Britney Spears‘ memoir The Woman in Me has finally arrived, and the Princess of Pop did not waste her chance to tell her side of the story. Spears opens up about her highly publicized relationship with boy bander Justin Timberlake and elaborates on all the ways their time together has been misconstrued. She shares her thoughts on how being in the public eye shaped the woman she has become — for better and for worse — and how she has come to terms with the privileges and consequences of that fame in her current life.
Spears begins her story with heartbreaking detail about her sincere connection with the women in her family, and how their trauma has uncannily resurfaced in her own life. From a grandmother who lost a child and later found herself institutionalized, to how her own mother coped with her father’s heavy drinking. The pop star also details how, much like her grandmother, she felt silenced by her family as they controlled her through a conservatorship, and her disturbing belief that her own kin was on a mission to “kill” her.
In a quick, 275-page read, Spears finally has the chance to tell her own narrative, to get her voice back after years of tabloid stories and a 13-year conservatorship that stripped away her autonomy. The Woman in Me is worth reading in full to understand the true depths of Spears’ experience through her own lens — or a few hours’ listen when actress Michelle Williams narrates the audiobook.
There are gossipy stories in Spears’ memoir that will certainly make readers gasp — though she has said that the memoir’s “purpose was not to offend anyone” — but there are also a lot of vulnerable and heartbreaking moments that could not have been easy to share. For a fraction of the story that one of the biggest cultural icons of a generation chose to share, Billboard has rounded up 11 of the biggest revelations from Spears’ book.
She Had an Abortion While Dating Justin Timberlake
Spears writes about the heartbreaking time when she and Timberlake became pregnant during their relationship. While she was expecting to have a family with him one day, she alleges that he was not ready, and they decided to get an abortion.
“Abortion was something I never could have imagined, choosing for myself, but given the circumstances, that is what we did,” writes Spears.
The two decided to handle the abortion at home in the bathroom, and Spears took “little pills” to end the pregnancy. The pain, she writes, was “unbelievable” and says it was “one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced.”
Spears recalls that while she was lying on the floor in the bathroom, Timberlake came to join her and, thinking music would help, started strumming his guitar while she cried.
“After that, I was messed up for a while, especially because I still love Justin so much. It was insane how much I loved him, and for me, it was unfortunate.”
Her Paternal Grandmother Was Also Institutionalized
Spears writes that her paternal grandmother, Jean (whom the star gets her middle name from), was sent to an asylum by her husband, June. While at the asylum, Jean was put on the psychiatric medication lithium, which Spears would later be put on in while in a mental health treatment facility.
According to the pop star, Jean had lost a child when he was only three days old and was wracked with grief. After her stay at the mental health treatment center, and more than eight years after the death of her young son, Jean, at the age of 31, returned to the little boy’s grave and fatally shot herself.
June, Britney writes, would later send his second wife to the same asylum.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal ideation, reach out to the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or visiting the website for free and confidential support 24/7.
Britney Started Drinking With Her Mom at Age 14
Spears writes that starting in the eighth grade, she would take trips with her mother, Lynne Spears, to Biloxi, Miss., to drink daiquiris.
“I loved that I was able to drink with my mom every now and then,” writes Spears, who adds that she and her mother were happy drinkers, while her father “grew more depressed and shut down” when he drank.
The two would take Britney’s younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, to the beach and drink white Russians, which Britney writes she thought tasted like ice cream.
She Claims Timberlake Cheated on Her
Spears writes that she “knew” Timberlake was unfaithful to her. She mentions an alleged incident in 2000 when photographers snapped Timberlake in car with a member of All Saints. There was allegedly another time with a different woman whom Spears chooses not to reveal because she is currently “very popular and has kids now.” Writes Spears, “I don’t want her to feel bad.”
The pop star explains that she stayed with Timberlake through the alleged cheating because she was so infatuated and so in love.
Spears also admits to stepping out on the boy bander, explaining that one night in Las Vegas, she made out with choreographer Wade Robson.
She Started Having Sex at 14
Spears writes that she liked that Timberlake talked publicly about their sex life. She explains that while her management and the press wanted to depict her as an “eternal virgin,” she had been living with Timberlake and had been having sex since she was 14 years old. She asks in her memoir, “Whose business was it if I’d had sex or not?”
“I’d appreciated it when Oprah told me on her show that my sexuality was no one else’s business,” Spears writes. “And when it came to virginity, ‘You don’t need a world announcement if you change your mind.’”
She Was Hurt by Justin Timberlake & Christina Aguilera’s ‘Rolling Stone’ Cover
After her breakup with Timberlake, Spears felt the media was extremely unkind to her, while they showered her ex with praise.
“Justin was on the cover of Rolling Stone half naked. Christina was on the cover of Blender, dressed like a madam from the Old West,” Spears writes. “They were together on the cover of Rolling Stone, him in a black tank top, looking at her with sexy eyes, her looking out at the camera, wearing a lace-up black shirt. In that story, she said she thought Justin and I should get back together, which was just confusing, given how negative she’d been elsewhere.”
Spears explains that seeing people she knew so intimately talk about her in the press “stung.” “Even if they weren’t trying to be cruel, it felt like they were just pouring salt in the wound,” she writes. “Why was it so easy for everyone to forget that I was a human being — vulnerable enough that these headlines could leave a bruise?”
Adderall Was Her ‘Drug of Choice’
While Spears mentions throughout the book that she has used Vicodin for a knee injury and Prozac for mental health reasons, she says her only real “drug of choice” was Adderall. She says while the drug used commonly to treat symptoms of ADHD got her high, “what I found far more appealing was that it gave me a few hours of feeling less depressed. It was the only thing that worked for me as an antidepressant, and I really felt like I needed one of those.”
She goes on to explain that she watched other people doing hard drugs, but they weren’t for her. To this day, she prefers to drink beer, and expensive wine burns her throat. She says she only tried marijuana once, and it made her feel slow and dumb, so she hates it.
If you or anyone you know is battling substance abuse issues, reach out to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for free, confidential information and treatment referrals. The service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.
She Thought Her Family Was Trying to Kill Her
Several times throughout her memoir, Spears explains that she felt her family was trying to kill her. After her separation from second husband Kevin Federline and the birth of her two sons, the singer was placed in a conservatorship that would last for 13 years. She felt forced to go along with the arrangement that controlled both her money and her body because she was desperate to be with her kids.
She writes that while she tried to fight back at times, “And here’s the sad, honest truth: After everything I had been through, I didn’t have a lot of fight left in me. I was tired, and I was scared, too. After being held down on a gurney, I knew they could restrain my body anytime they wanted to. They could’ve tried to kill me, I thought. I started to wonder if they did want to kill me.”
After she returned home from a rehab facility that she did not want to attend — where she details months of isolation from anyone but staff — she says she returned home and her family came to visit her as if nothing had happened.
“I was a shell of myself,” she writes. “I was still on lithium, which made my sense of time really hazy. And I was scared. It crossed my mind that they were only visiting to finish off what they started a few months earlier, to kill me for real. If that sounds paranoid, consider all the things I’ve been through up until this point — the ways in which they had deceived and institutionalized me.”
Jamie Lynn Pitched Her on a Sister Talk Show
After getting out of a treatment center, Spears writes that she was visited by her father, sister and mother at her home in Los Angeles, where she says they acted as if nothing traumatic had occurred in the preceding months. The pop star writes that her sister Jamie Lynn was out taking meetings in Hollywood and would come back and enthusiastically tell Britney about her days. Spears says Jamie Lynn pitched the two of them doing a sister talk show together, or a sitcom or a romantic comedy.
“She talked for what felt like hours at a time while I looked at the floor and listened,” Spears writes. “And the phrase echoing around my head was What the f–k is going on?”
Her Fling With Colin Farrell Was a ‘Brawl’
Following her relationship with Timberlake, Spears decided to try her hand at dating and pursued actor Colin Farrell. Spears writes that without notice, she drove to the set of his film S.W.A.T., and their fling started from there.
“We wound up having a two-week brawl,” Spears writes. “Brawl is the only word for it — we were all over each other, grappling so passionately it was like we were in a street fight.”
The two would go on to attend the film premiere of The Recruit together, and Spears was introduced to Farrell’s family who was in attendance. For a brief moment of time, Spears explains, she thought there could be something with Farrell, but the relationship ended shortly afterward.
She Was Almost Cast in ‘The Notebook’ & ‘Chicago’
Spears made her acting debut in the Shonda Rhimes-penned film Crossroads, where she writes she thinks she “started Method acting – only I didn’t know how to break out of my character.” Spears explains that she “became” her character, Lucy, and couldn’t break out of it until after filming was over.
After feeling so overwhelmed by the acting process, Spears writes that she decided it was best to turn down future roles including ones in Chicago and The Notebook.
“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,” she writes. “If I had, instead of working on my album In the Zone, I’d have been acting like a 1940s heiress day and night.”
She adds that she was also asked by the producers of the movie musical Chicago if she would join the cast, and felt tempted by the offer. She turned it down — along with three or four other movie offers at the time — because she didn’t want to be distracted from her music.
“When it came to Chicago, I should’ve done it,” she writes. “Chicago would have been fun. It’s all dance pieces — my favorite kind: prissy, girly follies, Pussycat Doll-like, serve-off-your-corset moves. I wish I’d taken that offer. I would have gotten to play a villain who kills a man, and sings and dances while doing it, too.”