Britney Spears recorded a blistering, emotionally honest 20-minute, audio-only video detailing the hellish life she lived under her 15-year conservatorship and dropped it on YouTube during Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards—only to set the video to private after an hour.
But plenty of fans heard what she had to say and a scrape of the audio lives on here.
Spears was put under a court-ordered conservatorship in 2008 by her father, who acted as its sole executor for most of the 13 years she lived under the strict legal status; the conservatorship was terminated in November and several of its legal entanglements are still working through the courts.
On Sunday night, Spears said that she has chosen to forgo the traditional tell-all interview route, having rejected an offer from Oprah Winfrey, and saying in the audio recording that for her, “it’s beyond a sit-down, proper interview.”
Spears added, “Getting paid to tell your story—I feel like it’s kind of silly.”
For now, this will be her testimony. The recently-married pop icon wants to tell her story to help others who feel alone or in pain, she says in the audio.
“I’m here just to open myself to others and try to shed a light on—if anyone out there has ever gone through hardships or whatever it is—just to put a light on it, and so that person doesn’t feel alone. Because I really know what that feels like,” she said.
Until now, Spears has had no outlet or voice to tell her story directly.
“[I was] scared of judgments, thoughts of other people, and what they think or what they may say,” Spears says on the recording as she revealed new details of her experience with her family and under the conservatorship that spawned the successful #FreeBritney movement, which is now growing into a larger movement around the secretive and rigid nature of some conservatorships.
Spears seemed to spare few details around the circumstances of her conservatorship: “A woman introduced the idea to my dad, and my mom actually helped him follow through and made it all happen,’ she says, calling it “pure abuse” while describing what led to her loss of rights.
“I literally spoke in a British accent to a doctor to prescribe my medication, and three days later there was a SWAT team in my home,” she said.
Spears recalls the day she was put on a 5150 psychiatric hold and was forcibly held down on a gurney as paparazzi and helicopters surrounded her home.
“There were no drugs in my system, no alcohol, no nothing — it was pure abuse,” she says.
However, in the lengthy, direct-to-audience testimonial, Spears doesn’t cop to being “crazy.” Instead, in a humorous aside, she says, “The extent of my madness was playing chase with paparazzi, which is still to this day one of the most fun things I ever did about being famous.”
Once the conservatorship was in place, the influence of her father, Jamie Spears, was deeply felt, she says: “I think one of the things I do remember when we started was my dad’s control. He loved to control me. I remember, the first day, he said, ‘I’m Britney Spears and I’m calling the shots.'”
At that point, the pop star went to work right away, she said, filming a spot on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother and starting work on her album, Circus—all the while, as she says, being verbally abused and forced into working out.
“I was told I was fat every day, I had to go to the gym. I never remember feeling so demoralized. They made me feel like nothing… I went along with it because I was scared,” Spears says.
Spears, a mother of two, also speaks of how her father monitored her while she was performing a Las Vegas residency: “I couldn’t go where I wanted to go. I couldn’t have the nannies that I wanted to have. I couldn’t have cash.” Additionally, Spears couldn’t go out at night with her dancers and drink alcohol. Because she was so miserable, “my performances, I know, were horrible,” she acknowledges.
For her second Vegas show, Spears said she was in rehearsals and said “no” to a new dance mood. Suddenly, a meeting was called without her, and it was decided she would be sent away to a facility.
“My heart felt like it was frozen,” she says of this moment. During the dark days in the facility, Spears said she stopped believing in God; she was only released because of the #FreeBritney movement, she tells her audience.
When the #FreeBritney movement flowered, Spears called the [it] “confusing… These people are on the street fighting for me, but my sister and my mother aren’t doing anything. To me, it was like [my family] secretly, honestly liked me being the bad one.”
“They literally killed me,” Spears said of the experience of the conservatorship. “They threw me away. That’s what it felt like; my family threw me away.”
Spears ended the audio recording with a message, she says, to those that need to hear it: “If you’re a weird introvert oddball like me who feels alone a lot of the time and you needed to hear a story like this today so you don’t feel alone, know this: My life has been far from easy and you’re not alone.”
Lynne Spears, the pop star’s mother, responded to the audio video on Instagram, posting a photo of her and Britney together and writing to her daughter directly that she “tried my best” to support her “dreams and wishes” and help her “out of hardships.” Lynne Spears also wrote that her daughter has rebuffed her calls and the “countless times I have flown out.”
Despite posting such family business publicly, Lynne Spears ended with an apparent bid for privacy: “I have tried everything,” she wrote. “I love you so much, but this talk is for you and me only, eye to eye, in private.”
Stay on top of the latest in L.A. food and culture. Sign for our newsletters today