A difficult yet inspiring read for fans of the Princess of Pop.
Feature image credit: Simon & Schuster
Britney Spears is no stranger to making headlines. Having been one of the world’s most popular performers since she was a teenager in the late ‘90s, the “… Baby One More Time” singer drew global attention in July of 2021 when she shared a testimony in court that led to the end of a disturbing conservatorship (essentially the adult version of guardianship) which stripped her of her freedom. After going through a painful divorce and dealing with overwhelming grief at not being allowed to see her two children, Spears, who had once been the envy of millions of teenage girls, was deemed incapable of controlling her own life. Her father was given the legal right to control her personal and financial affairs while she was under state-mandated orders to submit to unwanted medical appointments. But while she was treated as too sick to make her own decisions, those in control decided she was more than healthy enough perform in a gruelling and repetitive Vegas residency that brought millions into her estate.
In her memoir, The Woman in Me — which pop music fans have been waiting for with baited breath — Spears gives details about what her life was really like during her conservatorship, as well as the events that led her to that place. She begins with her childhood in Louisiana, where she was living under the same roof as her alcoholic father, and chronicles her meteoric rise to fame after first meeting fellow future celebrities, including Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling, while performing as a Mouseketeer.
This is a one-sitting type of read, as in you probably won’t be able to put it down until you finish it. As Spears relays her many painful experiences (and a few joyous ones), it’s difficult to turn away. Especially if you’re a fan of Britney Spears, but even if you’re not, there are revelations within that are truly heartbreaking. At a human level, it’s difficult to read the sections where Spears discusses her relationship with Justin Timberlake and the way it ended, her divorce from Kevin Federline, and her treatment during her conservatorship. The paparazzi’s harassment of Spears during her lowest moments, as though she were an object to be laughed at rather than a human being with feelings, is also disgusting to read. The book draws a lot of emotion, including fury along with the sadness. You’ll feel enraged as you discover how cruel the media was to Spears in the early 2000s, and you’ll develop a newfound empathy for Cara Cunningham, who pleaded with the world to “Leave Britney Alone!” in a viral video posted online in 2007.
While there’s a lot of brutal and upsetting content, Spears’ sense of humour does come through, even when she’s talking about some of the hardest moments of her life. It reads like a series of journal entries that move mostly in chronological order, with some life events glossed over and others retold in detail. Spears did use a ghostwriter during the writing process — author and journalist Sam Lansky, per Distractify — but you can clearly still hear Spears’ voice in the writing. If you’ve listened to the “Sometimes” singer speak in interviews or documentaries, there are lots of similarities. From a literary perspective, the writing isn’t perfect, particularly in regards to the abrupt chapter endings, but those little flaws make the overall project seem more authentic. The tone is conversational and raw but also poignant.
If you’re a fan, or would like to be inspired by a woman who survived a truly appalling situation, The Woman in Me is a must read. It confirms, in case anyone was wondering, that Britney Spears isn’t a pop princess; she’s a warrior.
Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
The views expressed in this review belong to the author and not Glam Adelaide, its affiliates, or employees.
Distributed by: Simon & Schuster
Released: October 2023