Britney Spears accused her family of plotting to put her in the legal arrangement that allowed her dad to control her life for nearly 14 years as she opened up about the beginnings of her conservatorship in a lengthy audio recording Sunday.
"It was all premeditated. A woman introduced the idea to my dad, and my mom actually helped him follow through and made it all happen," Spears says in the 22-minute audio recording she posted to Twitter. "It was all basically set up. There was no drugs in my system, no alcohol, nothing — it was pure abuse."
In the now-deleted recording, Spears says she still doesn't understand what she did wrong back in 2008 when her father, Jamie Spears, first convinced a judge to create the conservatorship. She also recounted what it was like to work and live under the arrangement and shared more details about when she was allegedly forced into a mental health treatment center in early 2019.
"I honestly still to this day don't know what really I did," Spears says. "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."
Spears, now 40, was finally freed from the conservatorship last November, months after she spoke publicly in court about the abuse she said she faced as a result. Since then, her legal team has been working to claw back funds they believe were not spent in her best interests as well as investigating allegations that her father mismanaged her affairs. At a hearing last week, her attorney Mathew Rosengart suggested that she could sue Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group, the company her father hired to manage her business, for breach of fiduciary duty. According to court papers, the pop star's father paid himself more than $6 million from her estate and paid Tri Star more than $18 million over the course of the conservatorship.
BuzzFeed News uncovered abuse, neglect, and death across the US guardianship industry. Read our investigative series "Beyond Britney" here.
In the recording posted on Sunday, Spears says she has been offered opportunities to share her story for money, like in a sit-down interview with Oprah, but she feels like getting paid to speak her truth was "kind of silly." She says she has been "scared of the judgment" and "skepticism" that comes with opening up but that she wants to talk about what happened to her to help others who might feel alone.
"I think it's crucial for my heart and my head to be able to speak openly about it as if anyone else would," Spears says.
She recalls being surrounded by paparazzi as she was sitting in the ambulance in the now-famous images from January 2008 when she was taken from her home and placed on a psychiatric hold at the hospital, saying that at the time "none of it made sense" to her.
"Literally 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," Spears says. "So I don't know what was so harmful about that."
Immediately after she was hospitalized a second time that month, her father petitioned the Los Angeles County Superior Court to create the conservatorship and make him and an attorney the co-conservators of her financial and personal affairs. Spears says the hospitalization left her "completely traumatized out of my mind," but she quickly went back to work after it, making a guest appearance on How I Met Your Mother and starting production on her sixth studio album, Circus.
"All I do remember is I had to do what I was told. I was told I was fat every day. I had to go to the gym," she says. "They made me feel like nothing, and I went along with it because I was scared."
Over the years, she continued to produce new music and perform almost nonstop on tours and in a two-year residency in Las Vegas. But still, she was living under her father's rules, she says, and wasn't allowed to go out with friends or her dancers. She couldn't pick her own nannies for her kids and wasn't allowed to have cash.
"I was just like a robot, honestly. I didn't give a fuck anymore because I couldn't go where I wanted to go," Spears says. "It was just demoralizing. I was kind of like in this conspiracy thing of people claiming and treating me like a superstar, but yet they treated me like nothing."
While working on her ninth studio album Glory, which was released in 2016, Spears says she "started to get a spark back" and regained more confidence in herself. Still, she felt like she had to continue to "play this role" and "go along with" what her father and his associates wanted her to do. "I knew they could hurt me," she says.
Then while rehearsing for what was supposed to be another Las Vegas residency in 2019, Spears says, she said no to a dance move she was asked to do. She recalls "everything got really weird and quiet" as the show's producers went into a room to talk. The next day, she says, she was told she had to go to a facility and that she had to announce she was taking a break because her dad was sick.
"I didn't want to ever go there," Spears says.
While on the phone with her dad, Spears says, she was crying as she asked why she was being sent away. He told her she had to "listen to the doctors" and that he couldn't help her, she says.
"His last words were, 'Now you don't have to go, but if you don't go, we’re going to go to court and there will be a big trial and you’re going to lose,'" Spears recalls her dad saying. "'I have way more people on my side than you, and you don’t even have a lawyer, so don't even think about it.'"
During the majority of the conservatorship, Spears had a court-appointed lawyer and was not permitted to hire her own attorney. It wasn't until she spoke out last June that the court allowed her to hire Rosengart.
Again, Spears says she didn't understand why she was placed into treatment. "I was scared out of my mind," she says.
"I haven't wanted to share this because it's unbelievably offensive, sad, abusive, and honestly, would anybody believe me?" she says.
She recalls that while she was at the facility, she felt like her heart was "frozen" and that she was "in a state of shock." At that time, she says, she stopped believing in God. While there, she had six vials of her blood drawn every week, leaving her "weak as hell." She was watched while she changed and showered, had to work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., couldn't have the keys to her car, and wasn't allowed to smoke cigarettes.
"How did they get away with it, and what the fuck did I do to deserve that?" Spears says.
She says the owner of the facility ultimately had to let her go when the #FreeBritney movement started raising concerns about her well-being. Spears notes the dichotomy between her fans' support and the alleged lack of action from her mother and sister, saying she thinks her family liked that she was "the bad one" and "messed up."
"Why weren't they outside my doorstep saying, 'Baby girl, get in the car. Let's go,'" Spears says. "I think that's the main thing that hurt me. I couldn't process how my family went along with it for so long."
After she was released, Spears says, she stopped reaching out to her dad and kept stalling on returning to work.
"Finally I think they just knew. I wasn't going back," she says.
Spears never went back to work during the conservatorship again after her 2019 residency was canceled. On Friday, she released her first song in years: the single "Hold Me Closer" with Elton John.
Reflecting on the years she spent working under the conservatorship, Spears says she put so much "effort and heart" into her job, caring about little details like the number of rhinestones in her costume.
"And they literally killed me. They threw me away," she says. "I was a fucking machine. Not even human almost. It was insane how hard I worked. And the one time I speak up and say no in the rehearsals to a fucking dance move, they got pissed."
As she wrapped up the recording, Spears says she was sharing her experience because she wanted people to know she is "only human," and that in order for her to heal, she needs to talk about what happened to her.
"If you're a weird introvert oddball like me who feels alone a lot of the time," she says, "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."