celebrity

Inside Britney Spears' relationship with her dad, the one constant in her tumultuous career.

Britney Spears is struggling. As reported on Thursday, the singer has admitted herself to a mental health facility, where she will spend 30 days receiving treatment.

It’s a headline we’ve seen before. The 37-year-old’s issues with mental ill-health have played out publicly over the past decade or so; from substance abuse to crippling anxiety, and her post-divorce breakdown in 2008.

But this time, the tabloids are pointing to a different trigger: her father’s illness.

James ‘Jamie’ Spears underwent emergency surgery in November 2018 at Las Vagas’ Sunrise Hospital after a near-fatal colon rupture. The 66-year-old then suffered multiple complications, which kept him in hospital for close to a month.

Given his condition, few were surprised when Britney announced a hiatus from her Vegas residency in January so she could focus on his recovery: “We have a very special relationship and I want to be with my family at this time just like they have always been there for me,” she wrote via Instagram.

Though she’s said little about her admission this week (only an Instagram post about the need for “me time”), there’s persistent speculation she’s been left distressed by the ordeal. After all, there’s more to their father-daughter relationship than most.

 

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I don’t even know where to start with this, because this is so tough for me to say. I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make. A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand. More information on ticket refunds is available on britneyspears.com. I appreciate your prayers and support for my family during this time. Thank you, and love you all… always.

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The former building contractor has been a constant, stabilising force in Britney’s adult life. This was never more clear in January 2008 when Britney suffered a severe mental health crisis, as the world’s media watched on. The very public breakdown had followed stints in rehab for substance abuse and a now-infamous incident in which she shaved her head in full view of paparazzi.

It all unravelled on January 4, 2008, when Britney refused to relinquish her two sons, Sean and Jayden James, to her ex-husband Kevin Federline. Police intervened, and the singer was stretchered out of her home into the back of an ambulance, which was chased by a swarm of cameras. An emergency court hearing the following day suspended her custody rights, and she was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold – a court-ordered hospital admission.

As his daughter crumbled, Jamie, who had himself previously battled alcohol addiction, set about picking up the pieces. According to Page Six, he and Britney’s mother, Lynne, from whom he divorced in 1980, worked to create a stable environment for Britney, including filing for a restraining order against her sometimes manager, Sam Lutfi – a man they claimed was a negative influence.

Britney Spears’ father and conservator.

During her five-day hospital admission, judge also appointed Jamie Spears as Britney’s temporary conservator, alongside two lawyers, Andrew M. Wallet and Samuel D. Ingham III.

The arrangement, which gave the trio complete control of her assets, estate and business affairs, was later made permanent, with Ingham this time appointed as her advocate. According to TMZ, the move was a bid by her legal team to help appease her ex-husband and assist her (ultimately successful) efforts to re-gain partial custody of her boys.

In the wake of her breakdown, Britney told MTV documentary, Britney: For The Record, that the situation (green-lighted by her father) left her feeling trapped, stuck: “If I wasn’t under the restraints that I’m under right now, you know, with all the lawyers and doctors and people analysing me every day, all that kind of stuff — like if that wasn’t there, I’d feel so liberated, and feel like myself,” she said.

“I don’t feel like [life] is out of control — it’s too in control.”

But by all accounts it was precisely those conditions that allowed for Britney’s recovery, for her spectacular professional comeback – from two US number-one albums to a Grammy nomination, her stint as a judge on US X Factor and her hugely popular residency.

Even Kevin Federline has applauded Jamie’s influence: “I have to give Britney’s dad, Jamie, a lot of credit for saving her,” he previously told US Weekly.

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Jamie Spears and Wallet still command the singer’s fortune, which 2017 court documents revealed to sit at US$56,562,912.38 (today equivalent to roughly AU$79.5 million). ET reported at the time that Britney paid her father US$128,000 annually for his role as co-conservator.

According to Page Six, it was even he who had to sign of on her decision to step away from her ‘Domination’ residency, which has raked in over US$138 million since it began in 2013. Turning the tables, taking care of the man who took care of her.

As Jamie’s attorney, Leon Gladstone, told a court during the case against Sam Lutfi, “This is a story of a close family, but not a perfect one… It’s a story of a man who actually wanted nothing more for his daughter than to live and be well. It’s a story of a father who has had to step up and take action that he never thought he would have to take…actions that didn’t perhaps endear his daughter to him.

“To Jamie, this was a life and death battle.”

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