Is Britney Spears finally stronger than yesterday?
A new piece by The New York Times, published on Wednesday, May 4, explores the current intricacies of Spears’ legal conservatorship, which has been in effect since 2008, following the highly publicized breakdown of the pop icon.
Spears, 34, who entered show business at the tender age of 12 as a cast member of Disney’s The All-New Mickey Mouse Club and shot to superstardom at 17 with the release of her debut album, …Baby One More Time, started to exhibit bizarre behavior in 2007, which included an impromptu head-shaving and a violent attack on a paparazzi S.U.V. with an umbrella. Antics such as these — in the midst of a painful divorce and custody battle over her sons with now-ex husband Kevin Federline — were reportedly fueled by substance abuse and an undisclosed mental illness.
Since then, Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, has stepped in as his famous daughter’s court-approved conservator. He is responsible for the physical well-being of Spears and also oversees the “Pretty Girls” singer’s finances with the help of Andrew Wallet, a lawyer who specializes in conservatorships and probate law.
According to court filings obtained by The New York Times, Jamie’s duties as Spears’ legal custodian include “overseeing and coordinating Britney’s [redacted], business, costuming, personal, household stuff, and legal matters (touching upon entertainment, music, other business opportunities, family law issues, the litigation, trial and/or resolution of other disputes, and ongoing litigation and conservatorship matters).”
In addition, Jamie, 63, maintains the custody arrangement for Spears’ sons Sean Preston, 10, and Jayden James, 9, who Spears shares with Federline.
In 2007, a then-troubled Spears temporarily lost custody of her boys. With the help of Jamie, she obtained custody of her kids again. The mom of two currently shares 50/50 custody with Federline, 38, who she split from in 2006 after two years of marriage.
The New York Times reports that Spears — who is worth $31 million and is the fifth-highest-earning female musician of 2015, according to Forbes — pays her father $130,000 a year for his role as her conservator.
In September 2008, just nine months after Jamie gained control as her conservator, Spears made a victorious return to the spotlight after sweeping the MTV VMAs with three wins for her autobiographical music video, “Piece of Me.” The track was featured on her 2007 album, Blackout, which was released during Spears’ darker days.
On her 27th birthday, December 2, 2008, the music magnate released her comeback LP, Circus, which went straight to No. 1 on the Billboard 200. She embarked on an accompanying world tour in 2009.
Even though her career seemed to be back on track thanks to the intervention of her father, she was initially uncomfortable with the tight constraints of his conservatorship over her.
“I think it’s too in control,” the Grammy winner said in the 2008 MTV documentary Britney: For the Record. “If I wasn’t under the restraints I’m under, I’d feel so liberated.”
Eight years later, The New York Times notes that Spears has remained silent about the conservatorship and has even signed off on modest increases in Jamie’s annual salary and approved his request to receive 1.5 percent of revenue earned from the entertainer’s Las Vegas Piece of Me residency. (Spears recently struck a $35 million deal to extend the concert series until 2017.)
Under her dad’s conservatorship, Spears’ mental health has seemingly improved and she has held several long-term relationships, including one with her former agent and co-conservator, Jason Trawick, who she was engaged to prior to the couple’s January 2013 breakup.
But will Jamie’s court-appointed grip on Spears’ life ever end? While she seems to have made great strides both personally and professionally, the answer still remains unclear.
“As long as she is bringing in so much money and as long as the lawyers and conservators are getting paid, there is little incentive to end it,” Elaine Renoire, president of the advocacy group National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse, tells The New York Times. “Usually, the conservatorship just keeps going unless the conservatee makes a fuss or the family does.”
Although Spears’ conservators have kept her from testifying in court for years because doing so in her fragile mental state would cause “irreparable damage,” she was finally given the green light to fight her latest legal battle face-to-face.
According to The New York Times, Spears took part in a 4-hour-long deposition on Monday, May, 2, sitting feet away from her former associate, Sam Lutfi, who filed a lawsuit against Spears and her father, claiming that Spears “owes him money, asserting she made an oral agreement in 2007 to have him serve as her manager and that her father assaulted him.”
The outlet adds that Spears made it through the potentially tense meeting with Lutfi without any problems and points out that she nonchalantly “[snacked] on a cookie during a down moment.”
Whether or not the end of her conservatorship is drawing to a close, an April 6 Instagram post seems to suggest that Spears is ready to officially break free.
She shared a telling meme with her 10 million followers that read: “Don’t let others make you feel guilty for living your life. It’s YOUR life. As long as you’re not hurting anyone else, live it YOUR way.”
Spears’ next move? An anticipated performance of a medley of her greatest hits and the live debut her new single “Make Me (Oooh)” at the Billboard Music Award on Sunday, May 22. She will also be presented with the prestigious Millennium Award at the ceremony, an honor that has been given to artists such as Whitney Houston and Beyoncé. Spears' ninth studio album is expected to drop this summer.
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