Stronger Than Yesterday: Inside Britney Spears' Tight Bond With Father Jamie Spears After Years of Turmoil

How the singe, who's taking time off to be with her family, and her dad repaired their relationship

By Natalie Finn Jan 09, 2019 11:00 AMTags
Britney Spears, Jamie Spears InstagramInstagram

Britney Spears hasn't made such a shocking announcement in years.

Last week the pop superstar shared that she was putting her latest Las Vegas residency, Britney: Domination, on hold and taking an indefinite hiatus from her career to be with her family as her father, Jamie Spears, recovers from a life-threatening health scare that he suffered two months ago in Vegas.

According to a source, the elder Spears is healing nicely and is expected to make a full recovery after suffering a colon rupture and undergoing emergency surgery, but the 66-year-old's condition was dire at one point. He spent 28 days in the hospital.

"I've been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart," Spears wrote on Instagram. "However, it's important to always put your family first… and that's the decision I had to make." Her father "almost died," she continued, and "he still has a long road ahead of him."

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"I am dedicating my focus and energy to care for my family," Spears also said in a statement Friday. "We have a very special relationship and I want to be with my family at this time just like they have always been there for me. Thank you to all my fans for your continued love and support during this time.  I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and I look forward to the time when I can be back on stage performing for all of you."

She'll return to work at some point down the line, the source adds, but she's eager to prioritize family and enjoy life with her kids and boyfriend Sam Asghari right now.


Aside from some well-documented years of turmoil, the 37-year-old mother of two has remained extremely close to her roots—and few represent the way in which family bonds can fray, almost to the point of snapping, but in the end don't have to break, better than Britney and her dad.

"Britney's OK right now, and so is Jamie," another source says, but the "Stronger" singer's inner circle has been worried, since Jamie has been the one making "everything happen" for so many years.

For instance, even if it was technically her decision, Spears' father still had to sign off on her choosing to postpone Britney: Domination, as per the terms of the consevatorship that's been in place since early 2008.

This arrangement has been chugging along relatively uneventfully for years now, but at first it nearly tore the family apart.

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Britney was in the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, her second hospitalization in a month, when a judge appointed Jamie, a building contractor, a temporary conservator of her estate on Feb. 1. A third party, attorney Andrew M. Wallet, was appointed co-conservator to avoid any semblance of a conflict of interest when it came to caring for the then 26-year-old singer and managing her finances. A probate lawyer, Samuel D. Ingham III, was appointed to protect Spears' interests as well.

The conservatorship was at first set to last through the weekend. 

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Right away, Britney's parents, Jamie and ex-wife Lynne Spears, took it upon themselves to start clearing their daughter's life of whomever they deemed bad influences, securing a restraining order against Britney's friend and sometime-manager Sam Lutfi and having the locks changed at her house.

"Nobody's taking my house!" Britney is said to have screamed in her hospital room, per TMZ. "Who is my family?!"

"It was clear to me that she seemed a bit agitated," Adam Streisand, another attorney whom Spears consulted before the judge determined she wasn't fit to retain her own counsel, recalled to the New York Times in 2016. "But my sense was that she did have the capacity to pick a lawyer and that she could make a rational decision."


The judge eventually made the conservatorship permanent, with Jamie and Andrew Wallet remaining co-conservators and Ingham remaining Spears' advocate.

And that's how the situation has remained for almost 11 years, though obviously Britney now—worth $56 million, according to court documents (a thorough accounting of her income and expenses filed as part of the conservatorship); sharing joint custody of sons Sean Preston and Jayden James; in a happy relationship with Asghari; a veteran of one smash-hit Vegas residency and the star of another, should she choose to return to it—seems like a different person altogether, minus the same infectious hit songs and undeniable performance skill.

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"If anyone knew the real Britney, they would know that she would rather be remembered for being the great mother she is rather than the artist she is," ex-boyfriend David Lucado, who dated Spears in 2013 and '14, told the New York Times in 2016. "And if anyone could see her interactions with her kids, they would know that there is no need for a conservatorship over Britney's personal life."

But by 2008, Britney had come undone.

In her book Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World, which came out that December, Lynne Spears wrote that the family (which also includes Britney's younger sister Jamie Lynn Spears and older brother Bryan) suffered from Jamie's "erratic behavior," brought on by his alcoholism. (He's been reportedly sober since 2003.) 

When Jamie and Lynne split up in 2002 after 27 years of marriage, Britney called their divorce "the best thing that's ever happened to [her] family."

"My mom and dad, bottom line, do not get along," she told People. "When I was a baby, they argued. I wanted this to happen 10 years ago."


Lynne recalled in the book how she felt when Spears shaved her head in front of a photographer who was only too eager to document the moment for posterity in February 2007.

"I wanted to be in denial, but I couldn't deny the video footage unfolding in front of me. It was Britney, and she was shaving off her beautiful hair. All I could think of was, How could this be? She used to be the happiest girl in the world?" Lynne, a former school teacher, wrote.

Spears' mom told the Daily Mail in December 2008 that she toyed with calling her memoir It's All My Fault.

"When her life was such a success," she continued, "what did she need me for? And when things took a turn for the worse, I was out, because other people—dancers, managers—were closer to her, and with her day and night. Being a mother, you can't help but have regrets about what you did and didn't do for your kids, and I'm no different."

She added, "Jamie and I both said that we never wanted to be her managers; we just wanted to be parents. I was never in the driver's seat as far as Britney's career goes."

Dave Hogan/Getty Images

Talking to Rolling Stone in 2000, Spears explained that her parents allowed her to leave school and home at 14 after signing her first record deal "because they knew I wanted it so bad. I thank God every day for my parents." They had just laid the foundation for a big new house in her hometown of Kentwood, La.

Spears recalled losing the Grammy for Best New Artist to Christina Aguilera, and being more distressed by the idea of disappointing her parents than anything else.

"My mom wanted me to win so bad," the 18-year-old Britney said. "And my dad. I felt kind of sad that I let them down. And then I talked to them, and they were worried for me. My mom said, "Baby, I could care less if you win or not. I love you.'"

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According to Lynne, they were estranged in 2007 when Spears started spiraling and lost custody of her kids, but reconciled shortly after when Britney reached out. Britney's mom also said that Kevin Federline, whom Spears had married after a whirlwind courtship in 2004 and divorced two years later, had really stepped up as a dad.

"He's not a bad guy and he has a good heart," Lynne said. "I would have chosen a prince or a state governor for her, but Kevin's worked a lot to help out, and I can't say anything bad about him."

By then Spears had released Circus and returned to public life, and Lynne said her daughter was "happy in most ways—very happy with her kids and ecstatic about work, but there's something missing in her life."

Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic

As for her own ex, Lynne said she was proud of what Jamie was doing for Britney with the conservatorship.

"We decided he should be the one to do it, because he's the stronger figure," she told the Daily Mail. "Moms always give in to their kids because we're softies, and what Britney needed at the time was the stronger person." She acknowledged worrying that it would be too stressful, "but Jamie's really doing well with Britney, and I must give him credit for that."

In the 2008 Sky and MTV documentary Britney: For the Record, Spears compared living life under the microscope to being in jail indefinitely.

"If I wasn't under the restraints that I'm under right now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analyzing me every day, all that kind of stuff—like if that wasn't there, I'd feel so liberated, and feel like myself," the "Toxic" singer said. "I'm kind of stuck in this place and it's like, how do you deal? You just cope, and that's what I do."

People don't really listen to her and hear what she's saying, Britney continued, tearing up. "I'm sad."

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"Even when you go to jail, there's always the time that you know you're going to get out," she added. "But in this situation, it's never-ending."

"I don't feel like [life] is out of control—it's too in control," Spears said. "There's no excitement, there's no's just like Groundhog Day every day."

"I'm sure she does feel reined in too tight some days, but it was definitely necessary in the beginning," Lynne also told the Mail. "Jamie's real gruff sometimes, but he's been a disciplinarian when it was needed. He's always adored his children, but when they were younger, he was so distracted with work and was drinking heavily, so they maybe didn't bond like they should have done."  (In 2000, Rolling Stone noted that Jamie worked in Memphis and would come home to Kentwood every other weekend.)

Scope Australia,

Let's just say, father and daughter have come a long way. In For the Record, which was shot in the 60 days following the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, where Britney won Video of the Year for "Piece of Me," Jamie is seen both pulling regular dad duty, whipping up grits with Velveeta for Britney, and managing her affairs, such as when he consults with members of her management team about security for when she headed back out on tour.

"I can't talk about [Jamie], because I'm not allowed to talk about the conservatorship," Spears' manager Larry Rudolph told Rolling Stone in late 2008. "The only thing I can say is, in a general sense, there's a stability in her life right now that I think is a positive thing for her."

"I don't really like it when they say 'the comeback,'" Britney notes in the film, referring to a word Rudolph uses. "I've been here the whole time. I've taken some time out for myself and, you know, I've been recording for a while. I haven't been completely in the spotlight, but I've been doing what I've always done."

"You can't always be out there, you know."

Few people in show business have gone through such a life-altering, potentially career-ruining setback as Spears did and proceeded to come out fabulously on the other side—and never mention the specifics (hospital, psych evaluation, etc.) ever again.

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Spears has done countless interviews over the years, of course, but it's been up to everybody else to put the puzzle together as to what exactly happened and how it got better, using court documents, photographs, eye witness accounts and, basically, information gleaned from other people. Even in various docu-specials over the years, Spears addresses "trouble" and bad times in her life, but she hasn't been one to go into too much detail in front of the cameras.

"I'm not going to sugar-coat it and say I was OK..." she mused in For the Record. "Maybe I had traumatic stress [from losing custody]...I don't know how I dealt with it, really."

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

"I had let several people into my life that were just bad people… I was very guarded at first but…I ended up letting them in," she also said in the film. "Because I was lonely, or whatever the fact, and I really paid the consequences for that, big time."

She compared being forced to live her life hiding from the world (or at least the paparazzi) as a kind of prison as well, one she was determined not to be stuck in, and she attributed some of her behavior—such as shaving her head—to her rebelliousness. "People thought it was me going crazy and stuff like that," she said. "I was just feeling a little bit of rebelling, or feeling free, shedding stuff that had happened, you know? I didn't think it was anyone's business, really."

But while Spears was determined to press on, she knew what most of the world was still hung up on.  

"You do something wrong and you learn from it, you move on—but I'm having to pay for it for a really long time," she said.

Gareth Cattermole/BCU18/Getty Images for BCU

Meanwhile, Britney and her father weren't the only ones who had been brought closer together by the ordeal.

In November 2010, People reported that Lynne and Jamie Spears had reconciled, though were not remarried. They had been spending a lot of time together anyway, both in Louisiana where the rest of the family is based, including Jamie Lynn and daughter Maddie, and in Los Angeles to be near Britney and their other grandchildren.

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"It was extremely tough watching her go through a phase where she was clearly not OK right after the divorce," Kevin Federline recalled to Us Weekly in 2015. "There's a lot more I could have done to help. Taking full custody of the boys sucked the life out of me, but it was for them. I have to give Britney's dad, Jamie, a lot of credit for saving her. He made it so I could actually deal with her again."

Speaking of Federline, last year he successfully petitioned Spears' estate for an increase to the $20,000 monthly child support he had been receiving from his ex-wife, the two sides arriving at a number in out-of-court negotiations. "I'm sure that they decided the money would be better extended on child support than on attorney's fees," Federline's longtime attorney Mark Vincent Kaplan told E! News in September.


A source said that Spears was "tired of fighting about [the money issue] and ready to get on with her life and put this behind her."

The last time it was reported anyone was considering taking the required steps to end the conservatorship was last March, when a source told Us Weekly that Jamie was "actively consulting with Britney's medical team" to see if it was the right time to close that chapter in Britney Spears history.

A source told E! News in August that Jamie loves his daughter and still felt that the conservatorship was the best way to protect her. (On three separate occasions over the years, a judge agreed with the conservatorship that Britney was too fragile to testify in lawsuits filed against her estate; in 2011 she was ruled fit enough to give a deposition in a civil lawsuit filed by Lutfi against Spears and her parents, which was later dismissed.)

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"This is a story of a close family, but not a perfect one," attorney Leon Gladstone, representing Jamie and Lynne Spears in the Lutfi lawsuit, said in court in 2012.

"It's a story," Gladstone continued, "of a man who actually wanted nothing more for his daughter than to live and be well. It's a story of a father who has had to step up and take action that he never thought he would have to take...actions that didn't perhaps endear his daughter to him."

He recounted Jamie encouraging Britney to go to rehab—which she did, multiple times—in 2007 and then toward the end of that year, after she lost custody of her kids, started exploring the possibility of a conservatorship. There was nothing to be done, but Spears being hospitalized twice in January 2008 made it a necessity, Gladstone said.

"To Jamie, this was a life and death battle."

"I'm in a real good place in my life," Spears told People in 2015. "I have a great show, and I'm able to be off every six weeks and I get to indulge in my kids. I get summers off, so we can do fun things like have barbecues. The boys are in such a good stage in their lives. They're able to think for themselves and are becoming little people. It's fascinating... I'm the happiest I've ever been. My priorities are straight: making family No. 1 and being consistent with that and having God in my life."

Asked if she ever thought she could be so happy, she replied, "No, never. Not in my wildest dreams."

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Meanwhile, after a handful of serious relationships over the years (including an engagement to agent Jason Trawick, who was briefly her co-conservator), Spears has been dating Sam Asghari now for more than two years, since meeting on the set of her "Slumber Party" music video.

A source describes the dancer as a "calming, positive presence" in her life. "His energy is a good balance for Britney and the two of them are very much in love.

"She motivates me more than anyone," Asghari told Men' last year. "It's crazy how I can be humbled by a person like her. If I could be that humble when I'm that high in life, that would be the best thing. I grew up with three sisters, and my personality is just to be a supportive person for my family and she's family. I'm always going to support her. She is another blessing that happened to me."

Jamie Spears was last photographed with Britney in late October, at one of his grandson's school football games, and then in November he and Federline both attended a game. Family does ultimately come first, after all.

In the wake of Jamie's health scare, Britney and her father have realized that their time together is precious, a source tells E! News, resulting in her decision to step away from the demands of her daily work schedule—something she probably couldn't have imagined doing 19 years ago, when it felt as though work mattered more than anything.

A then 18-year-old Spears told Rolling Stone back in 2000, "I want to be by my family, but I don't think I can live there. I'm so used to all these things that these other places have to offer, so I would be miserable there."

It turns out home is just where the heart is.

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