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I don’t even know where to start with this, because this is so tough for me to say. I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make. A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand. More information on ticket refunds is available on britneyspears.com. I appreciate your prayers and support for my family during this time. Thank you, and love you all… always.
Britney Spears’ career hasn’t been a simple rollercoaster of ups and downs, but one of those really wild rollercoasters that spins riders upside down, violently twists them around, and deposits them back on terra firma, appreciating their new lease on life. Although she had been exposed to the pop limelight as a young member of Disney‘s “The Mickey Mouse Club”, it was in 1998 that she rose to (practically overnight) success at the age of 16 with the hypersexualized music video for her hit single Hit Me Baby (One More Time). She stayed at the top of the pops for nearly a decade by leaning heavily into her highly stylized and overtly sexy-meets-innocent image.
Obsessive fans threw themselves at the teenage pop star, and very little was done to protect her from their gaze and interest. In an eye-opening interview with Variety magazine that Spears did when she was still new to all that fame and ardor (and only, at this time, 17 years old), she confessed:
I did a show in Philadelphia and I was like, “Oh my goodness.” I was so thrown [off] because it was a radio show for *NSYNC, and there were a lot of guys and they were all waiting outside. It was like, ‘Oh my goodness, these guys are, like, old.’ How old? 18 or 19? No, like 24 — like old, and I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, this is not good.’ It was kind of freaky. And actually, one guy came to my house when I was home. Thank goodness I wasn’t home by myself. It was so weird because he parked like half a block away from my house and was snooping up on me. And he asked my mom, ‘Can I meet her?’ And my mom was like, ‘She’s busy right now,’ because I was freaked out, especially if you’re a senior in high school. If you’re going to drive that far — he [lives] like two hours away from me — you would bring someone along with you, right? I could see myself, if there was someone I totally admired and I even thought of going there, I’d bring a couple of friends with me. So for him to do that, I was totally freaked out.
It’s not easy for anyone to live in the public eye, particularly at the level of fame Spears reached from the late 90s to the early aughts. She was an international megastar, as capable of selling out crowds in the U.S. as overseas, and during this time she was transitioning into film acting and navigating her very public breakup with heartthrob Justin Timberlake.
Eventually, Spears met Kevin Federline and had two sons with him, one in 2005 and one in 2006. Tabloid speculation about their relationship reached a fever pitch, with many outlets accusing the duo of being on drugs after they starred in a short-lived reality show about their lives appropriately named Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.
In 2007, Spears’ erratic behavior swept the tabloid circuit like a tsunami. Thousands of column inches were devoted to dissecting her every move, from her nights spent partying with Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton to the time she famously attacked paparazzi with an umbrella.
What we were really watching was a pop star unraveling before our very eyes. This narrative is hardly new, but in hindsight, what happened to Spears was a vile representation of the world’s toxic obsession with celebrity. We want to watch them succeed – unto a point – and then gleefully revel in their demise. Spears, whose mental health was in crisis, eventually lost custody of her children, and handed over conservatorship of her estate to her father Jaime Spears and attorney Andrew Wallet. This occurred after a predatory manager, Osama “Sam” Lutfi, was removed as a controlling force in her life.
As a teenager, Chris Cocker went viral when he issued a tearful and angry plea for fans to, “Leave Britney alone!” Cocker struck a nerve, at once exposing the public’s grotesque obsession with Spears that had ostensibly fueled her breakdown, and issuing a magical phrase that cut to the heart of the matter. Leave. Her. Alone.
After Spears’ father had assumed conservatorship, she began to rebuild her life. No more breakdowns ensued. Instead, she quietly went to work earning back custody of her children, getting clean from addiction, and building back her body so that it was ready for peak-level performance. No longer providing titillating tabloid fodder, she slipped off the radar. Occasionally, there were rumored comebacks, but the Spears camp remained mostly quiet. She still made music, albeit to considerably less fanfare.
In 2012, Spears’s star started shining again when she took over for Nicole Scherzinger as a judge on The X-Factor, becoming, for a time, the highest-paid judge in the show’s history. The following year, she landed a two-year residency in Las Vegas at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino with a critically praised show called Britney: Piece of Me. In the ensuing years, Spears began opening up to the media more about her mental health and her struggles with crippling anxiety. Her Las Vegas residency continued going strong until 2017, after which, she took Britney: Piece of Me on a tour of North America and Europe that sold out in all major cities in minutes.
In October 2018, Spears announced her second Las Vegas residency, Britney: Domination, which came with a cool $507,000 paycheck per appearance. But the excitement about her new show was short-lived, as the pop star soon announced the cancellation of her residency just a few months later in order to help care for her father, who had nearly died after a colon eruption. Last month, in March 2019, Spears checked herself into a psychiatric facility in California, citing the need for mental health respite after dealing with the trauma of her father’s enduring illness.
Instead of championing her responsible action, which meant putting her mental health and wellbeing first, fans launched a gross conspiracy theory that Spears was being held at the facility against her will. At the center of this conspiracy, we once again find her predatory former manager, Lutfi, who has repeatedly made attempts to enter Spears’ life again, and often fashions himself as her spokesperson against her will. Lutfi stirred up rumors that Spears was being held against her will, and fans soon launched the hashtag #FreeBritney.
While we could editorialize at length about how inappropriate and wrong it is for the public to create a crisis around someone who is actively trying to get help for their mental health, it is actually Spears’ recent Instagram post that shut down the conspiracy once and for all. The post is below, and in it, you will see not only a woman who radiates strength and self-confidence, but also evidence of the tremendous struggles she’s had to overcome and the power that comes with reclaiming one’s narrative.
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I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago… I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you ❤️❤️❤️