Updated: February 9, 2021
Britney Spears’ personal struggles have unfortunately been a matter of public interest for years. The situation came to a head in 2019 with the #FreeBritney movement, in which fans pleaded for an end to Spears’ conservatorship.
For those unfamiliar, “conservatorship” refers to the legal control Spears’ father, Jamie Spears, has had over his daughter for years. He was granted this power after a series of troubling incidents in 2007 and 2008, which included Spears spending time in rehab, shaving her head, and being placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold. In the years since then, fans have expressed concern about Spears’ well-being under her conservatorship, which led to the 2009 creation of the fan-started “Free Britney” campaign.
Although #FreeBritney has been around for years now, it gained massive public attention in 2019, as aforementioned. At the time, we published a timeline of everything that had led up to that point. A lot has happened since then, though, including some recent developments, so now is a good time to get caught up on everything that has happened over the past few months.
If you haven’t read our previous recap, first give that a look here, then return to this page and read on to learn about everything that has happened since then.
September 9, 2019: Spears’ father steps down as conservator
The singer’s father, Jamie Spears, stepped down as his daughter’s conservator, a position he had previously held since 2008. Spears’ longtime care manager, Jodi Montgomery, was named her conservator in a temporary capacity until January 31, 2020, an end date that has since been extended. Montgomery is currently Spears’ conservator, meaning she has the authority to make decisions about Spears’ personal life. However, Spears’ father maintains control over her finances.
September 18, 2019; January 23, 2020; April 23, 2020 — Court hearings
A hearing to review Spears’ conservatorship was set for September 18, 2019, but Spears was not present, while both of her parents were. Judge Brenda Penny issued no decisions on that day.
Another hearing was set for January 2020, and it became the site of protests from Spears fans demanding that the singer’s conservatorship be ended. However, the full hearing was pushed back to April, and has since been delayed again to July 22 due to the coronavirus pandemic. All temporary orders have been extended until August 22.
2019 to present — Lots of dancing
Last summer, Spears captured the internet’s attention by dancing to Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” with a stuffed snake. She had been dancing on Instagram well before that post and hasn’t really stopped dancing since then, either (even after a gruesome foot injury). Her Instagram account is filled with videos of her showing off moves to songs by everybody from Rihanna to Justin Timberlake (also taking the latter opportunity to address their famous break-up). Spears has also expanded into TikTok, and naturally, she’s become a star there, too.
March 4, 2020 — Retirement rumors
Jayden Federline, Spears’ 13-year-old son, hopped on Instagram Live and suggested that his mother was done with music. He said in a video, “I remember one time I asked her, ‘Mom, what happened to your music?’ And she was like, ‘I dunno, honey, I think I might just quit it.’ I’m like, ‘What? What are you saying? You know how much bank you make off of that stuff?'”
March 25, 2020 — 100-mater dash world record
Later in March, Spears took to Instagram to make an eyebrow-raising claim of her own. Spears shared a screenshot of a stopwatch app that read 5.97 seconds and said that was how fast she ran a 100-meter dash. Spears’ claim was quickly met with doubt, as that time would made her running speed virtually identical to that of the world’s fastest cheetah.
Spears later removed the post and insisted she was joking, writing, “Obviously I was joking about running the 100-meter dash in 5.97 seconds …. the world record is held by Usain Bolt which is 9.58 seconds …. but you better believe I’m coming for the world record !!!! #joking #workbitch.”
April 29, 2020 — Gym fire
View this post on Instagram
but yes …. I burnt it down 🙈. I walked past the door to the gym and flames 🔥🔥🔥🔥 BOOM !!!!!! By the Grace of God the alarm 🚨 went off after that and yippy hoorah nobody got hurt 🙏🏼. Unfortunately now I have only two pieces of equipment left lol and a one-sided mirror gym 🙄🙄🙄 !!!!! But it could be much worse so I’m grateful. Pssss I like working out better outside anyways 🌸🌸🌸🌸🌸 !!!!
Spears revealed that she had accidentally burned down her home gym. She said in a video filmed in her gym, “I haven’t been in here for like six months because I burned my gym down, unfortunately. I had two candles and, yeah, one thing led to another and I burned it down.”
She continued in the post’s caption, “It was an accident …. but yes …. I burnt it down. I walked past the door to the gym and flames BOOM !!!!!! By the Grace of God the alarm went off after that and yippy hoorah nobody got hurt. Unfortunately now I have only two pieces of equipment left lol and a one-sided mirror gym!!!!! But it could be much worse so I’m grateful. Pssss I like working out better outside anyways!!!!”
May and June 26, 2020 — Glory reissue and “Mood Ring (By Demand)”
— Robin (@VegasneyBitch) May 10, 2020
Spears’ most recent studio album, 2016’s Glory, had a sudden surge of renewed interest in May: It climbed to the top of the iTunes pop charts multiple times that month. Subsequently, Spears re-released the album on May 29 with new cover art. The album also featured the new song “Mood Ring (By Demand),” which was previously released (as just “Mood Ring”) on the 2016 Japanese version of the album as a bonus track.
On June 26, Spears released a pair of “Mood Ring (By Demand)” remixes.
June 24, 2020: Queen B
Spears made an Instagram post in which she called herself “Queen B,” which fans of Beyonce (aka Queen Bey) and Lil Kim (aka Queen B) did not take well.
July 1, 2020: #FreeBritney revival
— valeska (@iatemuggles) July 13, 2020
Recent social media posts from Spears have sparked concern that Spears is asking fans for help over her conservatorship.
She shared a video in which she wears a yellow shirt and shows off some flowers she got, writing in the caption, “HOLY HOLY CRAP !!!!!! My florist surprised me today by making the flower arrangement all different colors. I was so excited I threw on my favorite yellow shirt and just had to SHARE.”
In a vacuum, that post appears to be innocent enough, but a few days ago, a fan pointed out in a comment on a previous video, Spears was told to “wear yellow in your next video” if she was seeking help. Since then, fans have speculated that the yellow shirt post was a call for help.
August and September 2020: Britney tries to oust her father, expresses support for #FreeBritney
In early August, Jamie Spears disavowed #FreeBritney, saying, “All these conspiracy theorists don’t know anything. The world don’t have a clue. It’s up to the court of California to decide what’s best for my daughter. It’s no one else’s business.” Later that month, Spears requested in court that her father’s role as her sole conservator come to an end (and also expressed a “desire not to perform at this time”). However, things did not go in the pop star’s favor, as it was ruled at the time that Jamie Spears would maintain control over his daughter’s business and personal affairs until at least February 2021.
Around that same time, it was revealed that Spears’ sister Jamie Lynn was named the trustee of her multimillion-dollar estate. Then, in September, court documents revealed that Spears’ conservatorship was apparently voluntary. At the same time, though, Spears expressed support for #FreeBritney, as her lawyers noted that Spears “welcomes and appreciates the informed support of her many fans.” She later noted in a November Instagram post, “So I know that there have been a lot of comments, a lot of people saying a lot of different things about me. But I just want to let you guys know that I’m fine. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life and I’m sending all of you guys a lot of prayers, wishes, and a lot of love.”
October and November 2020: More time in court
In November, Spears’ lawyer filed a request that her father be removed as a co-conservator. Other documents claimed that business moves made by Spears’ father lost her $300,000 via overpayment to her former management company, Tri Star Sports & Entertainment Group. Spears’ lawyer also apparently told the court that the singer refuses to perform as long as her father is her conservator. Ultimately, Spears’ appeal was denied by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Brenda Penny, but she did say that she would consider future petitions for Spears’ father’s suspension or complete removal as conservator.
February 2021: Framing Britney Spears
— FX Documentaries (@FXDocs) February 6, 2021
Public interest in #FreeBritney was once again renewed thanks to a new documentary from the New York Times, FX, and Hulu, titled Framing Britney Spears. The synopsis of the documentary, which is an episode of the series The New York Times Presents, reads, “Her rise was a global phenomenon. Her downfall was a cruel national sport. People close to Britney Spears and lawyers tied to her conservatorship now reassess her career as she battles her father in court over who should control her life.”
The documentary drew a lot of reactions from Spears’ peers in music, including Kacey Musgraves, Hayley Williams, and others. On top of that, the documentary sparked a new petition that implores Los Angeles attorneys to request the termination of Spears’ conservatorship.
As of February 2021, that’s where the situation stands, so keep an eye on Uproxx for updates on #FreeBritney as they happen.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.