With an industry that obsessively devoured her since her teenage years and later mercilessly spat her out, and a family that trapped and abused her, it is a wonder that the American singer Britney Spears decided at 41 to finally tell her own story in her own words with not share the world.
The Woman In Methe pop princess’ sensational and candid new memoir, hit bookshelves worldwide on Tuesday and has already provided some shocking revelations.
It promises to give readers a glimpse into the “Toxic” singer’s successful music career, relationships, as well as her eventual breakdown that led to a 13-year guardianship.
According to critics, it has not disappointed so far, and should be read as a cautionary tale rather than a tabloid revelation.
“Britney Spears knows what it’s like to feel trapped: first by poverty, then by fame, then by her family. It is impossible to read this and not feel sad and outraged on her behalf,” writes the BBC’s Mark Savage The Woman In Me.
Here are some of the book’s biggest revelations:
Stormy family life the starting point
The Woman In Me is riddled with the influence of Britney’s controlling father, who is described by his daughter as a “failed businessman, alcoholic and control freak”.
Britney writes about her often difficult family life in Kentwood, Louisiana in the US, where she grew up, and says her mother Lynne and father Jamie were “constantly fighting” because of his alcohol abuse.
She reveals that her paternal grandfather had two of his wives locked up in institutions and one was even forced to undergo lithium treatment – similar to what Britney would later receive under her father’s tutelage in mental health treatment facilities.
The singer further reveals that at 13 she already shared mixed drinks with her mother, Lynn, and does not hesitate to highlight her mother and younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears’ share and financial benefit in the guardianship.
Justin Timberlake relationship highlights double standards
One of the revelations currently receiving the most media attention is the alleged abortion that Britney’s ex-boyfriend, singer Justin Timberlake, allegedly persuaded her to have when both were 19 years old.
In The Woman in Me she claims that the pop star couple, who were in a relationship from 1999 to 2002, decided that they were too young to become parents and moreover had the abortion at home to avoid media attention in a hospital.
The singer describes how she writhed in pain and anguish while Justin tried to comfort her with music: “He thought that maybe music would help, then he got his guitar and lay there next to me and strummed it.”
However, according to Britney, she and Justin did not enjoy the same type of news coverage when they later parted ways. She believes that although both cheated on each other, she has been branded in the media as the “fling who broke the heart of America’s golden boy”.
Justin’s decision to further promote allegations that Britney cheated on him first with his hit song, “Cry Me a River”, also upset her enormously.
Although she apparently penned down her feelings shortly afterwards in a hit of her own, called “Everytime”, fans believe that these lyrics now carry a different meaning and refer to the abortion rather than her and Timberlake’s relationship.
Guardianship deprives Britney of becoming an adult
Britney claims that she reached breaking point in 2007 due to pressure from her family, record company and the media to simultaneously be “a fantasy, a sex object, a role model and a passive product”.
A public spat with her second husband, Kevin Federline, and resulting custody battle over their two children, according to Britney, led to the now well-known photos of her shaving her head bald and attacking a stealth photographer’s car with an umbrella.
Jamie Spears was appointed as his daughter’s guardian a year later amid concerns about her mental health, but it appears that the singer had no say over her career, love life or body during this controversial guardianship.
In the book, she recalls how her father told her that he had taken over legal control of her affairs, saying: “I’m Britney Spears now.”
Readers also read how the singer was deprived of all privacy (even in bathrooms), was prevented from having a birth control device removed, was pinned down and fed medication when she would rebel, and even had to smuggle in mobile phones to communicate with the outside world.
Writing all this, she dared to spend time with her now estranged sons, to whom she dedicates the book.
Although she was declared “healthy enough” to release three successful albums and complete two concert series in Las Vegas, she was “given” a strict allowance of $2 000 (R38 000) a week by her father.
“From that point on, I began to think that my father saw me as nothing but cash flow,” she writes.
“This controlled agreement stripped me of my femininity and turned me back into a type of child.”
The guardianship was dissolved in 2021 after the singer, thanks to the so-called #FreeBritney movement, decided to challenge the court over it.
“Now I can eat chocolate again,” Spears writes about the small joys she enjoys two years after her termination.
However, the singer’s divorce from her third husband, the dancer and actor Sam Asghari, is not dealt with in the book to readers’ disappointment, and apparently fans should not get too excited about new Britney hits either.
“Forging ahead in my music career is not my focus at the moment. It’s time for me to stop being someone other people want; it’s time to really find myself.”
Dit maybe you didn’t know about Britney either:
- Britney admits in her book that she was in a “short, passionate and stormy” relationship with Irish actor Collin Farrell.
- She rejected her record label’s idea to have “Baby, One More Time”‘s music video played in space, suggesting that instead, like the musical, Greasemust take place in a school.
- She auditioned for the lead female role in the romantic movie, The Notebook, laid off. Although Rachel McAdams eventually got the role, the movie’s director and producers were extremely impressed with the pop singer’s acting prowess.
Sources: AFP, BBC, The Guardian, The New York Times, People.