To those of us who grew up in the 90’s and 2000’s Britney Spears was the ultimate pop princess. Known for her dance moves and catchy music, Spears exploded onto the scene when boy bands were having a resurgence. We saw her fall in love with fellow singer Justin Timberlake, have a whirlwind romance and marriage with Kevin Federline, and then watched it all come crashing down when she had her children taken away.
We never heard from Britney herself during this time.
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Now we have the stunning new memoir The Woman in Me, Britney Spears’ own book about her experiences in the entertainment industry. What she has to say is shocking and painful but ultimately hopeful as she sees herself as a woman who finally has control over her own life.
Spears grew up in rural Louisiana with an abusive father, a trend that she says runs in her family, especially with the men. A fateful meeting lands her a role on the Mickey Mouse Club where she is immersed in an environment with other young performers. This is where she meets Timberlake for the first time and the two eventually reconnect when she releases her solo album.
For those wanting Britney’s side of the story, she obliges. Spears describes Timberlake’s appropriation of Black culture, his cheating on her, and their joint decision to get an abortion when Spears discovers she is pregnant. Spears also answers the cheating rumors on her part saying that she did in fact kiss Wade Robson and that Timberlake broke up with her when he found that out.
Spears notes that Timberlake spoke openly about their sex life and dragged her business into his solo album while she was expected to ignore him and take the high road.
Her breakup with Timberlake leads to several short-lived romances before she meets Kevin Federline. Spears acknowledges her marriage was fast but that she and Kevin were on the same page with having children. She also describes after their two children were born that the pressure of the paparazzi and problems with Federline caused her to have a public breakdown. Her hair-shaving episode was taking back her power since she was always expected to give a certain public face even when she was feeling sad or depressed.
The most harrowing part of The Woman in Me is when Britney Spears starts to describe what 13 years of being under conservatorship actually meant. She was forced to take lithium (what her grandmother was taking when she committed suicide), spied on by a company her father hired, and not allowed to eat or drink what she wanted.
Spears watched while the family took vacations to Florida during COVID-19 on her dime when she wasn’t invited. She was pressured to do deals like her Las Vegas residency but she wasn’t allowed creative control. When she pushed back in any little way, her father threatened to take away her boys or have her committed to rehab facilities. It’s jarring when she admits that at one point she thought they wanted to kill her.
Spears describes everything in detail, the loneliness she faced, being locked away against her will, being on a budget while her family spent her money lavishly. Even her relationships were under scrutiny and she wasn’t allowed to take out her IUD or get pregnant.
At its core, this book is about misogyny and the theft of wealth from a woman who was deemed incapable of taking care of herself. Britney Spears’ The Woman in Me is jarring and I was shocked at some of the revelations, but it’s also an honest account of the most painful part of one woman’s story.
Even now Britney Spears admits that it’s hard to trust anyone and while she doesn’t comment on the dissolution of her marriage to Hesam, it’s hard not to wonder if he turned out to be one of those people she realized wasn’t looking out for her best interest.
Spears writes “From all those years making myself do what I was told and being treated in a certain way, I’ve come to see what kind of people I want to be around and what kind of people I don’t. So much of the media was cruel to me, and that hasn’t changed just because I am out of the conservatorship. There’s been a lot of speculation about how I’m doing. I know my fans care. I am free now. I’m just being myself and trying to heal. I finally get to do what I want, when I want. And I don’t take a minute of it for granted.”
Spears is finally in a place of freedom and making her own decisions and for her fans, that’s all they’ve ever wanted.
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