhelmed by traffic, rendering it completely inaccessible.
As Britney Spears appeared virtually in the court, some of her fans gathered IRL outside the Los Angeles courthouse.
“We are here to support her so she can finally use her voice to end this conservatorship and be free and happy,” Carlos Morales, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Britney’s face, told Guardian reporter Sam Levin.