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Title: The Woman In Me
Author: Britney Spears
The Woman In Me is the hotly-anticipated autobiography by pop icon Britney Spears, documenting her life from her struggles in Kentwood, Louisiana, to her meteoric rise to fame in the 1990’s and 2000’s. The book also details her much documented breakdown and controversial conservatorship, which was overturned in 2021 and when I heard that she was releasing an autobiography I definitely wanted to read it. I also wanted to start this post with a couple of my own recollections of Britney’s career growing up.
Like most kids born in the mid-1990’s, probably the biggest superstar of that generation was Britney Spears and I remember her early albums and songs being a massive part of my early childhood.
I remember having her first three albums on CD and trying to copy the dance routines in her music videos, as well as the iconic performances such as the VMA’s performance in 2001 where she sang I’m A Slave 4 U with a snake, as well as her Dream Within A Dream special the same year which I remember recording onto VHS from the TV and rewatching over and over again. I even remember her PS2 game Britney’s Dance Beat being one I used to love playing to unlock all the videos (which were actually clips from the aforementioned TV special).
Some gameplay footage of Britney’s Dance Beat – I might have to find this game out!
However as I got older and into my pre-teen and teenage years Britney started to become famous in the media for unfortunately the wrong reasons. From her 55-hour marriage to Jason Alexander, to kissing Madonna at the VMA’s in 2003, followed by Britney’s “party girl” image in the mid-00’s and of course the highly publicised breakdown she went through in 2007 and the conservatorship years.
I, like many people, believed the media narrative (and from this book a narrative was almost promoted by her family) of Britney being the bad influence, the bad mum, the bad performer etc. so I really wanted to start with an apology to Britney if this post ever gets in front of her as the one thing this book proves is there is always two sides to every story.
Considering Britney has spent so many years in the public eye it is amazing that we have rarely heard from the woman herself and in this book she tells her story in candid and at times brutal honesty.
The book starts on a rather grim note, with Britney talking about how her grandfather put her grandmother in a mental institution following the sudden death of a child, an event which has haunting parallels to what happened to the singer later on in life and some of this generational trauma her grandfather caused her father, Jamie and his siblings is also a running theme in the book.
Britney talks about her childhood in Kentwood, Louisiana which was quite turbulent with her alcoholic father coming and going. She also talks about her many years trying to “make it” as a performer, appearing in local talent competitions such as Star Search and eventually The Mickey Mouse Club. This then lead her on to acting on Broadway before she eventually signed a record deal at 16 years old for Jive Records which led to her stratospheric rise to fame wiht the release of (Hit Me) Baby…One More Time.
This part of Britney’s life is kept quite brief within the book, although it is interesting to read about her inputs in her early career and how these contributed to that success (for example setting her first video in a school was her idea).
The iconic (Hit Me) Baby..One More Time! video
However much of the book focusses on events following her public breakup with Justin Timberlake in 2002 and her subsequent marriage, pregnanices and divorce from Kevin Federline, both of which seemed to be the catalyst for much of what happened in 2007 and thereafter.
Britney really doesn’t leave a stone unturned when describing the events of these years. Many of the events I can remember seeing on the news whilst growing up but with Britney’s perspective you realise just how much the media spun things to sell copies of their magazine or get viewers. You can tell Britney has really gone through the mill and been chewed up and spat out to a large extent by how the media reported on her.
One of the striking comparisons she makes when reflecting on this time is the double standard she faced as a famous woman compared to Justin and Kevin. Whilst she does admit she kissed one of her choreographers, Justin appeared to have full-blown affairs with various women whilst they were together, yet at the time of their break-up Justin controlled the narrative to make Britney into the villain who cheated on him. In a similar way, a few years later, Kevin manipulated her into instigating the divorce so she looked like the one who was breaking up the family.
She also talks about the complicated line she had to walk in her early career – as simultaneously she was promoted as sexy but yet also innocent, which lead to uncomfortable interviews where she was asked about her breasts or asked to react to parents saying her performances were inappropriate for children.
That VMA’s performance
We also learn how Britney experienced post-natal depression following the birth of her sons and it was this, along with the heartbreak of her marriage disintegrating to Kevin which lead to the events of 2007. Whilst many people will remember the images of Britney shaving her head in the salon, in her book Britney explains in harrowing detail how she was denied access to her kids, whilst the papparazzi cirled around like vultures seeking to take her picture and how this ultimately tipped her over the edge that fateful day.
Of course, many readers will be reading the book to find out about what happened during the conservatorship. Whilst I didn’t watch the Framing Britney Spears documentary, I did watch a BBC documentary along the same lines and really remember this was my wake-up call at how wrong the conservatorship seemed to be. We also all remember her testimony delivered in court in 2020 but it seems both of these barely scratched the surface of the horror Britney endured.
From her dad’s first menacing threat that “he is Britney Spears now” when he was granted the conservatorship she had to do everything he said. She says she felt at the time she needed to play along and hoped she would eventually be freed, however her dad still regularly took advantage of her – forcing her to do gruelling workouts and diet plans on a jam-packed schedule so he could make more money off his daughter’s success – whilst she couldn’t even buy a pair of shows without permission.
She also talks about times she attempted to resist – one year she wanted to take her sons on holiday but at the last minute they made her do a tour instead. Finally things came to a head when she refused to do a certain dance move due to how difficult it looked and her dad forced her into rehab against her will (an event which I remember at the time put the Free Britney movement firmly back in the public eye).
The book then culminates with Britney realising that she needed to break free and the steps that she took to do so which is ultimately a very hopeful and inspiring end to the book. Britney also reflects on her life since and what she hopes for the future which as readers of her story we can’t help but root for and I sincerely hope she finds happiness again, whether that is in music or not.
The book is also a gripping page turner and even if you aren’t necessarily a fan of Britney’s music, it is still a searing account of one of the most famous and misunderstood women of our time, as well as a time capsule of attitudes to celebrity and fame in the 1990s to now.
I would highly recommend giving this autobiography a read and if you have read it I would love to know your thoughts. The book is available on Amazon here.