Saturday, January 13, 2024

Britney Spears journeys through an awful support system into redemption

Britney Spears has lived with just about every move covered in the press. So her new autobiography The Woman in Me is more of a retelling of everything we already know. That said, when all the stories we've read in the tabloids are added up in the same place, it really is quite the epic American tale of a very sad life that moves from humble beginnings through the horrors of a captive and "I'm a Slave for You"-like fame into what appear to be redemption in the end.

It's a great story and will surely be made into a movie someday. Britney's simplistic writing is a little hard to stomach at times, but she seems to always be clear and direct, and that helps make it a very breezy and enjoyable read. It's different than a lot of rock bios in which the record labels play the bad guys; here, it's her family. 

In my summary of the first half of the book, I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars at that point. I'm bumping it up overall to 4.5 out of 5 stars.

With her relationship with Justin Timberlake and her marriage to Kevin Federline having both fallen apart, the second half keeps marching forward, keeping the faith. Here are the most interesting tidbits to me:

  • Britney writes that she was a little depressed after two years of having babies in her belly and suddenly not having them there to protect anymore, unleashing them into “the world of jockeying paparazzi and tabloids.” When she demanded that her wooden floors in her L.A. mansion be swapped out for all white marble, Britney realized that was the moment she became “bossy” and “weird.” She thinks back now about how she should apologize to those contractors. Her spiral at that point was on full display through the tabloids to the public.
  • She says that, in hindsight, while she was a good person and innocent and “a bad dresser,” Justin and Kevin were very clever and knew much better how to play the industry games - and they played and manipulated her right along with it. Those two ruined her in a way that she never trusted people again after knowing them.
  • Paris Hilton was really nice to Britney as she went through these hard times. The two of them became party friends, but Britney notes that it was never as wild as the press made it out to be. Yes, she did like to drink, but no more than any other twenty-somethings. And the only drug she ever took was Adderall, the ADHD pill that made her feel a little high but mostly less depressed.
  • The reason Britney ran into a salon and infamously buzzed her hair was that she was telling the world - and especially Federline for not letting her see their boys - to “fuck off.”
  • She goes on for a while complaining about how bad her parents are - her dad basically claiming he alone was the Britney Spears Corporation and her mom writing a gossipy book about Britney in the heart of her daughter’s darkest times - as the famed conservatorship begins to take shape. Her parents even got back together in 2010, with her mom seemingly happy that Britney’s dad now had a “job” running the conservatorship. She said her parents watched Criminal Mind every night. “Who does that?,” Britney asks.
  • After starting a wildly successful residency of 248 shows in Las Vegas, her dad sent her to drug rehab in Malibu for a month because she was taking over-the-counter vitamin supplements, and she was given an allowance of $2,000 per month, and told what to eat (nothing yummy). She took her dancers out one night and her $1,000 payment bounced because she didn’t have enough in her spending account.
  • Around the time she met her latest husband, Sam Asghari, her parents made her start going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings again. But she writes about how good she had been all along. Great even. Pretty much totally together. This was the point she looked at her parents and realized she was basically in a cult, with her alcoholic dad as its leader.
  • After a decade of being completely restrained by her family, Britney began seeking out examples of women she wanted to be like. Reese Witherspoon became a great example for her. Britney was already a naturally nice person, like Reese, but adding Reese’s strength and standing up for herself was the added spark she needed.
  • Thrown back into rehab in Beverly Hills by her dad, she was actually on Prozac, which she had taken for years. They took her off that and put her on lithium. Even though she hadn’t told her fans she was locked up again, one nice nurse showed Britney one day that her loving fans had started a #FreeBritney campaign. Her fans just seemed to have an innate sense about Brit.
  • When Covid hit, she had just started getting into comedians and learning how to add more humor into her own style, and then she started listening to self-help books all the time and also making jewelry. She finally decided she never wanted to see her family again.
  • She finally got out of her conservatorship and hadn’t been doing music for a while until Elton John called her, they struck up a friendship, and then recorded an updated version of “Tiny Dancer” called “Hold Me Closer,” which became a #1 smash.
  • Soon after Britney and Sam announced that she was having a third kid, she miscarried and had to “un-announce” the pregnancy. 
That is where the book ends. Since its publication, she and Asghari divorced and Britney has mostly been laying low, other than publishing this book. It will continue to be interesting where her story goes.

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