Britney Spears’ memoir confessions: From her abortion while dating Justin Timberlake to why she shaved her head

The singer is releasing her long-awaited autobiography ‘The Woman in Me’ on October 24, but ‘People’ magazine has published an excerpt and an interview with the artist, where she talks about the challenges of freedom or feeling like ‘a robot’ under her father’s conservatorship

Britney Spears
Britney Spears at the GLAAD Awards gala in Beverly Hills, in April 2018.Chris Pizzello (Invision)
María Porcel

On October 24, Britney Spears’ long-awaited memoirs will hit bookstores. After a life in the spotlight and 13 years under a guardianship, the singer has decided to tell her story in the first person in The Woman in Me. Ahead of its release, People magazine published on Wednesday both a large excerpt from the book and an interview with Spears, who appears on the front cover of the magazine for what is her first interview in more than five years.

In her memoirs, Spears reveals what it was like to rise to fame as a child, sign record contracts at just 15 years of age, and to become a mother at the peak of her success. But two issues stand out: the 13-year conservatorship she was subjected to by her father, Jamie Spears; and having an abortion when she was 20 while dating Justin Timberlake. These are some of the biggest revelations from her memoirs. “My fans deserve to hear it directly from me,” she says.

Having an abortion while dating Justin Timberlake

One of the extracts that has drawn the most attention from the book is the episode in which the singer, now 41, explains that during her relationship with Timberlake, now 42 — which began in 1999, when they were aged 17 and 18, and ended in the early 2000s — she had an abortion. Until now, she had never said spoken about this. In fact, at that time the couple, considered “America’s sweethearts,” were fodder for the tabloid press, which loved to speculate whether they were still virgins (they were not, as it turned out later).

“It was a surprise, but for me, it wasn’t a tragedy,” she says in the People magazine exclusive. “I loved Justin so much. I always expected us to have a family together one day. This would just be much earlier than I’d anticipated,” she explains.“But Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young.”

But Spears still wanted to have the baby with Timberlake, who was part of N’Sync at the time. “If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it. And yet Justin was so sure that he didn’t want to be a father,” she explains. Today she still remembers it as “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life.”

In 2018, Timberlake released a book titled Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me, where he mentioned Spears, but not the abortion. Spears, who suffered a miscarriage a year and a half ago, had never spoken about it either until now.

Justin Timberlake y Britney Spears, durante la 44 entrega de los premios Grammy, en Beverly Hills, el 26 de febrero de 2002.
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, at the 44th Grammy Awards, in Beverly Hills, on February 26, 2002.L. Cohen (WireImage)

When her father belittled her and called her fat

Spears’ relationship with her father has been complex since she was a child, and it became especially complicated when he was granted the guardianship in 2008. In her memoirs, the artist states that she had felt that she was not enough for him, since she was very young, “a soul-crushing state of being for a child.” “He’d drummed that message into me as a girl, and even after I’d accomplished so much, he was continuing to do that to me,” she writes,

For Spears, feeling constantly scrutinized and villified by the press was hard, but it was worse that her family did it. “If I thought getting criticized about my body in the press was bad, it hurt even more from my own father. He repeatedly told me I looked fat and that I was going to have to do something about it.”

Spears also talks about how Jamie Spears “and his associates” (without naming anyone specifically) controlled everything about her: “My body and my money.” “It makes me feel sick. Think of how many male artists gambled all their money away; how many had substance abuse or mental health issues. No one tried to take away their control over their bodies and money. I didn’t deserve what my family did to me.”

The happiness of an almost normal family and daiquiris at 12 years of age

Spears remembers with joy the first years of her career, when she started in the Mickey Mouse Club, a children’s program on American television, with other young people who would end up being stars: Christina Aguilera, with whom she shared a dressing room because they were the smallest, actor Ryan Gosling and Timberlake, with whom she connected quickly. The artist says she does not regret being a child star, rehearsing choreography “up to 30 times” every day. “It was honestly a kid’s dream — unbelievably fun, particularly for a kid like me,” she says in the extract from her memoirs.

When the program ended, she decided to give up the entertainment business — temporarily, as it turned out — and return with her family to her small town in Louisiana. And she was also happy there, she admits. “Back at home, I returned to [high school], settling into normal teenage life — or the closest thing to ‘normal’ that was possible in my family,” she writes. Spears says there was “something so beautifully normal” about that period of her life: “driving around our little town, going to the movies.” But she soon felt that something was missing and wanted to return to the stage.

Britney Spears madre
Britney Spears and her mother, Lynne, in February 2000, at the Grammys.Jim Smeal (Ron Galella Collection via Getty)

One of the anecdotes that the singer recalls is how she went on a trip with her mother, Lynne, with whom she now has no relationship, and, when they arrived at their destination, they would drink daiquiris together. Spears was in 8th grade at the time, around 12 years old. “I loved that I was able to drink with my mom every now and then. The way we drank was nothing like how my father did it. When he drank, he grew more depressed and shut down. We became happier, more alive and adventurous.”

The conservatorship: from shaving her head to turning into ‘a shadow’

The conservatorship has been, without a doubt, the most difficult stage of Britney Spears’ life. She makes it clear how she lost herself, how it was difficult for her to bring out the adult in her. “I became a robot. But not just a robot — a sort of child-robot. I had been so infantilized that I was losing pieces of what made me feel like myself,” she says.

The conservatorship was granted after a difficult moment in her life, when her mental health worsened and unfortunately for her led to a public incident that became one of the most notorious of her career. It happened in February 2007, when at the age of 25, Spears was seen entering a tattoo shop with a completely shaven head. “I’d been eyeballed so much growing up. I’d been looked up and down, had people telling me what they thought of my body, since I was a teenager. Shaving my head and acting out were my ways of pushing back,” she writes. “But under the conservatorship I was made to understand that those days were now over. I had to grow my hair out and get back into shape. I had to go to bed early and take whatever medication they told me to take.”

Spears explains that it was difficult for her to feel and behave like an adult, because she was not treated that way, and this meant she often behaved like a child. “But then my adult self would step back in — only my world didn’t allow me to be an adult,” she writes. All of this took its toll on her, personally, mentally and artistically: “The woman in me was pushed down for a long time. They wanted me to be wild onstage, the way they told me to be, and to be a robot the rest of the time [...] It was death to my creativity as an artist.”

“The conservatorship stripped me of my womanhood, made me into a child. I became more of an entity than a person onstage. I had always felt music in my bones and my blood; they stole that from me. If they’d let me live my life, I know I would’ve followed my heart and come out of this the right way and worked it out,” she continues.

The singer states that she was not capable of producing strong creative works: “I would do little bits of creative stuff here and there, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. As far as my passion for singing and dancing, it was almost a joke at that point.” She adds: “Thirteen years went by with me feeling like a shadow of myself.”

Her problems acting and the offer to lead ‘The Notebook’

In addition to music, Spears tried her hand at acting in 2002 with the teenage film Crossroads, alongside Zoe Saldaña and Taryn Manning. The movie made little impact. In her memoir, she says that it was a complicated experience because she got too into her character and couldn’t get out. “Some people do method acting, but they’re usually aware of the fact that they’re doing it. But I didn’t have any separation at all. I ended up walking differently, carrying myself differently, talking differently,” she says. “I bet the girls I shot that movie with think, ‘She’s a little…quirky.’ If they thought that, they were right.”

Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning y Britney Spears, en una escena de la película 'Crossroads'.
Zoe Saldana, Taryn Manning and Britney Spears, in 'Crossroads.'Archive Photos (Getty Images)

For her that was the beginning and the end of her career as an actress, something she is pleased about. “I hope I never get close to that occupational hazard again. Living that way, being half yourself and half a fictional character, is messed up. After a while you don’t know what’s real anymore.”

However, she was offered the opportunity to return to acting. According to her memoirs, the team of the film The Notebook offered her the lead role in the move, which ended up being played by Rachel McAdams. “Even though it would have been fun to reconnect with Ryan Gosling after our time on the Mickey Mouse Club, I’m glad I didn’t do it. If I had, instead of working on my album In the Zone I’d have been acting like a 1940s heiress day and night.”

Pride in her children

Before being put under the 13-year conservatorship, Spears married dancer Kevin Federline in 2004 and they had two children, two boys named Sean Preston, who is now 18, and Jayden James, 17. The boys now live in Hawaii under the guardianship of their father, but in the interview with People, the singer suggests that she still has a relationship with them, despite rumors they were estranged.

“Starting a family was my dream come true,” she tells People. “Being a mom was my dream come true.” Spears says that her children is what she is most proud about. At the moment, in the published extracts there is no further mention of Federline or her children. Nor of her ex-husband, Sam Asghari, to whom she was married for 14 months, before they split in August.

Work ethic (despite the snakes)

When Spears got tired of life in her town, she began performing for music executives (“men in suits looking me up and down in my small dress and high heels, I sang loud”), singing Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing. At the age of 15 she signed a music contract with Jive Records.

Britney Spears performs
Britney Spears during one of her best-known performances, at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards.KMazur (Getty)

The singer says that she always made an effort and gave her best in her work. “I worked for hours straight. My work ethic was strong. If you knew me then, you wouldn’t hear from me for days. I would stay in the studio as long as I could. If anyone wanted to leave, I’d say, ‘I wasn’t perfect.’ When all the songs were done, someone said, ‘What else can you do? Do you want to dance now?’ I said, ‘Hell yeah, I do!’”

This work ethic was seen in how she released three albums in just three years (Baby One More Time, in 1999; Oops!... I Did It Again, in 2000; and Britney, in 2001). For the latter, she had the courage to go on stage at the MTV VMA Awards with a snake that she thought would kill. “In my head I was saying, Just perform, just use your legs and perform. But what nobody knows is that as I was singing, the snake brought its head right around to my face, right up to me, and started hissing. I was thinking, Are you fucking serious right now? The fucking goddamn snake’s tongue is flicking out at me. Right. Now. Finally, I got to the part where I handed it back, thank God.”

The challenge of freedom

Regaining freedom after 13 years of her father’s conservatorship has not been easy for the singer, as she opens up in her memoirs: “Learning this new freedom, I’ll admit, is challenging at times.” Talking about the experience has likewise been difficult. “It’s hard to speak about,” Spears says of recounting her life’s darker moments, including “not getting a moment of peace, the judgments from strangers who don’t even know me, having my freedom stripped away from me by my family and the government [and] losing my passion for the things I love.”

But it was important for her to get her voice back, to tell her story (“without consequences from the people in charge of my life”), and she believes her fans deserve to hear it straight from her mouth. “No more conspiracy, no more lies — just me owning my past, present and future.”

“Since I’ve been freed” says Spears, “I’ve had to construct a whole different identity. I’ve had to say, wait a second, this is who I was — someone passive and pleasing. A girl. And this is who I am now — someone strong and confident. A woman.”

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