Over the last month or so, Britney Spears (and her fans) have been making headlines, as her private struggles with mental health and well-being have become a public concern. This renewed obsession with Britney Spears and her mental wellness began in January, when Spears announced that her “Britney: Domination” residency in Las Vegas would be canceled indefinitely, but the story actually reaches back much further than that.
Throughout her 20-plus-year career, Spears has reached the highest highs and lowest lows, all with dizzying public scrutiny. Spears’ smash debut record ….Baby One More Time was released when she was just 17 years old, and her fame skyrocketed to a generation-defining level. She is one of the best-selling artists of all time, a Grammy winner, and one of the biggest household names among household names. But in 2007 and 2008, the young singer made headlines with reports of erratic and concerning behavior. Those events led to psychiatric evaluations, and eventually, a court-ordered conservatorship in 2008. The details and specific reasons for the conservatorship are unknown, but Spears’ father Jamie was appointed in charge of her finances and physical and mental health, and has remained in that role since 2008.
Fans’ concern for Britney’s well-being under her conservatorship is nothing new. In 2009, the Spears fan site Breathe Heavy began a “Free Britney” campaign under the belief that her finances, mental health, and physical well-being were suffering under the conservatorship. The campaign has been around for a full decade, but has exploded during the last couple weeks.
After 11 years in her father’s care, and rampant speculation of her unhappiness with the arrangement, it appears that Britney Spears has asked a judge to end her conservatorship. Most of this is happening behind closed doors, whether in court or among members of Spears’ family, so it can be hard to parse out what is fact and what is fan speculation. This timeline of the #FreeBritney campaign is an explainer on what’s fact, what’s fiction, and what’s still to come in the saga of Britney Spears’ conservatorship.
January 4 — “Britney: Domination” Canceled
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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.
In October 2018, Spears and her team announced that the singer would begin a new residency in Las Vegas, moving from Planet Hollywood to the new Park MGM’s Park Theater. But in early January, Spears said that the residency would be put on hold, citing her father’s declining health as the reason for her “work hiatus.”
Spears addressed fans in an Instagram post. “I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time,” she wrote. “I hope you all can understand.”
January-April — Social Media Silence
Following the postponing of her Las Vegas residency, Spears took a break from social media, adding fuel to the fire that something apart from her father’s illness might be amiss. In the past, Spears posted lighthearted videos to her Instagram account regularly — practicing dance routines, playing with her kids, singing a few bars. From January to early April, Spears posted only two photos to Instagram. Her post on April 3, a reminder to fans that “We all need to take time for a little ‘me time’ :),” attracted some fan scrutiny for her unusual inclusion of an emoticon smiley face.