No other celebrity had a bigger 2021 than Britney Spears. After 13 years of living under a conservatorship, Spears was freed from all conservators on Nov. 12, accomplishing the goal of the years-long #FreeBritney movement. The year was full of huge milestones in Spears’ life that led to this historic occasion, all of which attested to her strength, bravery, and patience. The singer spoke out against her conservatorship publicly for the first time in June, and was finally able to hire her own lawyer the next month, a right she was always denied. In the months to come, Spears’ conservator, father Jamie Spears, was suspended, which cleared a path for her conservatorship to come to an end. She also got engaged to boyfriend Sam Asghari and celebrated turning 40.
As evidenced by Spears’ iconic Instagram page, she still found moments to dance, travel, and laugh her heart out amid these tremendous life changes. Going into 2022, the world is Spears’ oyster. Spears has indicated that she’s staying away from the music industry for now to enjoy the simple pleasures of life she was once denied, like driving her own car and having an ATM card. But Entertainment Tonight reports that Spears is actively exploring “brand deals and entertainment opportunities” for the coming year. No matter what she decides, it will be on her own terms, and that wouldn’t have been possible even just a year ago.
Let’s recap Spears’ historic 2021 — month by month — below.
January: Britney & Sam’s Vacation
Spears got some rest and relaxation in before the rollercoaster year ahead of her, jetting to Hawaii with now-fiancé at the beginning of 2021. “I love getaways with @SamAsghari,” she wrote on Instagram, sharing a photo of the couple posing on the beach. “He means the world to me !!!!” To stay safe, they even wore masks on the beach. “PS please stay safe everyone !!!!!!”
February: NYT’s Framing Britney Spears
On Feb. 5, Hulu premiered the New York Times’ documentary Framing Britney Spears, which analyzed Spears’ harsh and unfair treatment from the media throughout her career, and how it ultimately contributed to her controversial conservatorship. The film set off a media firestorm, putting the conservatorship at the forefront and resurfacing more examples of Spears’ fraught relationship with the media, like distasteful jokes from comedians and late-night hosts.
Fans especially criticized ex-boyfriend Justin Timberlake for making derogatory comments about their sex life to the press, and Diane Sawyer for asking Spears sexist questions that seemingly blamed her for the split from Timberlake in a 2003 interview. The backlash even led the *NSYNC alum to write a public apology to Spears.
March: Britney Responds To NYT Doc
On March 24, Spears’ then-lawyer Samuel D. Ingham III filed a petition asking the court to permanently remove Spears’ father Jamie as the conservator to Spears’ person, after he stepped down temporarily in August 2019 due to “health issues.” Ingham requested to replace Jamie with Spears’ temporary conservator Jodi Montgomery.
In a now-deleted Instagram post, Spears responded to Framing Britney Spears over a month after its release, saying she “cried for two weeks” over the film. “My life has always been very speculated… watched… and judged really my whole life,” she wrote. “I have been exposed my whole life performing in front of people!!! It takes a lot of strength to TRUST the universe with your real vulnerability cause I’ve always been so judged... insulted... and embarrassed by the media... and I still am till this day!!!!”
The singer said that she hadn’t viewed the film in its entirety, but was saddened by what she did see. “I didn't watch the documentary but from what I did see of it I was embarrassed by the light they put me in,” she wrote. “I cried for two weeks and well .... I still cry sometimes!!!!”
April: Britney Demands To Speak
On April 27, Spears requested a court hearing at which she can speak directly to the judge, which was granted and scheduled for June 23. “The conservatee, she has requested that I seek from the court a status hearing at which she can address the court directly,” Spears’ then-lawyer Ingham said during the hearing, adding that it would not have to do with the accounting and fees issues they were addressing at the time. Instead, Spears’ testimony focused on her experience in the last 13 years living under the conservatorship — and it would finally set her on a path to freedom.
May: Britney Is “SLIVING”
In a May 1 Instagram post, Spears spoke out against “documentaries” about her life once again, without referring to Framing Britney Spears by name, saying that she preferred the film focused on the positive highlights of her life and career. “So many documentaries about me this year with other people’s takes on my life ... what can I say … I’m deeply flattered !!!!” she captioned a video of one of her at-home routines. “These documentaries are so hypocritical … they criticize the media and then do the same thing ????? I’m thrilled to remind you all that although I’ve had some pretty tough times in my life ... I’ve had waaaayyyy more amazing times in my life and unfortunately my friends … I think the world is more interested in the negative !!!!”
Despite her feelings about the film, Spears moved on with positivity, declaring that 2021 was “definitely way better than 2020” and outlining her fun plans for the year. “I have so many trips I’m looking forward to taking this summer and I can’t wait to dance in different studios !!!!” she wrote. “I’m hoping to get a miniature koi pond in my backyard as well !!!! ... I hope you’re all living your best lives and sh*t or as @parishilton would say SLIVING!!! ... I know I am.”
June: Britney’s Bombshell Hearing
On June 23, fans heard Spears speak out about her conservatorship publicly for the first time, and her alleged experiences under her conservator, father Jamie, were even worse than fans imagined. Spears began by detailing a 2019 incident where she was allegedly held at a mental health facility for over a month and her medications were switched against her will.
“Not only did my family not do a goddamn thing, my dad was all for it,” she said. This caused depression and sleeplessness. “I’ve lied and told the whole world, ‘I’m OK, and I’m happy’,” she explained. “I’m not happy. I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day.”
Under the conservatorship, Spears said she was forced to embark on her 2018 tour when she wanted a break after her four-year Las Vegas residency, and perhaps most heinously, she allegedly had to wear an IUD to prevent her from getting pregnant. “I was told with the conservatorship, I was not able to get married and have a baby,” she explained. She went on to compare her father to a sex trafficker. “The control he had over someone as powerful as me, he loved the control to hurt his own daughter, one hundred thousand percent,” she said.
Spears’ testimony sent shockwaves across the world, and for once, the team around her was told by the judge herself to take the singer’s concerns seriously. “I just want my life back,” Spears demanded. “It’s been 13 years and it’s enough. I truly believe this conservatorship is abusive.”
July: Judge Lets Britney Pick Her Lawyer
In a July 14 court hearing, Spears was granted permission to hire her own legal counsel, following the resignation of her court-appointed lawyer Ingham. Judge Brenda Penny confirmed with Spears that she wanted to retain Hollywood lawyer and former prosecutor Mathew S. Rosengart as her attorney, and he began serving her immediately. Spears celebrated her victory on social media, thanking her fans for their support. “Coming along, folks ... coming along !!!!!” she wrote. “New with real representation today ... I feel GRATITUDE and BLESSED !!!! You have no idea what it means to me [to] be supported by such awesome fans !!!! God bless you all !!!!!”
Rosengart acted quickly. Just two weeks after the hearing, he filed a petition demanding Jamie’s immediate suspension from the conservatorship, which he claimed was “based on strong, insurmountable legal grounds, which were unequivocally supported by the law and all parties involved, including Jodi Montgomery, Britney Spears, and her medical team.”
During the hearing, Spears continued to speak out against her father Jamie, declaring that she wanted to charge him for conservatorship abuse, and detailed more of the strict control she allegedly endured under the conservatorship, including having her driver’s license and coffee-drinking privileges revoked at Jamie’s will. “Their goal was to make me feel crazy and I’m not, and that’s not OK,” she said. At one point, she even admitted that she once thought the people controlling her conservatorship “were trying to kill me,” according to CNN. “If this is not abuse, I don’t know what is,” she said.
August: Jamie Agrees To Step Down
On Aug. 12, nearly a month after his daughter’s second testimony, Jamie agreed to step down as the conservator of both Spears’ estate and person. He didn’t make it that easy. In his petition, Jamie claimed there were “no actual grounds” for removing him, but that he would step down because “he does not believe that a public battle with his daughter over his continuing service as her conservator would be in her best interests.” Rather than go out immediately, he said he would work with Rosengart and the court to “prepare for an orderly transition to a new conservator.”
However, Rosengart saw through the filing. Just weeks after Jamie announced his intent to step down, Spears’ lawyer accused her father of trying to extort over $2 million in various legal and personal fees from her state as a condition of stepping down. In a statement to Vulture, Rosengart said the singer “will not be bullied or extorted” by her father. “Nor does Mr. Spears have the right to try to hold his daughter hostage by setting the terms of his removal,” he said. “This is not about him, it is about the best interests of his daughter, which as a matter of law, mandate his removal.”
September: Britney Gets Engaged
Jamie’s method of removing himself from the conservatorship didn’t work. On Sept. 29, Jamie was permanently suspended as the conservator of Spears’ estate and person, effective immediately. As part of Judge Penny’s ruling, Jamie and his team were ordered to hand over all documents and communications pertaining to his time as the conservator, which Rosengart and his law firm are using to investigate the conservatorship.
This monumental step meant that a path was cleared for Spears to finally be freed from the legal arrangement, but the singer was even more ecstatic about another major moment. Earlier that month, on Sept. 12, Spears announced her engagement to Asghari, posting an Instagram video that showed off her shining diamond ring.
“I can’t f***ing believe it,” she captioned the post, complete with several ring emojis. Given how she was allegedly told she couldn’t get married under the conservatorship, Spears getting engaged felt like a clear indicator that her ultimate goal of freedom was within reach.
October: Britney Drags Her Family
With the end of the conservatorship in sight, Spears began to relax a little more, thanking fans who joined the #FreeBritney movement and opening up more about what she experienced under the conservatorship. On Oct. 6, she dragged her family in an Instagram post, and thanked Rosengart for helping to change her life. “If you have a friend that’s been in a house that feels really small for four months… I strongly suggest you go pick up your friend and get them the hell outta there !!!!!” she wrote. “If you’re like my family who says things like ‘sorry, you’re in a conservatorship’ … probably thinking you’re different so they can f*ck with you !!!!”
Later that month, Spears got candid about both her hopes and fears for a post-conservatorship future. “I’ll just be honest and say I’ve waited so long to be free from the situation I’m in … and now that it’s here I’m scared to do anything because I’m afraid I’ll make a mistake !!!” she wrote. “I worked so hard but now that it’s here and getting closer and closer to ending I’m very happy but there’s a lot of things that scare me !!!” To relive her stress, Spears declared that she was celebrating Christmas in October and staying away from the music industry — for now. “I believe any reason to find more joy in life is a good idea,” she wrote. “I’m staying clear of the business which is all I’ve ever known my whole life … which is why this is so very confusing for me.”
November: Britney Is Free
After 13 years of living under a conservatorship, Spears was finally freed on Nov. 12, when Judge Penny terminated both the conservatorships of her person and estate for good. This meant that the singer was finally in control of all facets of her life, and she didn’t need to consult anyone to make personal or financial decisions. “The conservatorship of the person and estate of Britney Jean Spears is no longer required,” the judge declared in court. Needless to say, #FreeBritney supporters were ecstatic, but no one was happier than Spears, who celebrated her hard-fought victory by posting a video of fans reveling outside of the Los Angeles courthouse. “Good God I love my fans so much it’s crazy !!!” she wrote. I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever.”
Days later, Spears addressed her post-conservatorship plans in an Instagram video, explaining that she wanted to be an advocate for other conservatees who may be trapped. “I’m not here to be a victim,” she said. “I’m here to be an advocate for people with real disabilities and real illnesses. I’m a very strong woman, so I can only imagine what the system has done to those people. So hopefully, my story will make an impact and make some changes in the corrupt system.”
December: Britney Celebrates Her 40th
Against all odds, Spears was able to celebrate her 40th birthday as a free woman. To commemorate the occasion, she jetted off on another vacation with Asghari like she did at the beginning of the year, but this time as an engaged couple.
“Oh the precious joy today !!! Me and my fiancé are so excited to be going away,” she wrote. “God thank you for being able to go out of the country !!!! I am blessed !!!”