"Dear media, try not to repeat the mistakes of your past. Look where that got us. Do better."
Her target, of course, was the multitentacled headline machine that got its hooks into her big sister Britney Spears 20 years ago, chomping her up as so much grist for the mill for a decade—a slow-motion car crash sped up to alarming effect in The New York Times Presents' "Framing Britney Spears." The Frontline-style examination of the celebrity environment Britney came of age in and the events that preceded the establishment of a conservatorship over her affairs in 2008—an arrangement that persists to this day—launched countless discussions about the rampant misogyny that permeated pop culture then (and is somewhat on its way to being remedied now).
Noting that she didn't watch all of it, Britney shared on Instagram that in the part she did see she was "embarrassed by the light they put me in." And, understandably, it touched a nerve for those who've actually been in Britney's life through all of it.
"10 years ago, who was there?? I have been here long before anyone else, and I'll be here long after," Jamie Lynn, who along with the rest of Britney's immediate family did not participate in the documentary, wrote on Instagram in 2019, captioning a 2007 video of she and Britney fielding random criticism from a person on the street while paparazzi snapped away. "I love my sister with everything I have. So, anyone or anything that speaks to the contrary can GTFOH with all the comments about what you don't understand. Do not come for me or the ones I love anymore. You can move the 'blank' outta here with all that, just like this other lady who was running her mouth."
So, Jamie Lynn being vigilant as far as Britney is concerned is hardly anything new.
"Britney and Jamie Lynn are very close," a source tells E! News. "Even though Jamie Lynn is the younger sister, she's very protective of Britney and has always been fiercely loyal."
Moreover, the source adds, they've "always been close and able to laugh together. Britney trusts Jamie Lynn and can talk to her about anything."
Jamie Lynn, who turns 30 on April 4, was only 7 years old when 16-year-old Britney burst onto the national scene with the release of her debut single "...Baby One More Time" in 1998, so she was busy being an elementary school student back in Kentwood, La., when her sister's career took off.
But soon enough, Jamie Lynn decided to cut a slice of the showbiz pie for herself, making her professional acting debut playing Britney's character Lucy as a child in Crossroads.
"I love my little sister and I am overprotective with her, and I don't mind saying that," Britney told Real Access after the 2002 film came out. She added with a laugh, "My sister is a handful. We are so different. It's so funny—actually, she would be a lot better in this business than I am. Like her personality, she is Miss Diva. She is so full of herself, it's so cute."
At the same time, though she loved performing, the precocious Jamie Lynn was quietly observing what her sister's increasingly hectic life in the spotlight was like, and she had her reservations about following that same path. (Though she informed Real Access that she wanted to establish herself as "a serious actress" before she ever pursed singing so as not to be operating in her sister's shadow.)
Britney recalled her sister's manager asking the child if she'd want to have a little part in Crossroads and Jamie Lynn saying, "'You know, I don't know if I'm ready for this...I don't know if I'm ready for people always asking me for my autograph—I'm just not ready for all this fame thing.'"
But, the pop star added, "I think she'll probably be able to handle the whole thing, honestly, better than me. Because, me, I was just kinda brought into it. She's kind of grown up with it, she's surrounded by the whole business since she's been a really young girl. If anything, I'm going to be trying to get advice from her!"
Her support didn't go unnoticed, with Jamie Lynn recalling to The Hollywood Reporter last year, "Having Britney as an example was crucial for me. Not only did my sister build me up, but she made me feel like I was the star when she was clearly the star."
After her auspicious debut in Crossroads, Jamie Lynn joined the eighth season of Nickelodeon's sketch comedy show All That, after which she scored her own series on the network, Zoey 101. The light-hearted sitcom about a group of kids at an ocean-view Southern California boarding school premiered in 2005 and lasted for four seasons.
Jamie Lynn has since insisted that she always meant to leave the show then to finish high school in Louisiana, but when the 16-year-old revealed in December 2007 that she was expecting a baby with her hometown boyfriend, Casey Aldridge, it didn't take long for people to assume that her pregnancy had put an end to Zoey's run.
"I didn't become pregnant until probably six months after we wrapped or something like that, but some of the episodes had not aired yet," she recalled to Nylon last year. "I think that there was a conversation with Nickelodeon, rightfully so, of, 'Do we air these episodes?' But the show had already wrapped and there was never a negotiation to go into any more seasons. We were too old. It was done."
That surprising news came amid a period of intense turmoil for the rest of her family. Britney had lost physical custody of her two young sons to ex-husband Kevin Federline in October 2007, and would be hospitalized twice the following January on psychiatric holds, ultimately resulting in her father, Jamie Spears, being appointed a conservator of her estate and personal affairs.
So Jamie Lynn hightailed it back down South, got her GED in February 2008 and prepared for the birth of her first child far away from the tabloid hurricane swirling around her sister.
Her daughter Maddie Aldridge was born on June 19, 2008, in McComb, Miss. (where both Spears sisters were born), and that's where she stayed.
"When I became pregnant with Maddie, I bought a house in Mississippi, I put a big old fence around it, and I was like, 'I don't want anything in this little world,'" Jamie Lynn recalled last May on Maria Menounos' Better Together podcast. "I've got to grow up, number one, I'm trying to figure out how to be a mom. And I didn't want to create that lifestyle and I knew, staying in Hollywood, the circus that would have been around me as a young teen mom, it would have been the best show for the media ever."
Meanwhile, Britney was back in the studio by the summer of 2008 making Circus and thrilled to become an aunt—though she admitted she didn't think it was going to happen so soon.
"That was special, but it was also strange because [Jamie Lynn's] always been the baby, and now the baby was having a baby," she told OK! that August. "It was mind-boggling. I was shocked a little bit. But it was really cool, and she was happy. When she got to the hospital, we all thought it was going to be an all-day thing, and instead, the baby just sort of popped out. 'OK, we're happy now!'"
"She's going to come out here for the kids' birthdays," Britney added. "It will be the first time the cousins meet. I'm sure the boys will be like big brothers to Maddie." Her sons Sean Preston and Jayden James were just shy of their third and second birthdays at the time.
It turned out Britney was right, Jamie Lynn telling Glamour in 2012, "For now, Maddie's biggest concern in life is when she gets to see her cousins next. She's always asking, 'Why can't we have Preston and JJ here?' They're very close. They're like brothers and sister. They're so stinking cute."
"And Maddie loves her Aunt Britney's songs," the proud mom added. "She just loves the whole dress-up thing that goes with it. She loves dancing and singing and all of that. I definitely think music is in her genes."
After a sojourn to Nashville in 2009 to kickstart her music career, Jamie Lynn continues to make her home in Mississippi—she married James Watson in 2014 and they welcomed daughter Ivey Watson on April 11, 2018—but she and Britney only grew closer, having bonded all the more once they were both moms.
"They talk all the time and FaceTime," the aforementioned source tells E! News. "Britney loves keeping up with her nieces and hearing everything that's going on in their lives. Pre-COVID, Jamie Lynn was bringing them out to L.A. to visit Britney frequently. Britney also goes home to Kentwood a few times a year to see them. [McComb and Kentwood may be in different states but they're a short drive away.] When they aren't together, they always send each other pictures and videos."
Rather adorably, Britney included a picture of her sister along with photos of Sharon Stone, Natalie Portman, Miley and Noah Cyrus, Sarah Jessica Parker and fitness teacher Tawny Janae in a March 24 Instagram post captioned, "These are the women that have truly inspired my life!!!! Being away from family and my boyfriend while quarantining was really hard for me but the good thing about social media is we can connect in a different way that helps us feel not alone in this crazy world!!! These cool ladies always add a spark to my day!!!!"
Jamie Lynn replied with the twin-dancers-with-bunny-ears emojis.
Eventually Jamie Lynn decided to get back in the game, teaming with her sister for a duet on "Chillin' With You," on Britney's 2013 album Britney Jean, then releasing her own EP The Journey in 2014. In 2016, when Jamie Lynn made her Grand Ole Opry debut in Nashville, Britney and their brother, Bryan Spears, introduced her performance in a surprise appearance.
"Thanks to the Opry for letting me introduce this beautiful, young lady who is my heart and my soul," Britney said. "Not only is she beautiful and extremely talented, she's my little sister...Jamie Lynn Spears!"
A few months later, Jamie Lynn, husband James, Maddie and Lynne Spears were at the Billboard Music Awards to cheer for Millennium Award recipient Britney, who also crushed a medley of her greatest hits.
But the whole family received a scare in February 2017 when Maddie was injured in an ATV accident and, for a couple of days, they weren't sure she'd wake up. To everyone's unfathomable relief, she did, and resumed her normal 9-year-old kid life shortly after.
Every year since on Feb. 5 Jamie Lynn has marked the "MIRACLE ANNIVERSARY" of Maddie's accident, this year posting annoyingly convenient paparazzi shots of them leaving the hospital.
"Happiest day of my life," she wrote. "I may be wearing hospital socks, since I didn't have shoes, and someone else's clothes, but I was walking out of that hospital with way more then I had going in, I had a healthy baby girl and nothing else mattered. We were given the ultimate gift, and we will NEVER take that for granted, especially knowing that this is not the case for so many others.
"And...Yeah, it's pretty f'd up that the media would have someone outside the hospital just waiting to get a glimpse into those awful days, but instead they got these pictures of one of our happiest days."
Dad Jamie's health scare toward the end of 2018 resulted in Jamie Lynn putting some other music plans on the backburner to focus on family, and then Britney canceled her second Las Vegas residency in January 2019 and announced an indefinite hiatus from any work at all. That led to speculation about the state of her mental health—the sort of speculation that prompted Jamie Lynn's throwback post calling out the world, basically, for its chronic hectoring of her sister.
That April, Britney did spend about a month in treatment to attend to her well-being, a source telling E! News after she left that she was "feeling more stable and a little bit better, but it's a work in progress." The following month Jamie Lynn and mom Lynne Spears flew out to L.A. to see for themselves what was really going on with her and stayed at Britney's house for a bit.
Also around this time, the hosts of the Britney's Gram podcast played a voicemail they'd received in which an anonymous caller who claimed to be in the know about conservatorship claimed that Jamie had forced Britney to pull the plug on her Vegas show and that she had involuntarily entered treatment.
When the bombshell accusations resulted in a mass trolling and even some death threats against members of her family and team, Britney took to Instagram to remind folks, "Don't believe everything you read and hear." Her longtime manager Larry Rudolph also told the Washington Post the claims weren't true ("The conservatorship is not a jail," he said), but the story nonetheless gave fuel to the #FreeBritney movement, a committed group of fans who have since been demanding she be released from the conservatorship, insisting her family is up to no good. (Jamie has called them "conspiracy theorists" who "don't know anything.")
That vitriol has even been aimed at Jamie Lynn at times, with one commenter suggesting that the younger sibling's stated support for Britney was "Fear of losing your allowance, I see!"
To which Jamie Lynn replied, "Haha nice try, but I have NEVER been paid a dime from my sister, that is HER hard earned money, and I am NOT entitled to a cent of it," Jamie Lynn replied. "I would not spend money I did not earn." Another time she took to the comments to inform someone making assumptions about her sister's situation that Britney "is a strong, badass, unstoppable woman, and that's the only thing that is OBVIOUS." (These posts and others with corresponding clapbacks were later deleted.)
The coronavirus pandemic pretty much sent everyone to their respective corners, Britney in L.A.—where she remains enmeshed in a legal back-and-forth as she tries to get her father permanently replaced by Jodi Montgomery, the care manager she'd prefer be installed as her conservator—and Jamie Lynn with her fam across the country. Talking to Good Morning America in October, Jamie Lynn was asked how her sister was holding up in these trying times.
"I think that she's doing just like the rest of us," Jamie Lynn said. "She's trying to make the best and stay positive during a very challenging time and challenging year, and I think that that's kind of the theme of everyone right now."
When she made her return to acting in Netflix's Southern-set drama Sweet Magnolias (which premiered last year and has been renewed for a second season), Jamie Lynn couldn't credit Britney enough for blazing that trail, setting such a fierce example with all the hard work she put into her career and teaching her countless lessons about navigating life in the public eye.
"Britney was always really open and honest with me about the good and the bad that comes with this industry," she explained to The Hollywood Reporter in May. "And that's what gave me the confidence to say no sometimes. If I hadn't had someone like Britney to warn me, I probably wouldn't have had that confidence to say, 'No, I've seen this. I know where this goes.'
"I was so lucky, because I had someone who's walked the road, and she's walked it so successfully. So having her tell me, 'You can say no here. This is something I didn't want to do, I did it and now I regret it'—or whatever it was—that has been my secret weapon. She walked through the fire and then shared all the secrets with me. Without Britney, I probably would've made a lot of different decisions. I probably wouldn't have valued my personal time, wanting to just be a kid, and I might have said yes to projects I didn't actually want to do."
Asked what she'd learned from her sister that stuck with her the most all these years later, Jamie Lynn said, "Honestly, the most important thing I've learned from Britney is that you've got to prioritize your family and the people who really know you. You've got to keep those people around. Those are the people who are going to bring you back to what's important. Keeping your roots really strong in where you're from—whether that's New York City or Serenity, South Carolina—you've got to surround yourself with the people who love you. Have a little bit of home with you at all times. That's how you stay grounded."
And while she's done enough to not be "Britney's little sister" anymore, the pressure to get out of her shadow has since abated. Jamie Lynn told THR, "If anything, it's an honor to be the sibling of someone who worked very hard and created a dream and a legacy that will last forever. I'm so proud of Britney for everything that she's been able to accomplish and the impact she's had, not just on pop music but the industry as a whole."
For more on Britney and Jamie Lynn, watch Star Sisters: E! True Hollywood Story, airing Saturday, April 10 at 11 p.m.