Brow Beat

Why Did Britney Spears Have to Confirm She’s Not Being Held Hostage?

#FreeBritney, explained.

Britney Spears with her hand on her hip on a red carpet.
Britney Spears on February 25, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

What is going on with Britney Spears?

If you were to ask her, she would probably tell you “All is well,” as she did in a video posted to Instagram on Tuesday.

She says she’s checking in with people who are concerned about her. Who is concerned? Why are they concerned? Should I be concerned too?

Before we dive in, you should know that the whole situation is a big mess, with a ton of tabloid gossip, anonymous sources, and unsubstantiated information flying around. But here’s what we do know: Earlier this year, Britney canceled her planned Las Vegas residency and announced an “indefinite work hiatus” as her father, Jamie, dealt with complications from a ruptured colon. Since then, she has stayed out of the limelight until about three weeks ago, when TMZ reported that she had checked herself into a mental health facility due in part to the stress of Jamie’s medical problems. [Update, April 26, 9:34 a.m.: According to E! News and Billboard, Britney has checked herself out of the facility.]

That development fueled speculation the pop star is being held against her will: Though she was spotted in a brief public outing with boyfriend Sam Asghari for Easter, protestors still congregated outside City Hall in West Hollywood on Monday holding signs that said things like “Britney is no Slave 4 U” and chanting “Get a job, Jamie.” Her fan base has accused her family and management of effectively imprisoning her.

This isn’t some fringe conspiracy theory, either. There are celebrities publicly spreading it: Rapper Eve wore a supportive T-shirt on The Talk, Real Housewife Luann de Lesseps strutted to “Me Against the Music,” and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Shea Couleé tweeted about being “really concerned” about Britney and questioned the legitimacy of the video in which Britney tells fans not to worry.

#Free … Brintey?

Typo. That should say #FreeBritney. Or #FreeXBritney, as some social media users have started using as an alternative.

Why does that slogan sound so familiar?

It’s the same slogan that was used by fans to protest Britney’s conservatorship when it was established in 2008 and championed in particular by the Britney fan site BreatheHeavy.

Remind me what a conservatorship is again?

A conservatorship, also known as guardianship, is an arrangement in which the court appoints someone to oversee the affairs of a person deemed legally unfit to manage their own. More than a decade ago, Jamie Spears (again, Britney’s dad, not to be confused with her sister Jamie Lynn) and a lawyer named Andrew Wallet took over Britney’s decision-making following a series of personal crises that culminated in her being placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Go back a second. His name is Andrew Wallet?

You can’t make this stuff up. According to the New York Times, the conservatorship has since included “overseeing and coordinating Britney’s [redacted], business, costuming, personal, household stuff, and legal matters (touching upon entertainment, music, other business opportunities, family law issues, the litigation, trial and/or resolution of other disputes, and ongoing litigation and conservatorship matters).”

As of March 4, Wallet resigned from the conservatorship, which is why most of the current ire, as with the chanting protestors, has been turned on Jamie specifically.

The caption of Britney’s Instagram video alludes to “fake emails” by Sam Lutfi. What is she talking about? Who is Sam Lutfi?

Lutfi is Britney’s former manager who has been another one of the leading voices of #FreeBritney. Britney’s mother filed a restraining order against him back in 2008, accusing him of “cutting the singer’s phone lines, disabling her vehicles and grinding up pills to place in her food” according to the Los Angeles Times. He has long been outspoken against the conservatorship and has been spurring #FreeBritney believers to “raise hell.”

There are a few emails purportedly written by Britney to her family in 2007 that have been leaked to the tabloids. One reads: “i know you are my family and have every right to be concerned by my actions but i still to this day feel like you guys went overboard by sending me away on a 16 hour flight that neither you or mama really looked into.” Another calls Britney’s current business manager Lou Taylor a “crazy lady” and a “stalker.”

Britney’s Instagram post accuses Lutfi of “pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address.” Lutfi unequivocally denied that accusation on Twitter and wrote “Nice try Lou,” promoting the idea that Britney did not film the message willingly or write the caption.

This is all wild. How did this new wave of #FreeBritney even start?

This theory really took off after an episode of the weekly fan podcast Britney’s Gram on April 16 in which co-hosts Tess Barker and Barbara Gray played an anonymous voicemail from someone claiming he “used to be a paralegal for an attorney that worked with Britney’s conservatorship.” According to this person, who Barker and Gray say they believe is credible, Jamie Spears canceled the Las Vegas residency because Britney was refusing to take her medication, and he checked her into the mental health facility for an indefinite stay after she broke a rule against driving. He adds that the conservatorship was originally supposed to end in 2009.

As further evidence that not everything is above board, Barker and Gray also use the fact that Wallet had asked for a raise months before resigning and his statement at the time of resignation.

The conservatorship is engaged in numerous ongoing business activities requiring immediate attention and it therefore is in the best interest of the conservatee that the acceptance of Wallet’s resignation and the issuance of amended letters of conservatorship of the estate occur immediately and without delay. Substantial detriment, irreparable harm and immediate danger will result to the conservatee and her estate if the relief requested herein is not granted on an ex parte basis.

Is #FreeBritney actually good for Britney?

In a statement last week, the Britney’s Gram team said that “mental health is a highly personal matter, and that the details of Britney’s mental health are nobody else’s business” and argued that by very publicly arguing for the end of the conservatorship, they are actually respecting that privacy, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. While it’s true that vulnerable celebrities can be victims of exploitation and that concern for Britney is admirable, the uproar now has even the pop star pleading for privacy. And calling for people to “raise hell” and “stop at nothing” is rarely helpful for anyone involved in a delicate situation.

Heavy stuff. On a lighter note, will this affect the Britney Spears musical?

Apparently not. Sony Pictures just won the screen rights to the fairy tale featuring the pop star’s music.

So what happens next?

According to court documents obtained by ET Online, Britney’s conservatorship is getting a new status hearing at which Britney does not need to be present.