‘Without my help, Britney might be DEAD’: His words will infuriate the legions of Britney Spears fans who campaigned for her freedom – but, speaking for the first time, her father Jamie insists the controversial 13-year conservatorship SAVED her

Posing provocatively in no more than a pair of red bikini bottoms, Britney Spears told her 41.6 million Instagram followers last week that ‘expressing my freedom has never felt better’.

It is, after all, a little over a year since the singer was finally released from a controversial 13-year ‘conservatorship’ in which her father, Jamie, was handed power over her personal and financial life. The extraordinary situation – unprecedented, given it involved one of the most famous faces in the world – ultimately saw Jamie castigated by millions of her fans.

The #FreeBritney movement, which emerged online and drew celebrity support from Madonna, Paris Hilton and Miley Cyrus, accused Jamie of holding his daughter in a mental health facility against her will, allegedly bugging her phones and controlling every aspect of her existence.

Jamie has, for the most part, remained tight-lipped, speaking only to dismiss the campaign as ‘a joke’ which was ‘run by conspiracy theorists’.

The #FreeBritney movement accused Jamie Spears of holding his daughter Britney Spears (pictured) in a mental health facility against her will, allegedly bugging her phones and controlling every aspect of her existence

Pop star Britney Spears with her father Jamie Spears

But today, in an exclusive interview with The Mail on Sunday, his first for more than a decade, the 70-year-old has chosen to speak more candidly to defend himself and the court order, claiming it is the only reason his daughter is alive today.

It was, he claims, a necessary intervention which not only saved Britney from her darkest days, but rescued her fragile relationship with her children, Preston, 17, and 16-year-old Jayden, whom she shares with her ex-husband, former backing dancer Kevin Federline.

These were difficult times, Jamie admits, warning he ‘isn’t going to paint no pretty pictures’ of the family’s struggles. But the decisions, he insists, were the right ones – even if they came at the expense of his relationship with his daughter.

‘Not everybody’s going to agree with me,’ Jamie shrugs. ‘It’s been one hell of a time. But I love my daughter with all my heart and soul. Where would Britney be right now without that conservatorship? And I don’t know if she’d be alive. I don’t.

‘For protecting her, and also protecting the kids, conservatorship was a great tool. Without it, I don’t think she would have got the kids back.’

Jamie Spears did not attend Britney's (left) wedding to personal trainer Sam Asghari (right) in June

Of course, as Jamie speaks today, the truth is that a sizeable distance has built up between himself and his eldest child.

The past three years, since the #FreeBritney campaign began to gain traction and a series of behind-closed-doors court hearings took place to dissolve the conservatorship, have taken an immense toll.

Jamie, who has gone through major health problems, now lives with his other daughter, Britney’s younger sister Jamie Lynn, in rural Louisiana. This is not far from where Britney was born, where he grew up, and where he enjoyed his glory days as star quarterback on the local football team.

Nearby is a storage unit where much of the memorabilia from Britney’s phenomenal career is housed. But there is now no contact with Britney, and a succession of family dramas means that Jamie has not been in touch with her two teenagers, whom he helped raise for much of their lives.

It’s a delicate situation. Jamie has to be careful what he says, in order to protect his daughter from any more heartache that could affect her wellbeing.

She is already attracting a degree of notoriety with colourful, sometimes semi-naked social-media posts and he doesn’t want to send her back ‘further down the hole’, as he puts it.

‘I miss my two boys really, really bad,’ he acknowledges. ‘I do. You know, we were very, very close. They were around that age where you could start having a good time with them. But they were developing a mind of their own. God makes things happen for a reason. I don’t know what that reason is but it’s been a tough three years without them. The family’s a mess. All we can do is keep praying.’

But such strife is far from a recent development when it comes to the Spears family. Nor is Jamie a blameless victim in this domestic saga. For despite Britney’s astonishing success, her childhood in Kentwood, Louisiana, was plagued with drama, much of it caused by Jamie’s problems with alcohol.

She rose to stardom aged 11 on Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club alongside a young Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, but behind the scenes, family members have described frequent, drunken arguments between Jamie and Britney’s mother, Lynne.

Britney often retreated to her aunt’s nearby trailer to escape the drama. Jamie could be ‘abusive’, Britney later claimed, particularly towards her older brother Bryan, a football player, whom she said Jamie was ‘really hard on’.

In a recent rant on YouTube, Britney reflected that her father ‘controlled everything I did’ even at that stage but that she ‘had to go along because I knew they could hurt me’. Global stardom came aged 17 with Britney’s 1998 hit Baby One More Time, and her parents divorced four years later. A string of hits followed but, despite leaving her parents behind, Britney found herself embarking on a very public meltdown when her divorce from Federline, after a three-year marriage, was finalised in 2007.

She shaved off her hair, hit a photographer’s car with an umbrella and was admitted to hospital for substance abuse.

It was amid these worrying circumstances that a temporary conservatorship was established – and made permanent later that year.

Britney Spears poses at the premiere of Once Upon a Time In Hollywood in Los Angeles, California, U.S. in July 2019

Peculiar to US law, a conservatorship is granted by a court for individuals who are deemed unable to make their own decisions. Usually they are used for people with dementia or other mental illnesses.

In Britney’s case, it was split into two parts – one covering her estate and financial affairs, which concerned decisions about her career and finances, and the other affecting personal matters such as access to her children and decisions about marriage.

Jamie was appointed to control both parts, and in exchange was paid a reported $16,000 a month.

In recent court filings, Jamie’s lawyers said the conservatorship was ‘necessary to protect Britney in every sense of the word’. They said: ‘Her life was in shambles and she was in physical, emotional, mental and financial distress.’

It was also, Jamie maintains, to protect the boys, then just toddlers. While Federline was initially granted full custody of his sons, the courts allowed Jamie and Kevin to work out how best to give them access to their mother. And they did, with Britney getting 50 per cent of physical – although not legal – custody. Britney’s social-media posts around this time describe the arrangements as ‘like being in prison’. But Jamie insists there were some ‘good times’, including family holidays the kids enjoyed with their mother.

‘We could take the kids to Europe. They didn’t miss time with their mother. They didn’t miss time with their father. Not many people knew that. The main purpose was to get Britney back with her kids in a comfortable relationship.

‘We did everything in the world with them.’

Jamie or Kevin were always present when Britney spent time with her children. And it was the two men who collectively made decisions on their behalf.

‘My relationship with Kevin gave them a sense of peace, and of protection,’ he says. ‘Kevin will tell you this too – it was us who raised the kids. I just did what I was supposed to do, or felt like I needed to do.

‘I didn’t make any decisions on my own – the team of people were me and my associate, and Kevin. We could all take the kids to the doctor, and to school. At that time Kevin had a lot going on.

‘And the conservatorship made sure the boys never left that house without security. They didn’t go to school one day without lunch.’

The court arrangements also helped Britney rebuild her finances, Jamie says. She was reported to have been worth about $50 million (£41 million) in 2008, at the time the conservatorship began.

However, Jamie disputes that and says that her fortune had all but gone. ‘She was broke,’ he says. ‘She had no money whatsoever. The conservatorship set a resource where she could get back financially. And, you know, we worked – and she worked – and she got herself straight up financially.’

During the period covered by the court order, she released four albums, embarked on three world tours and performed a two-year residency in Las Vegas.

‘The conservatorship allowed the finances to be better,’ Jamie says.

‘My understanding of a conservatorship is to help someone regain their life and return back to society, and to be able to live normally. I want to say that I made a difference. There were a few people behind me that really helped bring it to a point where we could help her.’

Despite the erratic social media posts… why you can’t dismiss Britney Spears

It’s easy to dismiss Britney Spears. Certainly her social media posts are erratic – the naked selfies, the rambling statements.

But Britney is way smarter than she looks. And she knows what’s going on.

She has often said that some members of the Spears family do not always act with her own interests at heart.

And after spending six months filming and interviewing her relatives along with producer Erbil Gunasti, I can understand why she thinks so.

Britney is a bright woman who has been consistently underestimated.

I believe Britney’s ex-husband Kevin Federline and wife Victoria have done their best at every turn. They have made a wonderful family for the boys Kevin shares with Britney, Preston and Jayden.

I have nothing but praise for them.

I have also interviewed Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, who agreed to help with a new book that Kevin Federline is now putting together about fatherhood in the midst of such public drama.

On some matters, Jamie Spears was extremely honest.

As he put it: this family is a mess.

Their background in a Louisiana trailer park is a humble one, which is no criticism. But it is a family that has seen hardship and all the tensions that can bring.

And don’t forget that fame can make people do strange things.

I am reminded of the time I spent with the troubled Winehouse family for Saving Amy, a documentary and a book, not long before Amy’s tragic death in 201. (Saving Amy is also the basis of a forthcoming scripted TV series with Halcyon Studios. )

Are some members of the Spears’ family a little too keen on serving their own interests? Britney certainly thinks so, and has accused them of trying to manipulate her and her relationship with her sons.

This cannot help the singer, who unquestionably faces problems of her own. Besides, the stardom belongs to her, not to her relatives.

What Britney needs right now is peace of mind and time to heal the relationship with the two boys she very much loves.

They told me that they love her too, and that with time, hard work – and the support of Kevin and Victoria – there will be a reconciliation.

At all times, the interests of the boys must be paramount.

As Jamie Spears himself told me, they must not be ‘used as pawns’ in a battle between her relatives.

But that is not how it was seen from the outside.

In January 2019, Britney cancelled a second planned Vegas residency and, announcing an ‘indefinite work hiatus’, was admitted to a psychiatric facility, claiming she was ‘taking a little me time’. Word began to spread, however, that Jamie had made the arrangements against his daughter’s will.Accusations against Jamie began to trend on social media, purporting to shine a spotlight on the conditions under which Britney’s life was being controlled.

The #FreeBritney campaign claimed that the conservatorship restricted the singer’s ability to use a mobile phone unmonitored, go for a walk or see her children.

It accused Jamie of using sedatives to keep her ‘under control’, and even claimed Britney was using secret symbols to communicate her distress to fans on social media.

The worldwide movement to end her conservatorship was heightened further by the release of the 2021 documentary Framing Britney Spears, which alleged the singer’s phone and bedroom were bugged by security staff working for Jamie.

Months after that documentary, Britney told the story in her own words at a legal hearing. She claimed she was afraid of her father, that she was forced to go on tour and into rehab, and to take powerful drugs.

So controlled was she that she was even unable to have her birth control removed, she claimed.

During this time, Jamie suffered a near-fatal rupture of the colon, became estranged from his grandsons following an incident in which he allegedly broke down a door – resulting in a restraining order – and was removed as a conservator before the whole arrangement was brought to an end in November 2021.

Britney’s lawyer, former federal prosecutor Mathew Rosengart, referred to Mr Spears as ‘a reported alcoholic and gambling addict, with zero financial background or experience in financial matters, who previously filed for bankruptcy and has a domestic violence restraining order currently in effect against him’.

That Jamie describes it as a ‘tough three years’ is understating it. ‘All I can say is that most people don’t have a clue what the truth is,’ he says. ‘Her lawyer doesn’t have a clue what the truth is.

‘The media has not heard the truth. They’ve heard the allegations from Britney.

‘I don’t mind taking that beating because I know it’s not true, and because I don’t want to start something else. For my daughter to end up going further down the hole than she had been.’

Jamie and Kevin are now speaking to each other once again. Indeed, Jamie has agreed to talk because he wants to help Kevin, who is writing a book on his experience of fatherhood amid such turmoil. When I spoke to the boys, they made it clear that they miss their grandfather. But the relationship with his daughter remains broken. Neither he nor the boys attended Britney’s wedding to personal trainer Sam Asghari in June.

Meanwhile, her behaviour remains erratic.

Last month, she posted a rant on Instagram, claiming that during the conservatorship ‘it felt like my dad was trying to kill me’, before deleting her account.

But last Tuesday she was back on social media, posting a video of herself dancing topless in the shower.

Wearing nothing but the red bikini bottoms, she writhed around suggestively to LL Cool J’s Doin’ It, once again proclaiming her freedom.

The restraining order has now expired, but while Kevin had expressed ‘no hard feelings’ towards Jamie and said he would ‘welcome’ him back in the boys’ lives, they all know these things take time.

Protesters attend the #FreeBritney March starting in Plummer Park on July 18, 2021 in West Hollywood, California

As Kevin told me, ‘it should be when they feel ready’, a point that Jamie, too, acknowledges.

‘That’s not my call right now,’ he says. ‘I told Kevin I really do want to see them, and I want to be a part of them. I like to hear what’s going on with them.

‘But at this point right now? The boys have to be comfortable. In their time it’s going to happen.

‘There’s so much s**t going on on the outside of my relationship with the boys. Sometimes I think the boys are used as a pawn, and I ain’t gonna have that.

‘The boys were part of my life for 12 years and were my closest grandkids.’

Jamie also suggests that he’s not alone in having work to do to improve the situation.

‘Each individual has got lots of work to do. I don’t know if some of them want to do the work or not.

‘It’s going to be a tough thing, but that’s the goal. Like I say, family’s not in good shape right now. That’s all I can say.

‘It’s better – but we’ve got a lot of work to do.’

Today, now retired, Jamie is ever hopeful of reconciliation. He doesn’t regret the conservatorship, and won’t be drawn on whether he thought it went on too long.

‘I can’t answer that question,’ he says, wryly.

‘You can answer it yourself. Just look at how things are now.’

Daphne Barak is a renowned interviewer and documentary film maker, whose subjects have included Nelson Mandela, Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton, Johnny Depp and Michael Jackson among many others. Daphne’s best-selling book Saving Amy, based on her months’ filming with Amy Winehouse and her family, is being adapted into a scripted eight part TV series by Halcyon Studios.
Daphne’s latest book, Struggling for One America, written with Erbil Gunasti, is published by Skyhorse Publishing and is available to buy here: https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Struggling-for-One-America/Daphne-Barak/9781510768086
Read her pop culture scoops here: https://fighting4oneamerica.com/

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