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 what’s been reported as a colon rupture, but the 66-year-old’s condition was dire at one point.
“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.”
“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.
The conservatorship was at first set to last through the weekend.
“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.”
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.
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.”
“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
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.'”
“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.”
“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.”
“I don’t feel like [life] is out of control—it’s too in control,” Spears said. “There’s no excitement, there’s no passion…it’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, PacificCoastNews.com
“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.
“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
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
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.
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.
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.)
“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.”
Asked if she ever thought she could be so happy, she replied, “No, never. Not in my wildest dreams.”
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’sHealth.com 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.”
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.