Britney Spears back in spotlight over conservatorship and documentary

Entertainer Britney Spears has won a small victory in her years-long battle to remove some of the control her father has had over her and her decades-long career — a battle chronicled in the recently released documentary Framing Britney Spears.

Earlier this month, the court appointed Bessemer Trust Company as co-conservator with Jamie Spears, significantly reducing his control over Spears’ financial affairs and personal life. Spears expressed her thanks to her fans through her attorney, Samuel Ingham III.

“Whatever merits [Jamie Spears’] strategy might have had years ago when Britney was trying to restart her career,” Ingham said, according to multiple reports, “at this point in her life, when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”

Spears has garnered fans over a career that began when the McComb, Mississippi, native was a child. When she was 16 years old, her hit single Baby One More Time rose to the top of the charts, putting her in the national spotlight for the first time. Since then, she has released nine studio albums, and has earned herself the nickname “Princess of Pop.”

The spotlight focused on Spears’ personal life in addition to her professional life. That included her marriage to back up dancer Kevin Federline in 2004 after a three month romance that began not long after she had a Las Vegas marriage to a childhood friend annulled 55 hours after it began. By 2007, Spears divorced Federline after a tumultuous three years.  Three months later, Spears lost custody rights to her two young children based on her alleged use of controlled substances and alcohol.

This emotionally difficult situation, and the paparazzi’s relentless pursuit of Spears, are highlighted in The New York Times’ Framing Britney Spears, which examines Spears’ post-divorce troubles and her efforts to turn her life around. The film focuses on one night in particular as the tipping point for Spears: Spears and her cousin stopped at a gas station, where paparazzi swarmed their car, shouting questions and taking pictures. Spears’ cousin pleaded with them to stop, to no avail, and, after several minutes, Spears got out of the car and attacked the paparazzi with an umbrella. This incident only exacerbated the rift between Spears and the media which, rather than empathizing with Spears and her questionable mental state, instead perpetuated the narrative that the pop star had gone insane.

Following this episode, Spears was twice involuntarily checked into a rehabilitation facility by her father, Jamie Spears. Additionally, at her father’s request, the then-25-year-old singer was made subject to what was supposed to be a temporary court-ordered conservatorship. A conservatorship is an arrangement in which a guardian, appointed by the court, manages the financial affairs and life decisions for a person who is incapable of doing so themselves because of a physical or mental incapacity.

Despite Spears’ imploring the court not to make her father her sole conservator, in 2008 the court did exactly that, appointing Jamie Spears to oversee all of his daughter’s finances, assets, and personal decisions. Over a decade later, this “temporary” conservatorship continues for the  now-39-year-old Spears, who has been fighting to have her father removed as sole conservator, or to end the conservatorship all together, for many years.

Earlier this month, Sam Asghari, Spears’ boyfriend of five years, was asked about his thoughts regarding the Jamie-Britney situation. “In my opinion Jamie is a total [jerk],” said Asghari on his Instagram, “I won’t be going into details because I’ve always respected our privacy, but at the same time I didn’t come to this country to not be able to express my opinion and freedom.”

Spears’ plight has also been taken up by many of her fans. Framing Britney Spears interviewed the founders of the “#FreeBritney” movement, comedians and podcast hosts Tess Barker and Barbara Gray, who, in an “emergency episode”, claim to have been contacted by an anonymous paralegal who had worked on Spears’ case. The source highlighted the fact that Spears’ father who, according to court documents, is paid roughly $130,000 a year plus 1.5% of Spears’ earnings from her Las Vegas residency and merchandise for serving as conservator — and thus has significant financial incentive to maintain his sole conservatorship — had for years forced her in and out of mental health facilities against her will, while alleging that Spears was remaining in such facilities voluntarily, and discussed other potential abuses of power Jamie may have committed in his role as conservator.

The documentary showed a crowd of #FreeBritney supporters rallying in support of the singer outside the Nevada courthouse considering her case. One fan interviewed in the film, Junior Olivas, credits Spears’ music and attitude for getting him through difficult emotional times in his youth.

“I told myself, ‘you’re going to get your butt there and help her, just like she helped you,’” said Olivas when debating whether or not to attend the rally.

Despite years of setbacks, in early February, Spears won a small victory when the court appointed Bessemer Trust Company as co-conservator with Jamie Spears, significantly reducing his control over Spears’ financial affairs and personal life. While the creators of the documentary were unable to speak directly with Spears, she did express her thanks to her fans through her attorney, Samuel Ingham III.

“Whatever merits [Jamie Spears’] strategy might have had years ago when Britney was trying to restart her career,” said Ingham, “at this point in her life, when she is trying to regain some measure of personal autonomy, Britney welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.”