The Woman in Me
By Britney Spears
Gallery: 288 pages, $33
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Britney Spears is angry. Very, very angry.
“The Woman in Me,” the singer’s new memoir, is about more than just venting, of course. She offers detailed, cogent accounts of indignities that would leave anyone seething. But Spears has clearly packed away a lot of frustration over the course of her 41 years — particularly toward the people who enabled her conservatorship, including much of her family, and toward the swarms of paparazzi who badgered her nonstop.
And don’t get her started on Justin Timberlake. Not right now. But soon.
The book tracks Spears’ life from childhood to the not-quite-present — it ends before her brief marriage to Sam Asghari did — and it kicks off with litany of relatives who showed signs of mental illness or alcoholism. Spears’ past is full of givers and receivers of abuse, including her grandma Jean, who in 1966 fatally shot herself with a shotgun on the grave of the son she lost three days after he was born. Jean was only 31.
In short, Spears didn’t have a blueprint for a normal life, and a normal life is far from the one she has led since becoming a pop phenomenon.
It’s a lot for anyone to take on — or take in. Here are eight takeaways from “The Woman in Me,” which goes on sale Tuesday.
She once had power to burn
Spears became a star with the release of “… Baby, One More Time” when she was 16.
Four years later, she was playing the 2001 Super Bowl halftime show, which she calls “just one of the seemingly endless good things happening for me.”
“I landed the ‘most powerful woman’ spot on the Forbes list of most powerful celebrities — the following year I’d be number one overall,” Spears writes. She was getting offers that included Pepsi commercials and the movie “Crossroads,” though the latter put her off acting: She didn’t enjoy how she disappeared into her character.
“When I think back on that time, I was truly living the dream, living my dream. My tours took me all over the world,” she says, and she was having fun and “being 19.” She turned down a role in the movie version of “Chicago,” which she seems to regret. And she wishes she’d had even more fun.
“I had power back then; I wish I’d used it more thoughtfully,” she says, “been more rebellious.”
She says she never had a drinking problem. Adderall, however …
“I liked to drink, but it was never out of control,” Spears writes, even as she tells stories about drinking with her mother when she was 12 and later partying with the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. She did plan a trip to Las Vegas with some tour friends in 2003, and says, “I was this little girl who had worked so much, and then all of a sudden the schedule was blank for a few days, and so: Hello, alcohol!” That’s when — apparently wasted — she married childhood pal Jason Alexander for 55 whole hours.
“Do you want to know my drug of choice?,” Spears asks. “The only thing I really did except for drinking? Adderall, the amphetamine that’s given to kids for ADHD. Adderall made me high, yes, but what I found far more appealing was that it gave me a few hours of feeling less depressed. It was the only thing that worked for me as an antidepressant, and I really felt like I needed one of those.”
Spears says she started taking Prozac in 2000 and had envelopes full of medicine handed to her while she was under the conservatorship, but never reveals what she is or isn’t taking at present.
But! She admits she smokes Virginia Slims. Smokes, present tense. Don’t tell the kids.
Justin Timberlake was a real jerk
J.T., whom Spears met when they were both on “The Mickey Mouse Club” as a child, was her first major love affair they reconnected years later. He also broke her heart badly while the two were living together. She says he cheated on her repeatedly; then he broke up with her via text message, went on an infamous PR tour bashing her and wrote songs that painted her as the bad guy in their relationship.
Sure, Britney cheated on Justin once too. She made out with choreographer Wade Robson, but that was it, she says.
“[A]s much as Justin hurt me, there was a huge foundation of love, and when he left me I was devastated,” Spears writes. “When I say devastated, I mean I could barely speak for months. Whenever anyone asked me about him, all I could do was cry. I don’t know if I was clinically in shock, but it felt that way.”
There was also the fact that she had once been pregnant with his child — a pregnancy she terminated after he insisted they were too young to have a baby. “I was told, ‘It might hurt a little,’” she said of her medically induced at-home miscarriage. Then she describes the cramping and agony she went through, lying on the bathroom floor as the medicine did its job. Timberlake, she writes, played guitar for her while she suffered.
Timberlake has since apologized for his behavior, albeit before the abortion story went public this week. But he cemented for Spears the idea that the world was run by and for men, while women wound up taking the heat for their misdeeds.
She would have been fine on her own, guys
And then, there was the conservatorship, which came after her messy divorce from Kevin Federline and the loss of custody over their children. “If they’d let me live my life, I know I would’ve followed my heart and come out of this the right way and worked it out,” Spears writes. “Thirteen years went by with me feeling like a shadow of myself. I think back now on my father and his associates having control over my body and my money for that long and it makes me feel sick.”
She compares herself to male musical artists who have gone through substance abuse or lost all their money without ever losing their freedom. “I didn’t deserve what my family did to me,” she concludes.
Saying ‘no’ got her held against her will and drugged
Spears goes into some detail about the months she spent in a “luxury” rehab facility in Beverly Hills after her father told her over-the-counter “energy supplements” had been found in her purse. This happened just after she refused to do a dance move she considered too dangerous for her second Las Vegas residency — an engagement that was ultimately canceled.
“My father said that if I didn’t go, then I’d have to go to court, and I’d be embarrassed. He said, ‘We will make you look like a f— idiot, and trust me, you will not win. It’s better me telling you to go versus a judge in court telling you.’
“I felt like it was a form of blackmail and I was being gaslit,” she writes. “I honestly felt they were trying to kill me.”
In rehab she was taken off Prozac abruptly and put on lithium — a strong medication that her grandma Jean had been on — and forced to go through extensive therapy. She spent two months solo and then a month in a building with other patients.
“Three months into my confinement, I started to believe that my little heart, whatever made me Britney, was no longer inside my body anymore.”
And then there is Dad
These days Spears is done with her family, it appears — especially her father, Jamie. Mom Lynne, brother Bryan and sister Jamie Lynn are targets of disdain (mixed with a few brief moments of appreciation), but dear ol’ dad gets nothing but rage.
She blames Jamie’s heavy drinking for “making us so poor” during her childhood, depicting a man who she says regularly drank himself beyond coherence. Jamie, who went to rehab in 2004, made millions off her while keeping her under his tight control for the 13 years of conservatorship, she alleges. And she says he berated her throughout — from her earliest years to the end of her conservatorship.
“You are a disgrace,” she quotes her father saying after she lost custody of her kids.
And when he became her conservator, he allegedly told her, “I’m Britney Spears now.”
P.S.: About Sam Asghari
Hasem, as Spears refers to her now-separated husband, Sam Asghari, seems to be her touchstone in mentions that are woven throughout the nearly 300-page book.
“Now my husband, Hesam, tells me that it’s a whole thing for beautiful girls to shave their heads,” she writes after giving her side of the story on that infamous head-shaving incident and her subsequent umbrella attack on a paparazzi’s car. “It’s a vibe, he says — a choice not to play into ideas of conventional beauty. He tries to make me feel better about it, because he feels bad about how much it still pains me.”
After dating for five years, the pair got married in June 2022, about a half a year after she undid her conservatorship. But in August, after the book was finished, Asghari filed for divorce from Spears.
And finally …
In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she addresses her fans: “If you follow me on Instagram, you thought this book was going to be written in emojis, didn’t you?” She caps that comment with a string of single-rose emojis — and sincere thanks to her “collaborators,” who apparently know who they are.
This story originally Appeared on LATimes