How Britney Spears used Instagram to reclaim her narrative: ‘Take me as I am or kiss my ass’
Britney Spears’ fight for freedom has inspired a rash of documentaries and damning exposes, but there’s one thing they’re all missing: her voice.
On 30 April, 2021, a black and white picture of a child holding up her middle finger was posted to Instagram.
“Hi my name is Britney Spears… nice to meet you,” read the caption. “One of my strongest gifts is that I’m pretty straight forward.”
In her early career, Britney Spears was an open book, gracing magazine covers, giving candid interviews and even starring in her own reality show, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.
But at some point she either fell silent, or was silenced. We now know that she’s been fighting against the conservatorship that governs her life, with the topic inspiring films from Netflix, the BBC and the New York Times.
None, to date, have been made with Britney’s co-operation. She hasn’t given an interview for years, and for the most part the only time she made herself known to fans was via Instagram.
Up until April, Spears generally avoided saying anything that could be construed as controversial on her Instagram account. Every now and again, she would log on and post a picture of herself holding a flower or a video of herself dancing – but that was pretty much it.
To an outsider, it looked like she was a grown woman who had decided to live her life on her own terms. She had given up performing and recording and had instead built what looked like a happy, idyllic life with her boyfriend (and now fiancé) Sam Asghari in California.
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That was, of course, far from the full picture – and the truth was increasingly being beamed into fans’ homes by a media desperate to be absolved of its past mistreatment of Spears.
Her post on 30 April represented something of a tonal shift for the singer – and just like that, Britney Spears had found her voice again.
Britney Spears shattered her perfectly curated image
On 3 May, Spears’ Instagram revolution officially began with a long, furious post that saw her hit out at the New York Times‘ documentary Framing Britney Spears.
The singer who had become known for posting pictures of flowers with mysterious captions was angry, it seemed – even if she was still trying to keep her rage in check.
In that post, Spears condemned the spate of documentaries about her life, saying they were full of “other people’s takes” on her life.
“These documentaries are so hypocritical… they criticise the media and then do the same thing??? Damn…” she wrote.
Just like that, the spell was broken and Spears introduced the world to a version of herself that was sick and tired of being controlled.
Just weeks later, she shared a quote that said: “Normalise starting over as many times as you need.”
“Kinda where I’m at at the moment,” she captioned the post. “Working on some amazing gourmet food in the kitchen… I just can’t get the sauce right.”
Spears’ Instagram account plodded along nicely for a few weeks. She opened up to fans about her love of yoga, touched on spirituality and her connection to the earth, but there was still a sense that she was holding something back.
Then, on 23 June, everything changed. That day, Britney Spears dialled into a court hearing about her conservatorship and spent more than 20 minutes reading angrily from a lengthy letter detailing her grievances with her conservatorship.
That explosive court appearance saw her claim that she was forced to perform in 2018 and that she was made to enter into a mental health facility against her will in 2019.
In one of the most shocking moments, the singer claimed her conservators had prevented her from removing a contraceptive device, from having children, and from marrying her long term boyfriend Sam Asghari.
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That court appearance sent shockwaves across the world, and appeared to confirm much of the suspicions of the Free Britney movement, a fan-led initiative that had been fighting for Spears to be freed from her conservatorship for years.
After that court appearance, Britney Spears became even more open and candid about her personal situation than ever before over on Instagram. In the months that have passed since, the social media platform has become her weapon of choice in condemning her family and her conservatorship.
Just one day after her court appearance, Spears shared what was her most honest and open post to date. She conceded that she had made it seem like her life was “pretty amazing”, but said the reality was very different.
“I’m bringing this to people’s attention because I don’t want people to think my life is perfect because IT’S DEFINITELY NOT AT ALL… and if you have read anything about me in the news this week… you obviously really know now it’s not!!!!”
She went on to apologise for pretending that she had been OK, saying she hid the truth because of feelings of pride and embarrassment.
“I feel like Instagram has helped me have a cool outlet to share my presence… existence… and to simply feel like I matter despite what I was going through and hey it worked…” she wrote.
Britney ‘isn’t even close’ to being done talking
Since then, Spears has remained open and honest about her situation on Instagram in a raw, unfiltered way. On 18 July, she hit out at people who had criticised her dancing videos by sharing a meme that read: “Take me as I am or kiss my ass, eat s**t and step on legos.”
“For those of you who choose to criticise my dancing videos… look I’m not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do or think,” she wrote.
“I’ve done that for the past 13 years… I’d much rather share videos YES from my living room instead of onstage in Vegas where some people were so far gone they couldn’t even shake my hand and I ended up getting a contact high from weed all the time…”
In that same post, Britney hit out at her sister Jamie Lynn Spears for performing her songs at an awards show and, crucially, she condemned her “so-called support system” for hurting her “deeply”.
“This conservatorship killed my dreams… so all I have is hope and hope is the only thing in this world that is very hard to kill… yet people still try!!!”
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Shortly afterwards, she told fans on Instagram that it’s easy to say “life goes on”, but the reality is different.
“In that moment that’s what felt was the easiest to say but I think we all know that I will never be able to let go and fully move on until I’ve said all I needed to say… and I’m not even close!!!!”
She added: “I was told to stay quiet about things for so long and I finally feel like I’m just getting here.” She closed out her post with a series of dove emojis.
Instagram means that she no longer needs the media to tell her story
In the weeks since that post, Spears has increasingly shared more and more of herself with fans. From topless selfies to posts about body image issues, the singer has clearly decided that being open and honest is more important than anything else.
Then in September, she shared some happy news with fans: she had gotten engaged to Asghari five years after they first met on the set of one of her music videos. On Wednesday (29 September), after a judge finally gave her what she has been desperately wishing for – the removal of her father from her conservatorship – she posted a video of herself flying a plane, with the caption: “On cloud nine right now”. The symbolism wasn’t lost on anybody.
Her fight for freedom may finally be coming to an end, it seems. A judge has set a November date to discuss the termination of her conservatorship, and it is her lawyer’s “hope and expectation” that the arrangement will be torn up.
In the meantime, yet more documentaries have come and gone, but Spears has never participated – nor has she done any sit-down interviews with the media.
Why? It’s no secret that Spears has been burned by the misogynistic media which hounded her, underestimated her, shamed her, and contributed in a tangible way to her struggles.
She has, however, watched parts of at least some of the documentaries about her. Referring to one of the latest , but not naming which, she wrote: “I must say I scratched my head a couple of times !!! I really try to disassociate myself from the drama.”
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That’s the beauty of social media for a woman who is among the most scrutinised people on the planet. On Instagram, Britney Spears answers only to herself – and the haters can kiss her ass.
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