She has had her well-publicized personal and legal problems in the past, but Britney Spears seems to be remarkably healthy and well-adjusted these days. She’s a devoted, responsible mother to her two sons. Her Las Vegas residency has been a success. Her Instagram account is thriving. And she’s pulling in more money than Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. Those unpleasant headlines and head-shaving antics are a distant memory. So why is she still, at the age of 34, living under the restrictions of a highly unusual legal conservatorship with wide-ranging powers over her life, health, and business? Why is every Starbucks and iTunes purchase monitored by the courts? Serge F. Kovaleski and Joe Coscarelli delve into the matter in an investigative piece for The New York Times entitled “Is Britney Spears Ready To Stand On Her Own?” The article provides some insight into a woman who is simultaneously a public figure and extremely cloistered.

To understand Spears’ current legal situation, think back to 2008, when the pop singer’s reckless behavior reached its crescendo. Hampered by drug and alcohol use, as well as an undisclosed mental illness, the former child star was rushed to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation on multiple occasions. Those around her, including her parents, feared that Spears might deplete the fortune she had amassed through her albums, concerts, and TV appearances. And so, the singer was made the subject of the kind of conservatorship normally reserved for the elderly and the infirm. To this day, Spears’ father oversees her business transactions. The article reveals that numerous conservators, including legal and medical experts, draw fees from overseeing Spears’ life. They have, the article says, a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Spears herself has largely been silent on the issue, but one fan site has launched a “Free Britney” campaign. But even Jordan Miller, the man behind that campaign, understands why the restrictions were needed at first, saying, “It was a really volatile situation, and they were trying to protect her.” The question is, how much longer does she need that protection?

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