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Britney Spears Opens Up: 'Finally Free' to Share Her Story in Bombshell Memoir & New Interview — 'No More Lies' (Exclusive)

The pop icon will release her bombshell memoir, 'The Woman in Me,' on Oct. 24, and PEOPLE has an exclusive excerpt

By Elizabeth Leonard


Britney Spears PEOPLE exclusive
Britney Spears on the cover of PEOPLE. PHOTO: BRITNEY BRANDS
It’s a sun-kissed afternoon in late September, and Britney Spears pirouettes in powdery white sands on a beach in Tahiti. Tousled blond hair falls over her shoulders as she goes barefoot at the surf’s edge. The 41-year-old pop icon, capturing photos for the cover of PEOPLE while on a tropical getaway, smooths her Anthropologie sundress, fixes her bangs and moves into the shallows in search of a good shot. Working the camera as only she can, Spears looks up and smiles.

Yet, until Nov. 12, 2021 — the day a Los Angeles County judge terminated the conservatorship that had governed Spears’ life for nearly 14 years — she had few respites like this. The legal victory, following fervent testimony in which Spears accused her father Jamie, 71, and others of exploitation and abuse, set the stage for a second act that is both exhilarating and tricky. “Learning this new freedom, I’ll admit, is challenging at times,” she tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview, done via email.

There have been setbacks as she’s navigated her new normal, including her split from model-actor Sam Asghari, 29, in August after just 14 months of marriage. She also has a complicated relationship with her family, including her dad, mom Lynne, 68, and sister Jamie Lynn, 32. But there have also been high notes: Her collaboration with Elton John, “Hold Me Closer,” for one, marked her first Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 11 years. Mostly, though, Spears says she finds joy in everyday moments, whether “I’m playing with my dogs ...

[or] watching episodes of Friends and belly laughing. I love, love to travel and explore,” she says. “I am a simple girl.”

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When Spears looks back on the best times of her life, she recalls her earliest days of performing, “trips with my dancers [and] acting silly with my girlfriends.” But she’s proudest of becoming a mother to sons Sean Preston, now 18, and Jayden James, 17, with her ex-husband Kevin Federline. “Starting a family was my dream come true,” she tells PEOPLE of raising her boys, who now live with their dad in Hawaii, but are in contact with Spears. “Being a mom was my dream come true.”

Another dream has been to reclaim her voice. “Over the past 15 years or even at the start of my career, I sat back while people spoke about me and told my story for me,” she says. “After getting out of my conservatorship, I was finally free to tell my story without consequences from the people in charge of my life.”

The result is a revealing new memoir, The Woman in Me, excerpted below. Sharing often-brutal truths, Spears details her incredible journey from teen superstar to one of the bestselling female artists of all time, her “soul-crushing” conservatorship experience and her past relationships. “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.”


Now it’s Spears’ time to wrestle back the narrative.

“It is finally time for me to raise my voice and speak out, and my fans deserve to hear it directly from me,” she says. “No more conspiracy, no more lies — just me owning my past, present and future.”

In turn, Spears would love to empower others to do the same, telling PEOPLE she hopes the overall takeaway is to “speak up. Be loud. Know your worth. Inspire people and most of all, just be kind.”


A precocious kid from Kentwood, La., Spears was cast on The Mickey Mouse Club at age 11.

Being in the show was boot camp for the entertainment industry: extensive dance rehearsals, singing lessons, acting classes, time in the recording studio, and school in between. The Mouseketeers quickly split into our own cliques, divided by the dressing rooms that we shared: Christina Aguilera and I were the younger kids, and we shared a dressing room. We looked up to the older kids — Keri Russell, Ryan Gosling, and Tony Lucca, who I thought was so handsome. And I quickly connected with a boy named Justin Timberlake.

It was honestly a kid’s dream — unbelievably fun, particularly for a kid like me. But it was also exceptionally hard work: we would run choreography thirty times in a day, trying to get every step perfect.

[Once] at a sleepover, we played Truth or Dare, and someone dared Justin to kiss me. A Janet Jackson song was playing in the background as he leaned in and kissed me.


When the show ended a year and a half later … I decided to go back to Kentwood. Already within me was a push-pull: part of me wanted to keep building toward the dream; the other part wanted me to live a normal life in Louisiana. For a minute, I had to let normalcy win.

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.

For fun, starting when I was in eighth grade, my mom and I would make the two-hour drive from Kentwood to Biloxi, Mississippi, and while we were there, we would drink daiquiris. We called our cocktails “toddies.” 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.


There was something so beautifully normal about that period of my life: going to homecoming and prom, driving around our little town, going to the movies.

But, the truth was, I missed performing. My mom had been in touch with a lawyer she’d met on my audition circuit, a man named Larry Rudolph, who she would call sometimes for business advice. He suggested I record a demo. He had a song that Toni Braxton had recorded for her second album that had ended up on the cutting room floor. This would become the demo that I would use to get in the door at record labels.

Larry took me around [New York City], and I went into rooms full of executives and sang Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing.” Gazing out at the rooms full of men in suits looking me up and down in my small dress and high heels, I sang loud.

I ended up getting a record deal with Jive Records at the age of fifteen.

The label wanted me in a studio immediately.

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!”


Following the success of her first two record-smashing albums …Baby One More Time (1999) and Oops!...I Did It Again (2000), Spears hit the stage at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards to promote her third album, Britney.

The plan was for me to sing “I’m a Slave 4 U,” and we decided I would use a snake as a prop. It’s become an iconic moment in VMAs history, but it was even more terrifying than it appeared.

All I knew was to look down, because I felt if I looked up and caught its eye, it would kill me.

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 f---ing serious right now? The f---ing goddamn snake’s tongue is flicking out at me. Right. Now. Finally, I got to the part where I handed it back, thank God.


While recording her album Britney in 2001, Spears also filmed her first movie, 2002’s Crossroads, a coming-of-age tale about teens on a road trip, with Zoe Saldaña and Taryn Manning.

The experience wasn’t easy for me. My problem wasn’t with anyone involved in the production but with what acting did to my mind. I think I started Method acting—only I didn’t know how to break out of my character. I really became this other person. 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. I was someone else for months while I filmed Crossroads. Still to this day, I bet the girls I shot that movie with think, She’s a little…quirky. If they thought that, they were right.

That was pretty much the beginning and end of my acting career, and I was relieved. The Notebook casting came down to me and Rachel McAdams, and 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.

I imagine there are people in the acting field who have dealt with something like that, where they had trouble separating themselves from a character.

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.


By 2008, Spears — who had welcomed two sons with her second husband, Kevin Federline — had become a constant paparazzi target and a tabloid fixture. After being placed under psychiatric holds that February, she was put in a court-ordered conservatorship, granting her father and a lawyer control over Spears’ financial and personal affairs for the next 13 years. In that time, she recorded and released four successful albums and headlined her Piece of Me Las Vegas residency that grossed $138 million during its four-year run. But behind the scenes, she says she was unhappy.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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Feeling like you’re never good enough is 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.

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.

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.

Thirteen years went by with me feeling like a shadow of myself. I think back now on my father and his associates having control over my body and my money for that long and 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 thing was: I accomplished a lot during that time when I was supposedly incapable of taking care of myself.

I sometimes thought that it was almost funny how I won those awards for the album I made while I was supposedly so incapacitated that I had to be controlled by my family.

The truth was, though, when I stopped to think about it for very long, it wasn’t funny at all.

This is what’s hard to explain, how quickly I could vacillate between being a little girl and being a teenager and being a woman, because of the way they had robbed me of my freedom. There was no way to behave like an adult, since they wouldn’t treat me like an adult, so I would regress and act like a little girl; but then my adult self would step back in — only my world didn’t allow me to be an adult.

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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. I felt like I was being deprived of those good secrets of life — those fundamental supposed sins of indulgence and adventure that make us human. They wanted to take away that specialness and keep everything as rote as possible. It was death to my creativity as an artist.

On June 23, 2021, Spears testified in open court, pleading with the judge to end the conservatorship. Her father was suspended as her conservator in September, and two months later, Spears’ conservatorship was terminated.

It took a long time and a lot of work for me to feel ready to tell my story. I hope it inspires people on some level and can touch hearts. Since I’ve been free, 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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From The Woman in Me by Britney Spears. Copyright © 2023 by Britney Jean Spears. Reprinted by permission of Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster Inc.


The Woman in Me is available for pre-order ahead of its release on Oct. 24.

For more of the exclusive excerpt and interview with Britney Spears, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday.