I started writing this blog close to 14 years ago because of Britney Spears. Seriously. I had set up a free account on Blogspot on July 23, 2007, but that was just a placeholder. I published one post that said I would start blogging “soon” but not quite yet.
Two days later, I learned that Britney Spears had fled the set of a shoot for OK Magazine with borrowed designer items, including my 18K gold and diamond Borgia poison ring. The ring had been loaned out by a now-defunct Los Angeles store called Kaviar and Kind, which neglected to tell me that a valuable piece of jewelry had gone AWOL on the hand of one of the world’s biggest pop stars. I found out when my friend Jane spotted my ring in OK Magazine, which published a shot of Britney walking out in her photo-shoot finery. I ran out in the middle of the night to get a copy of the magazine, because I had to see it to believe it.
This was surreal. I couldn’t afford to lose a big gold ring, and I was worried about how long it would take to get reimbursed if I had to file an insurance claim. Also, I was pissed off that Kaviar and Kind didn’t tell me what had happened. It was pure luck that Jane (a) bought a bunch of gossip magazines for a train ride and (b) was familiar enough with my work to figure out the poison ring was one of my designs, even though OK credited it to Kaviar and Kind rather than me. At the same time, I’ve always had a good sense of humor and an appreciation for bizarre stories. And I also had a Blogspot URL ready to go. Blogging inspiration had arrived! I mean, how could I not share this kind of news?
Truly, I never bore any ill will towards Britney. She gave me a “celebrity customer” story that has never been topped, plus a follow-up cover shot. And OK Magazine was the entity legally responsible for the jewelry — not Britney — and OK did pay up, so the financial issue was resolved. However, I did harbor bad feelings about the various parties involved in arranging the OK Magazine shoot, which was supposed to prove that Britney was physically and psychologically stable after months of erratic public behavior, which included shaving off her hair in front of paparazzi cameras in February 2007. Instead, the incident exposed her to vicious public ridicule, as did Britney’s September 2007 performance at MTV’s Video Music Awards. While I took a light tone in the first post I wrote about the VMAs, I was serious about the title of that post, which was “Save Britney Spears!”
I figured that in both cases — the magazine shoot and the VMA appearance — there were people ardently hoping for a headline-making meltdown rather than a triumph. As Rebecca Traister wrote after the VMAs, a lot of people were taking a malicious joy in tearing Britney down at a vulnerable time. The public abuse actually escalated from there along with Britney’s psychological suffering. On Jan. 3, 2008, for instance, Britney was hospitalized after police were called to a standoff over the custody of her two sons with Kevin Federline, with photographers snapping away as she was loaded into an ambulance. That’s when television’s repugnant Dr. Phil saw an opportunity to make money off her misery. In the post I wrote criticizing his motives for offering to “help” Britney, I also quoted some comments I read on a gossip blogs. Here they are again, in case you need a reminder of exactly how hateful people were towards a 26-year-old woman.
- “I am so fucking sick of this cunt! I really don’t care if she lives or dies.”
- “I wish someone would smack the crap out of her!!!!!!!!”
- “Fuck Britney– Let’s all hope that she kills herself ASAP (Before she takes out someone innocent)!!!”
- “Dumb fuckin’ bitch. They should’ve kept her crazy ass in the looney bin. … She’s a fuckin’ psycho.”
- “Good. She’s one step closer to grave. I’ve never been so fucking disgusted with a human being in my entire life. I hope she gets into scat porn now where she belongs…eating shit.”
Another hospitalization followed on Jan. 31, 2008, and the next day, Britney was placed in a “temporary” conservatorship. CBS News described it as follows:
“A Superior Court commissioner placed Britney Spears and her estate under temporary conservatorship a day after the pop star was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Her father, James Spears, was named conservator of Spears herself. His eyes teared when the decision was made. He and an attorney, Andrew Wallet, were named conservators of the estate. The singer’s mother Lynne Spears, was also in court. The parents sat with attorney Blair Berk throughout the hearing and they smiled and embraced her after the announcement. A court creates conservatorships when a person cannot care for themselves or handle their affairs.”
As we all know, this control of Britney’s professional and personal life and finances has remained in place for 13 years, even as Britney stabilized and went back to work, including a four-year performance residency in Las Vegas. She privately tried to free herself of her father’s control, and, although she didn’t speak about her situation publicly, compassion for her grew, belatedly, alongside a #FreeBritney movement that began on social media in 2019. This year, a New York Times documentary called Framing Britney Spears drew yet more attention to the injustice of a nearly 40-year-old woman whose young adulthood has been stolen from her. Britney didn’t participate in the movie, but perhaps it provided some encouragement for what she did today: Not only did she personally address the court while seeking to end her conservatorship, but she also requested that the audio of her statement be shared. (She said, “They’ve done a good job at exploiting my life so I feel like it should be an open court hearing and they should listen and hear what I have to say.”) If you haven’t heard Britney’s statement, here’s a link, but I’m warning you that it’s traumatic. Among other things, Britney states that she was forced to work against her will, forced to take psychiatric medication and receive medical treatment against her will, and — horrifically — was implanted with an IUD as birth control against her will even though she wants to marry her boyfriend and have a child with him. On top of that, she has had to pay all of the people who made these decisions for her, including her father and the lawyers hired to argue both for and against her self-determination.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny called Britney’s testimony “courageous” but said Britney would have to file a formal petition asking for the conservatorship to end before a decision could be made. How the right paperwork hasn’t been filed previously, I don’t know, because, as the New York Times reported, in 2016 Britney told a court investigator she wanted the conservatorship terminated as soon as possible. Seems to me like someone could have told her what steps to take, but I guess no one wanted to stop the gravy train? Anyway, I hope Britney gets her life back as she requested, and when she wants to celebrate her first day of freedom, I will happily loan her a fucking tiara. Of course, by “loan” I mean, “I will charge her credit card the full price and then refund the charge when the piece is returned,” because many years ago, Lindsay Lohan — another victim of stage parents — taught me that merely having a credit card number on file isn’t sufficient. As much as I want Britney to regain her autonomy, I don’t want to make that mistake twice!
UPDATED JUNE 25, 2021, TO ADD: Here’s a story from the New York Times that helps answer my question about why Britney hadn’t already filed a formal petition.