Britney Spears took the lid off her conservatorship this week, when she testified in court about how "abusive" her legal situation is.
Saying she wants the conservatorship to end after 13 years, Britney testified that she doesn't have "control" over her life, including her medical treatments. She said she was taken off her "normal meds" and forced to take lithium, is prohibited from removing her birth control and had to perform even if she was sick, E! News confirms after attending the hearing.
The revelations left some fans wondering: How did we not know?
Well, fans have long suspected that the pop princess doesn't have full control over her own social media posts, forcing them to decode her posts for clues about her wellbeing.
But at the public hearing on Wednesday, June 23, they heard it straight from her: "I've lied and told the whole world 'I'm OK. And I'm happy.' It's a lie," Britney, 39, said in court. "I thought I just maybe I said that enough. Because I've been in denial. I've been in shock. I am traumatized... Now I'm telling you the truth. OK? I'm not happy... I'm depressed. I cry every day."
Her father, Jamie Spears, was made her conservator in 2008 following her public breakdown, and she's been in a court battle for more than a year as she tries to strip him of his power over her career. He temporarily stepped down as conservator of her person in 2019, but is still co-conservator of her estate.
In retrospect, here are five of the subtle signs that Britney may have been giving to fans about how she was coping with the "trauma" of the conservatorship.
Flipping the Bird: Britney, who admitted in court that she's "so angry it's insane," may have tipped fans off to her true emotions as recently as April 30, 2021.
She posted a picture on Instagram that showed a little girl flipping off the camera. The "Toxic" singer captioned it, "Hi my name is Britney Spears … nice to meet you [three flipping the bird emojis]!!!!! One of my strongest gifts is that I'm pretty straight forward !!!!!" She tacked on the crying-laughing emoji, shy monkey emoji and winking tongue out emoji to suggest a hidden meaning.
Interestingly enough, it was posted three days after another court hearing, in which her lawyer told the judge that Britney wanted to address the court directly on an expedited basis. Perhaps it was a clue as to what she feeling and what she wanted to say in court.
"You Don't Own Me": Britney seemingly made a big sartorial statement while performing in 2015, when she sported a T-shirt emblazoned with "You Don't Own Me," paired with a cap reading "BOSS." At that point, she'd been a conservatee for about seven years.
Keep her powerful attire in mind when you read her testimony from this week: "[My] team wants me to work and stay home instead of having longer vacations. They are used to me sort of doing a weekly routine for them. And I'm over it. I don't feel like I owe them anything at this point."
Britney added, "They need to be reminded they actually work for me." Was her T-shirt a similar reminder?
Feverish Nightmare: Earlier this month, The New York Times obtained confidential court records from 2016, in which a court investigator revealed that Britney "articulated she feels the conservatorship has become an oppressive and controlling tool against her," adding that the system had "too much control" over her. (E! News has not independently obtained the court document.)
What's more, the records included her same complaint about be forced to perform while sick, which suggested she was suffering as early as five years ago. "She also claimed she had been forced to perform while sick with a 104-degree fever, calling it one of the scariest moments of her life," the NYT wrote.
Just this week, the mother of two told the judge, "I just don't like being told I have to [meet my obligations] no matter what, even if I'm sick."
Following the hearing, Page Six published a resurfaced concert video allegedly from July 2018, showing the singer telling her New Jersey crowd, "I'm about to pass out, and I'm sick... I have, actually, a 102 fever right now."
"Illegal" For Her To Speak Openly: In hindsight, it raises eyebrows that Britney spoke at one of her shows about how "strange" it was to be able to talk freely. As the music died down in between songs, she said, "Honestly, without the music and just the mic it kind of feels illegal… It feels kind of illegal with this mic in my hand. It feels so weird," as seen in a chilling YouTube video published in 2017.
She used her moment at the mic to call out how the news media treats her, saying, "It's really crazy, because one minute they tear you down. They're really horrible. The next minute, you're on top of the world."
The "Baby One More Time" singer went on, "I've never really spoke about it and I'm a Southern girl… And I like to keep it real, so I just want to make sure I keep handing you motherf--kers something to talk about."
Residency Resistance: Britney worked for four years straight in Las Vegas, completing 248 shows for her Piece of Me residency from 2013 to 2017. Per Billboard, she sold 916,184 tickets and earned $137.7 million.
She then returned to Sin City in 2018 to announce her 2019 Dominion residency, but fans noticed she didn't seemed thrilled about getting back on stage. As seen in the livestreamed video announcement, the superstar waved to the crowd while being lifted on stage. She descended a flight of stairs, signed autographs and promptly left without giving any kind of speech. At one point, she craned her neck to the side, as if stretching.
Just a few months later, in January 2019, she revealed she was taking an indefinite work hiatus to focus on her father's health issues. "I am dedicating my focus and energy to care for my family. 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," Britney said in a statement, while pressing pause on her upcoming residency.
The public is now seeing that change of plans in a new light.
"When I came off that tour, a new show in Las Vegas was supposed to take place. I started rehearsing early, but it was hard because I'd been doing Vegas for four years and I needed a break in between. But no, I was told this is the timeline and this is how it's going to go," Britney recalled to the judge, later noting, "Ma'am, I'm not here to be anyone's slave. I can say no to a dance move."
She went on to share the real reason her show was postponed, saying, "There was a week period where they were nice to me, and I told them I don't want to do it that way. They said if I don't want to do the new Vegas show, I don't have to because I was getting really nervous."
Being allowed to cancel the residency was a huge relief, as Britney explained, "It was like lifting literally 200 pounds off of me when they said I don't have to do the show anymore, because it was really really hard on me and it was too much. I couldn't take it anymore."
In response to her testimony in court, a lawyer for her father, Jamie Spears, said that he is "sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain." The statement continued, "Mr. Spears loves his daughter and misses her very much."
E! News has reached out to lawyers for Britney and Jamie for comment.