(X) Britney Spears’ Tragic Real-Life Story

Britney Spears posing for a portrait

It turns out there may have been more truth to Britney Spears’ hit “Lucky” than the world initially knew. The singer has lived her entire adult life in the spotlight, for better or for worse — and unfortunately for Spears, it was usually worse. Fans had a hard time understanding how the pop princess fell from the top of the charts to the depths of her so-called downfall in 2007 — until the tabloids started reporting that she was struggling with her mental health.

In 2008, the year her infamous conservatorship began, a People magazine editor claimed to the “Today” show that she dealt with both bipolar disorder and postpartum depression. Meanwhile, sources cited by the Mirror alleged that Spears was previously prescribed Prozac, but that she didn’t take it regularly, which allegedly impacted her behavior. One insider close to the singer appeared to affirm her struggle with anxiety, saying she’d wake up during the night in fear and often struggled to sleep well during her European tour in 2000.

Spears seemingly confirmed her bipolar diagnosis in her 2013 “I Am Britney Jean” documentary and has long spoken out about her struggles with anxiety. But those conditions did not live in a vacuum. Spears’ family history, personal life, and extreme professional pressures all played a role in what turned out to be devastating and very public struggles for the pop music icon. This is Britney Spears’ tragic real-life story.

Childhood trauma shaped Britney Spears’ life

Britney Spears at a Teen People event

Britney Spears told People that she was actually thrilled when her parents, Lynne and Jamie Spears, divorced in 2002. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to my family,” she said. “My mom and dad, bottom line, do not get along. When I was a baby, they argued. I wanted this to happen 10 years ago.”

The Mirror reported that Jamie struggled with alcoholism. Jamie’s brother, Willie, told the outlet that Jamie would frequently get drunk and fight with Lynne, and that an inebriated Jamie once attempted to drive away with Britney after an argument. Lynne reportedly filed for divorce, and even tried to get a protective order against Jamie after she alleged he’d cheated in December 1979, but the divorce filing was withdrawn. When her parents’ fights were particularly traumatic, young Brit retreated to her aunt’s nearby trailer. Jamie got sober in 2004 and reunited with Lynne in 2010, with sources telling Us Weekly that Britney’s troubles partly inspired the reconciliation. Jamie’s issues may have extended beyond him: Rolling Stone reported that his mother died by suicide when he was 14. A former manager for Britney told the magazine, “She is the product of some very, very bad genetics.”

Sources told the Mirror that Britney performed to escape her troubled home life. Her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Ghalib, explained to The Sun, “Her childhood was centered around becoming a star and I feel she is determined to give her kids a real childhood, unlike what she had.”

She felt extreme pressure to please everyone around her

Britney Spears and her mother Lynne Spears at a red carpet event

Britney Spears was nominated for the best new artist Grammy in 2000. She lost, which hurt her, largely in part because she so badly wanted to please her parents. “My mom wanted me to win so bad. And my dad,” she told Rolling Stone. “I felt kind of sad that I let them down. And then I talked to them, and they were worried for me. My mom said, ‘Baby, I could care less if you win or not. I love you.'”

The pop star also admitted that she often felt lonely and torn between her Kentwood, Louisiana upbringing and her Hollywood lifestyle. Spears admitted she appreciated being reminded that she was so young at the time, explaining, “It makes me feel good when people realize I’m just a kid, because people expect so much out of me right now.”

Spears’ discomfort with fame hasn’t exactly faded with time. She said in her “I Am Britney Jean” documentary in 2013 (via The Hollywood Reporter) that she believes she thrives under pressure, but that she felt “alienated from the public” when she was constantly hounded by paparazzi. She also revealed, “I’m a shy person and I’m particularly not really made for this industry because I am so shy. It’s not something I deal with so well.”

Low self-esteem and body image issues plagued her

Britney Spears at a nightclub

In 2008, a source told Rolling Stone that Britney Spears got breast implants early in her career. Her mother, Lynne Spears, was reportedly encouraging of the first augmentation, but Britney was devastated at the public backlash to her suddenly ample chest. “When Britney saw the papers, she was crying in the bathtub uncontrollably, asking, ‘Why is everyone being so mean to me?’ It was very hurtful for her to go through something so private so publicly,” a friend told the magazine. Choreographer Darrin Henson, who frequently worked with Britney, explained of the public outcry, “When other girls did their boobs, they were like, ‘Yeah, I did my boobs, move on,’ but Britney was brought up to lie about herself.” The pop star allegedly later had her breast implants removed after her natural breasts grew larger.

It wasn’t the only cosmetic tweak Britney may have used. She admitted to In Style (via HuffPost) in late 2013 that she’d had lip injections and other “fun stuff,” the latter of which she didn’t specify. Experts have also speculated that the singer also underwent a nose job. She admitted in her youth, “I wish my hair was thicker, and I wish my feet were prettier. My toes are really ugly. I wish my ears were smaller. And my nose could be smaller.”

Britney Spears was severely overworked

Britney Spears performing during Jingle Ball 2016

In her 2000 Rolling Stone profile, it was revealed that Britney Spears had room for only an hour of quiet time for herself each day. Part of her public struggles in 2007, a friend of the singer told the outlet the following year, stemmed from never having downtime to learn who she was. “For years, everyone manipulated Britney. … If she didn’t want to come out of the trailer, the label would come to me, saying, ‘Please talk to Britney, make sure she performs, and we’ll take you on a shopping spree.’ Now this is her time to play,” the pal alleged. Another anonymous friend claimed that even when there were discussions about giving Spears a break, “the machine always won.”

Her team was reportedly so controlling that they even picked out her underwear and lip gloss in an effort to maintain her sexualized yet virginal image, her pal alleged. In 2002, Spears told Rolling Stone that she wanted freedom to go to Starbucks and pump her own gas without assistants or bodyguards around, adding, “I’m supposed to take six months off, but I probably won’t. The whole point of me taking a break is to be out of the public eye and not see my face on TV, because I’m sick of myself.” Two years earlier, she told the outlet, “My anxiety has just been crazy. … Maybe I’m just changing and getting older, but I find I need to have my downtime, just to myself, or I’ll go crazy.”

The pop star’s love life may have scarred her

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears talking to reporters

In 2000, Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were the pop power couple. After they split, however, Timberlake used his “Cry Me a River” video to strongly hint that she cheated, which she denied to People. Timberlake also dished on their sex life and publicly dissed Spears several times. An attorney for the Spears family revealed in 2012 that her family noticed Britney grew depressed and angry after she and Timberlake split, E! News reported, which they claimed led her on a downward spiral.

Post-JT, Spears married childhood pal Jason Alexander for 55 hours in December 2003, only to annul the union immediately. Alexander later told ABC News that despite them both allegedly being intoxicated at the time of their impromptu Las Vegas wedding, he believed they were in love with each other. In 2013, Spears ended her engagement to manager Jason Trawick, with TMZ reporting that Spears wanted more kids and Trawick didn’t. Other sources claimed he was stressed over having to care for Spears and needed a partnership with more equal footing. She rebounded in 2014 with David Lucado, who was accused of cheating on her, then with Charlie Ebersol, with whom it simply didn’t work out.

Spears would later embark on a six-year romance with model and trainer Sam Asghari (more on this below).

Britney Spears was devastated over having an abortion

Britney Spears with Justin Timberlake

One of the most surprising and painful experiences that Britney Spears kept private until she unveiled it in her memoir “The Woman in Me,” published in October 2023, was a first-person account of having an abortion. It happened when she was in a relationship with Justin Timberlake, before they split in 2002. While Spears revealed that she was overjoyed about being pregnant, Timberlake was allegedly far more reticent, a circumstance that led her to abort the baby. “If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it. And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father,” she wrote in her book, per People. “To this day, it’s one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”

The emotional anguish of making such a decision against her personal wishes while keeping it under wraps for years must have been devastating; meanwhile, Timberlake didn’t appear to display any signs of pain — at least not publicly. Such apparent juxtaposed reactions come to no surprise to many social scientists, however. “Men are rarely acknowledged as beneficiaries from abortion access so it is much easier for them to avoid the stigma and shame around abortion if they don’t think it’s something that impacts them personally,” said Bethany Everett, an associate sociology professor working at the University of Utah, to USA Today.

Perhaps as proof of that, Timberlake has not publicly commented on that part of the book, as of this writing.

Her marriage to Kevin Federline ended in an ugly custody battle

Britney Spears and Kevin Federline on a red carpet

Britney Spears had a whirlwind marriage to dancer Kevin Federline in 2005, with whom she shares sons Sean Preston and Jayden James. However, the end of the marriage was traumatic for them both. Sources claimed to Rolling Stone that she began dating Federline because he was a backup dancer for ex Justin Timberlake, and she wanted to spite him. The outlet also reported that Federline encouraged her to fire most of her team, including mom Lynne Spears and longtime manager Larry Rudolph.

A friend alleged to the outlet that Federline often ditched her for his friends, making her feel abandoned and lonely. She reportedly turned to partying to cope with her sadness, which a pal said she blamed on postpartum depression. Britney filed for divorce from Federline in November 2006, which he told Us Weekly (via Independent.ie) blindsided him. The singer went on to say in her “Britney Spears: For the Record” documentary (via MTV News) in November 2008, “I think I married for all the wrong reasons. Instead of following my heart and, like, doing something that made me really happy. I just did it because … for just, like, the idea of everything.”

Britney and Federline engaged in an ugly custody battle for their sons post-split. Rolling Stone reported that, in accordance with the former couple’s prenuptial agreement, Federline got a cool $1 million from Britney, plus $20,000 a month in child support for the boys. That child support had since doubled, although Federline later petitioned for more (more on this below).

Britney Spears’ tumultuous 2007 was a long time coming

Britney Spears performing

In February 2007, Britney Spears shaved her head, an act experts cited by ABC News believed was her rebelling against public pressure and restrictions she’d had since becoming a star. During this tumultuous period, Spears checked into a Malibu rehab center, left after less than 24 hours, then checked in again, staying for a month. Upon her exit, she blamed a manager trying to control her post-divorce for her behavior.

In the following months, Spears embarked on a relationship with paparazzo Adnan Ghalib, as well as an allegedly dangerous streak of behavior that included a hit-and-run of a parked car and driving without a valid California driver’s license. By September, she attempted a disastrous comeback at the MTV Video Music Awards (above); a month later, she lost custody of her sons to Federline.

In January 2008, Spears engaged in what CBS News described as “a nearly three-hour custody standoff involving her young sons,” while allegedly “under the influence of an unknown substance.” She was removed from her home and hospitalized on an involuntary psychiatric hold, then released. Weeks later, she was committed again. A source close to Spears told E! News that the singer’s failed marriage triggered her, claiming, “She had worked so hard and yet she had nothing to show for it. No husband, no access to her kids, a fractured relationship with her family and what she felt was no say in her life. She felt worthless.”

Was Britney Spears secretly dealing with substance misuse?

Britney Spears in 2007

During Britney Spears’ difficult time in 2007, she may have been dealing with excessive substance use. That year, the singer’s ex-bodyguard alleged to various outlets that he saw her misusing drugs, though he noted that he never saw her use drugs around her kids. Around this time, People reported that Britney was ordered to undergo random mandatory drug testing as part of her custody arrangement with Kevin Federline.

It wasn’t until 2012 that the public learned which drugs Britney was allegedly using during that period. E! News reported on a lawsuit between her father, Jamie Spears, and her former manager, Osama “Sam” Lutfi. Jamie’s team alleged that Lutfi told the Spears family he had been crushing up Britney’s pills and hiding the medication in her food. Jamie also accused Lutfi of hiding Britney’s phone and encouraging paparazzi to trail her.

Lutfi, meanwhile, alleged that Britney excessively used amphetamines and that he was just trying to keep her safe and clean. In 2015, Star reported that Britney secretly went to rehab to treat an alleged addiction to the prescription drug Vyvanse, which is typically prescribed for ADHD.

Did she want to leave fame behind and just be a mom?

Britney Spears with her sons at a Dodgers game

During Britney Spears’ marriage to Kevin Federline, however brief it was, she dedicated most of her time to caring for their sons and didn’t work much — and it seems like she wouldn’t mind going back to that lifestyle. The singer admitted to NME in 2016 that she’d considered quitting the music industry to be a teacher, and she told People a big incentive to her Las Vegas residencies was the time it offered her to be with her sons.

Even ex David Lucado admitted that Spears couldn’t care less about her entertainment career compared to being a mom. “If anyone knew the real Britney, they would know that she would rather be remembered for being the great mother she is rather than the artist she is,” Lucado told The New York Times. “And if anyone could see her interactions with her kids, they would know that there is no need for a conservatorship over Britney’s personal life.”

Britney Spears has had very little contact with her sons

Britney Spears holding her sons' hands

The sparks between Britney Spears and Kevin Federline continued after the couple officially ended their two-year marriage in 2007, with sons Jayden and Sean Preston being the source of their dispute. As previously mentioned, Spears and Federline initially opted for shared custody of the children, until the infamous conservatorship placed on the pop star amid her mental health struggles in 2008 ultimately kiboshed her part of the agreement.

While Federline took over full custody of the children, Spears was allowed two visits and an overnight stay weekly. But by 2018, Federline would pester her about increasing his monthly child support from $20,000 to $40,000, as previously mentioned. In September 2023, he was again reportedly asking for another increase, although his take would seemingly soon be halved anyway when the oldest boy, Sean Preston, turned 18.

Spears was crushed when Jayden defended her father’s administration of her conservatorship and revealed his and Sean Preston’s strained relationship with her when they were interviewed by ITV News in 2022. “It deeply saddens me to know his outcry of saying I wasn’t up to his expectations of a mother,” shared Spears in a since-deleted Instagram post. Shedding further light on the situation in another removed post, she wrote, “From when they were six to nine years old I had them 70% of the time, and in the course since they’ve been gone, I’ve honestly felt like a huge part of me has died and like I have no purpose anymore. They were my joy; they were my everything.”

Jamie Spears’ illness was reportedly her ‘breaking point’

Britney Spears looking anxious

Because Britney Spears had seemingly relied so heavily on her father and then-conservator, when Jamie Spears fell ill in late 2018, she appeared to take it hard. Britney hit the brakes on her “Domination” Las Vegas residency. Jamie reportedly suffered a ruptured colon and was hospitalized for nearly a month, and People reported that he underwent a second surgery for the condition in March 2019, but that he hadn’t been doing well.

That April, it was reported that Britney checked into a mental health and wellness treatment center. A source told Us Weekly, “Britney was distraught when her dad first got sick. Then there was a period where she was handling it better and feeling more positive because Jamie seemed to be improving, but then his condition worsened and she couldn’t emotionally handle the thought of potentially losing him. It was her breaking point.” Insiders clarified to E! News that Britney wasn’t being treated for any sort of substance use issues at this time and simply needed rest and to focus on herself — and that her sons could visit her at the facility.

Jamie’s health issues would continue amid his and Britney’s post-conservatorship estrangement. At the time of this writing, he was most recently hospitalized in the fall of 2023 due to a bacterial infection, per ET.

Britney Spears was stuck in a conservatorship for 13 years

Britney Spears looking right

The myriad of Britney Spears’ 2007 public antics that included shaving her scalp and beating on a photographer’s car with an umbrella was enough for the family to step in, make her undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and place her under a conservatorship program. By 2008, Britney gave up her $60-million fortune to be handled by her father, Jamie Spears, who had authority over her assets, credit cards, hospital visitation, medical records, and any contracts requiring her signature. But Jamie also essentially held the joystick on every other aspect of her life.

In her 2023 memoir “The Woman in Me,” Britney recalled several alleged restrictions put in place, including parental controls getting installed on her cellphone and being under constant observation, even when she took a bath. She also claimed she wasn’t allowed to drive a car or even leave her home. “Everything was scrutinized and controlled,” wrote Britney, per Vanity Fair. “Everything.”

Britney was so isolated that she apparently had no idea she had the power to end the conservatorship on her own accord. In 2021, the singer managed to get a court hearing to terminate the program. “This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good,” Britney said in her testimony (via NBC News). “I deserve to have a life.” That appearance helped a judge to quash the conservatorship later that November, allowing the pop star to make her own choices in her personal and professional life. The court decision also removed her father from handling his famous daughter’s estate.

She no longer trusted her father with her estate

Britney Spears with her father

When a psychiatric evaluation of Britney Spears warranted a conservatorship in 2008, the pop star was understandably reticent about handing over everything she owned to someone else. At the time, it seemed that her father, Jamie Spears, was up to the task. While the singer was far more active on the pop circuit at the time, the optics seemed to indicate that he wouldn’t take advantage of his daughter while managing her business affairs. “Jamie was around all the time, he’s really sweet and he never overly interfered at all. They are super close,” claimed a source who previously worked for Britney to Page Six in 2019. “It was very difficult for her to trust people — and she has always relied on her dad to help her do ‘normal’ things.”

However, that supposed trust was put to the test in 2020, when Britney got wind that Jamie reportedly replaced her business manager without letting her know. Before the hearings concerning the conservatorship, allegations surfaced that Jamie authorized electronic surveillance of Britney’s living space and tracking her cell phone, in addition to misappropriating up to $6.3 million of her estate. During testimony to end her conservatorship in 2021, Britney accused her father of abuse and declared she wanted to press charges against him.

That contempt hasn’t gone away, as of this writing. “I think back now on my father and his associates having control over my body and my money for that long and it makes me feel sick,” Britney wrote in “The Woman in Me,” per People.

Britney Spears felt betrayed by her sister

Britney Spears hugging sister Jamie Lynn Spears

It’s no secret that Britney Spears and her younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, haven’t always had a harmonious relationship. During Britney’s contentious period of conservatorship, Jamie Lynn had been chastised by the singer’s fan base for not supporting her famous sibling, and even criticizing the #FreeBritney movement gathering steam on social media. Some argued that Jamie Lynn may have had motive, in that she owned a portion of Britney’s estate, worth roughly $60 million. In 2020, The Blast leaked court documents indicating Jamie Lynn was added as a trustee in 2018 to Britney’s SJB Revocable Trust account, which was originally set up in 2004.

When Jamie Lynn penned her own tell-all tome “Things I Should Have Said” in 2022, Britney was openly livid, accusing her of not only trying to cash in on her own personal misfortune but spreading misinformation about their relationship as well. “I wish you would take a lie detector test so all these masses of people see you’re lying through your teeth about me,” declared Britney in a since-deleted Instagram post. “You are scum, Jamie Lynn.”

The following year, in Britney’s “The Woman in Me” memoir, the pop star revealed there was still unfinished business between the two, but the healing process had begun. “She will always be my sister, and I love her and her beautiful family,” Britney wrote, per E! News. “I’m working to feel more compassion than anger toward her and toward everyone who I feel has wronged me. It’s not easy.”

Her marriage to Sam Asghari lasted barely a year

Britney Spears with Sam Asghari

One bright light that seemed promising during Britney Spears’ lengthy struggle with her conservatorship was her friendship with Sam Asghari, her personal trainer whom she met during a video shoot for her hit 2016 song “Slumber Party.” That friendship morphed into the two becoming an item and a whirlwind romance that they would enjoy for the next six years. They announced their engagement in September 2021, three months after Britney testified in court to end her conservatorship. They were married in June the following year; but 14 months later, Britney and Asghari announced they had split, with divorce all but a certainty.

Neither publicly provided any reason for the marriage breakup, although Britney, who posted several touching moments involving the twosome during their years together on Instagram, used the same medium to let fans know where her head was at once she and Asghari had parted ways. “Six years is a long time to be with someone,” she wrote in part, “so, I’m a little shocked but … I’m not here to explain why because its honestly nobody’s business!!! But, I couldn’t take the pain anymore honestly!!!”

It turned out Asghari actually petitioned the divorce, prompting rumors among Britney’s fans that he planned to challenge their prenup and use the star’s private videos for exploitation and a corresponding cash grab — allegations his representative denied. “Sam has always and will always support her,” stated the spokesperson in part, per Today.

The pop icon suffered a miscarriage

Britney Spears speaking

Despite Britney Spears’ apparent estrangement from her two sons, the singer has always let it be known that she loves kids. Which is why she sounded over the moon when she announced in April 2022 that she was pregnant with then-fiancé Sam Asghari. “I am having a baby,” she wrote in part on Instagram, while noting that opting to remain homebound to manage her history of perinatal depression would deprive paparazzi of snapping any juicy pictures of the singer.

However, a month later, the mood tuned morbid. “It is with our deepest sadness we have to announce that we have lost our miracle baby early in the pregnancy,” Spears and Asghari shared on her Instagram. “This is a devastating time for any parent. Perhaps we should have waited to announce until we were further along. However, we were overly excited to share the good news. Our love for each other is our strength. We will continue trying to expand our beautiful family.” They added, “We are grateful for all of your support. We kindly ask for privacy during this difficult moment.”

It was understandably a huge blow to the couple, especially Spears, who was hoping to have another baby after being released from her personally restrictive conservatorship the previous year. During court testimony while trying to end that legal arrangement, Spears claimed that she was told she would not only never get married again, but that she also wasn’t allowed to remove an IUD placed inside her, per CBS News.

Britney Spears freaked out fans with her Instagram posts

Britney Spears posing

The 40 million-plus folks who follow Britney Spears on Instagram enjoy peering through a rather unique window into her world, although what’s beaming back at them has sometimes causes fans to express concern for her mental health and well-being. One telling account occurred in February 2023, when she showed off a new dress while speaking in a British accent, before yelling out, “Never be a roller coaster!” Spears also referenced how worried fans previously called police — who visited her home in Thousand Oaks, California and reported that the singer was fine — after she temporarily deleted her Instagram that January. But that was just one of several since-deleted incidents that saw Spears axe her profile.

The admitted weirdness continued when she streamed a video of her rolling on her bed topless to an Annie Lennox rendition of “I Put a Spell on You,” while divorce proceedings against Sam Asghari were happening that August. Spears has also shown videos of her playing with knives (which she claimed were fake), pole dancing in a pink bikini, oddly comparing her uncle’s resemblance to actor Brad Pitt, and eating cake off the floor.

Fans may be troubled by those posts, but according to one insider, the videos might be indicative of Spears trying to adjust to life after her conservatorship, although a miscarriage and a divorce might also complicate things. “The trauma didn’t go away overnight just because the conservatorship ended,” the source claimed to The U.S. Sun. “Some days can be extremely testing and conversations can trigger her to behave unusually or even erratically.”

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