Spears’ bombshell memoir, The Woman in Me, hit shelves on Tuesday and covers a wide swath of the singer’s life—from her childhood in Kentwood, Louisiana, to her Mickey Mouse Club days, all the way through nine studio albums. The final stretch of the book delves into the conservatorship, which put her father, Jamie Spears, in control of both her person and finances.
Readers will instantly recognize Spears’ voice—playful, conversational, and at times, painfully resonant. Any Spears book would likely fly off the shelves, but here, the pop star is on a specific, nearly impossible mission: She’s trying to explain to the world how such a powerful figure could simultaneously find herself so disenfranchised.
The answer turns out to be a toxic combination: a dark family history, a once-in-a-generation gift, and a capitalistic society that insists on transforming artists into products to be sold. Oh—and don’t forget the legal system that kept her under her father’s thumb because she was supposedly incapable of making her own decisions while simultaneously selling out arenas.
“Since I’ve been free,” Spears writes in The Woman in Me, “I’ve had to construct a whole different identity. I’ve had to say, Wait a second, this is who I was—someone passive and pleasing. A girl. And this is who I am now—someone strong and confident. A woman.”
In the days leading up to the memoir’s release, many of its biggest bombshells hit the press. But those only scratch the surface—below, read about more of the book’s best bits.
Spears wouldn’t leave her brother’s side after his four-wheeling accident.
When Spears was 4 years old, her older brother, Bryan, was involved in a four-wheeling accident that left him in a full body cast. From then on, she says that her mother, Lynne Spears, “catered to” her brother out of a sense of guilt and “still defers to him to this day.” That said, Spears also notes that the accident brought her and Bryan closer and that she “slept beside him every night” until she was almost in sixth grade. “… Sometimes I’d climb into his bed and just hold him.”
Five years later, when Spears was 9, she recalls that her mother suffered a postpartum hemorrhage after giving birth to her little sister, Jamie Lynn. That, too, left a mark: “To see a river of blood flowing out of your mother would be traumatic for anyone, but for a child at that age, it was terrifying. I had never seen that much blood before… Apparently, postpartum hemorrhage isn’t that uncommon. But it lodged in my memory.”
Spears barely spoke to anyone for months after Justin Timberlake allegedly broke up with her via text.
Spears writes that Justin Timberlake used her “as ammunition for his record” while making Justified, which featured the scathing breakup ballad “Cry Me a River.” During a Barbara Walters appearance, Spears recalls, he also played an unreleased song called “Don’t Go (Horrible Woman)” that also seemed to be about her.
The breakup left Spears “devastated,” she writes (emphasis hers). “When I say devastated, I mean I could barely speak for months. Whenever anyone asked me about him, all I could do was cry. I don’t know if I was clinically in shock, but it felt that way. Everyone who knew me thought something was wrong with me, really wrong.”
After Spears returned to Kentwood, she remembers she couldn’t talk to family or friends and mostly stayed at home in bed, staring at the ceiling. Timberlake flew out at one point, she recalls, and brought a long letter he’d written to her and framed, which she still keeps beneath her bed to this day.
“He did all that, he came there to see me, and I still couldn’t talk—to him or anybody.”
Spears and her tour team were allegedly stopped in Mexico by men holding “the biggest guns I’d ever seen”
In July 2002, during her Dream Within a Dream Tour, Spears writes that her van was “surrounded by these angry-looking men,” holding “the biggest guns I’d ever seen” after crossing the border en route to Mexico City.
“I was terrified; it felt like we were being ambushed,” she writes. “It just didn’t make sense to me… Everyone in my van was so tense; I had security with me, but who knew what was going to happen. After what felt like forever, there seemed to be some kind of peace talks happening—it was like in a movie.”
Spears writes that she still doesn’t know what really happened, “but in the end, we were allowed to carry on, and we got to play to fifty thousand people (though the second show, on the following day, had to be canceled halfway through because of a massive thunderstorm).”
Madonna taught Britney how to own her power.
While working on the music video for their 2003 collaboration “Me Against the Music,” Spears recalls that Madonna taught her an important lesson: how to own her vision.
It all started when a seam came undone on Madonna’s costume, which delayed the production start time by a few hours while a seamstress tended to Madge’s garments. “If I broke a heel on my shoe, I would never make production take the five minutes to let me fix it,” Spears recalls. “I would do whatever the director told me to do, even if I had to hobble onto the set without a heel, even if I had to show up barefoot.”
The moment proved instructive: As Spears realized, “she demanded power, and so she got power. She was the center of attention because she made that the condition of her showing up anywhere.”
While Spears says she wanted to preserve some of her “nice-girl” identity, she also wanted to find a way to bring some of that energy into her own life and work.
That infamous Diane Sawyer interview was allegedly an ambush.
During the promotional cycle for her 2003 album In the Zone, Spears recalls that one day, she answered her door and her father “walked right past” her and entered along with three men she’d never met. They began “drilling” her with questions, she writes, but she stayed “mute”—“I wasn’t willing to talk with anyone. I had nothing to say.”
And yet, a day later, she allegedly found out that she’d be speaking with Diane Sawyer in a sit-down that’s since become one of the more infamously confrontational interviews Spears has endured over the years.
For Spears, her apartment was a safe place where she went to be alone, she wrote; “now I was being forced to speak to Diane Sawyer there and cry in front of the entire nation.” And she did, as Sawyer grilled Spears, then 21, about her breakup with Timberlake and what she must have done to “cause him so much pain, so much suffering.”
Looking back, Spears describes the moment as an internal “breaking point.”
“I shouldn’t have been forced to speak on national TV, forced to cry in front of this stranger, a woman who was relentlessly going after me with harsh question after harsh question,” the singer writes. “Instead, I feel like I had been exploited, set up in front of the whole world.”
Her short-lived marriage to Jason Alexander was a turning point for Spears’ relationship with her family.
Although Spears recalls insisting that she and Jason Alexander were “just having fun” when they got married in Las Vegas in 2004, her family was allegedly furious. “I thought it was strange they got involved so quickly and so decisively—without my even having time to regret what I’d done,” she writes. Now, she’s come to believe that the goof-off wedding might’ve been a “brilliant” act of rebellion.
“Because I realized: something about my being under their control and not having a stronger connection to someone else had become very, very important to them… Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that, by this point, I was supporting them financially.”
She only filed for divorce against K-Fed because of an alleged threat.
According to Spears, her relationship with her second husband, Kevin Federline, had become rocky long before their divorce. She describes the distance that grew between them as he tried to make a name for himself—an effort she says she supported, even though she wished it didn’t come at the cost of their time together. His alleged marijuana use didn’t thrill her, she writes, nor did his shifting demeanor.
Spears came to New York to try and fix things with Federline as he worked on his album, she writes, but he allegedly refused to see her, and his team—many of whom, she makes sure to note, had previously worked for her—blocked her entry. The same happened when she tried again in Las Vegas.
Spears also repeats an allegation that first surfaced in the Netflix documentary Britney vs. Spears, claiming that she only filed for divorce from Federline on her lawyer’s advice that he was going to do so if she didn’t. “I was led to believe that it would be better if I did it first so that I wasn’t humiliated,” she recalls. Instead, she wound up paying for Federline’s legal representation and defending herself in the press while her now ex-husband insisted he’d been “blindsided.”
In retrospect, Spears writes, “I think that both Justin and Kevin were very clever. They knew what they were doing, and I played right into it.”
One of Spears’ terrifying paparazzi chases could have turned deadly.
Before the conservatorship began, the paparazzi had made a habit of chasing Spears around in a terrifying quest for photos. Some of these chases were “aggressive,” she writes, while others were “playful.”
During one car trip with a paparazzo she’d been dating but declines to name in her book, the singer recalls “driving fast, near the edge of a cliff” with photographers in pursuit.
“I don’t know why, but I decided to pull a 360, right there on the edge,” Spears writes. “I honestly didn’t even know I could do a 360—it was completely beyond me, so I think it was God. But I stuck it; the back wheels of the car stopped on what seemed like the very edge, and if the wheels had rotated maybe three more times, we would have just gone off the cliff. … I felt so alive.”
“I ate almost nothing but chicken and canned vegetables.”
During her conservatorship, Spears alleges that her father began to fixate on her weight—especially after she returned from a forced trip to a rehabilitation center in Malibu. No matter what she ate or how much she exercised, Spears alleges, “my father was always telling me I was fat.”
Eventually, this led to a “strict diet”; as Spears puts it, “I ate almost nothing but chicken and canned vegetables” for two years. Every now and then, she’d beg her butler for some “real food,” like a hamburger and french fries, only to be denied again and again. “I found it so degrading.”
Spears started feeling estranged from her body, she writes—like it wasn’t even hers anymore. She gained weight on the new diet but says that she was “so beaten down by all of it that I just surrendered. My mom seemed to go along with my dad’s plan for me.”
As Spears recalls, her family would take trips to Destin, a beach town in Florida, “at a ridiculously beautiful condo that I bought for them and eat good-tasting food every night while I was starving and working.”
Spears decided to try and end the conservatorship after Jamie allegedly “broke down the door and shook” her son Sean Preston.
In August 2019, after she’d returned from another alleged forced trip to another mental health facility, Spears writes that her father and her son Sean Preston got into an argument that escalated until the then-13-year-old locked himself in his bedroom “to end the fight”—at which point Jamie allegedly “broke down the door and shook him.”
In September of that year, Us magazine reported that Kevin Federline had received a three-year restraining order against Jamie preventing him from coming near Sean Preston or Spears and Federline’s younger son, Jayden James. Speaking with Radar Online later that month, Ventura County District Attorney Gregory D. Totten said Spears had not been charged with a crime because there was “insufficient proof” that he’d committed a criminal offense. According to Us, Jamie never opposed the restraining order request.
In that moment, Spears recalls, “I knew I had to summon one more round of strength, to fight one last time. … I was going to ask, with every bit of my motherfucking blood and skin, for the end of the conservatorship. Because I didn’t want those people running my life anymore. I didn’t even want them in my goddamn kitchen.”
Spears is trying to have more compassion for Jamie Lynn, even after her “salacious” book.
Last January, Britney’s little sister, Zoey 101 and Sweet Magnolias star Jamie Lynn Spears, released a tell-all memoir full of stories that Spears found “salacious.” While Spears fought against her conservatorship, she was frustrated by what struck her as Jamie Lynn “capitalizing on it” in the book, titled Things I Should Have Said.
Following Spears’ fiery courtroom testimony in the summer of 2021, she and Jamie Lynn began taking swipes at each other on social media, although there have also been peaceful overtures. In her book, Britney ends things on a hopeful note, acknowledging that Jamie Lynn has experienced things she has not, like growing up in her shadow.
“But I don’t think she fully understands just how desperately poor we were before she was born,” Spears writes. “Because of the money I brought to the family, she wasn’t helpless in the face of our father, like my mother and I were back in the 1980s.”
Now, Spears writes, she’s trying to cultivate more empathy for her sister. “She’s spoken about the pain of growing up in my shadow. I’m working to feel more compassion than anger toward her and toward everyone who I feel has wronged me.”
Britney loves her ’gram
Although Spears’ many nude (and near-nude) photos on Instagram seem to scandalize certain social media users, the singer writes in her book that they’re an expression of hard-earned self love.
“I know that a lot of people don’t understand why I love taking pictures of myself naked or in new dresses,” she writes. “But I think if they’d been photographed by other people thousands of times, prodded and posed for other people’s approval, they’d understand that I get a lot of joy from posing the way I feel sexy and taking my own picture, doing whatever I want with it.”
At this point, two years out of her 13-year conservatorship, Spears writes that she feels “reborn.” Although the conservatorship killed her creativity for a time, she now says she walks around her home singing, just like she did when she was a young girl dreaming of becoming famous one day. “I’m finding the joy again of why I wanted to sing to begin with,” she writes. “That feeling is sacred for me. I do it for me and nobody else.”