Britney Spears was so desperate for her own line of communication to the outside world that she once obtained a cellphone from the younger sister of her former manager, who followed the singer into the steam room inside a gym locker room in order to hand over the device, according to a report from The New Yorker.
The report chronicles in new detail how the 39-year-old pop star came to be under a conservatorship, a legal arrangement that hands complete control of her finances and personal decisions to a third party, and how it has impacted her life. In Spears’ case, her father, James “Jamie” Spears, has served as co-conservator for more than a decade.
The locker room story is just one of several alarming new examples of alleged abuse that Britney Spears has suffered while trapped in the conservatorship. She spoke out angrily against the arrangement before a Los Angeles judge last month, demanding an end to it as soon as possible.
“Ma’am, my dad, and anyone involved in this conservatorship, and my management, who played a huge role in punishing me when I said no — Ma’am, they should be in jail,” Spears told Judge Brenda Penny on June 23.
The night before, the singer had called 911 to report herself as a victim of an abusive conservatorship, according to the report.
The legal arrangement was put in place in 2008 after public and private pressures on the singer led to a series of mental health crises. Spears, then a new mother of two, was reportedly threatened with zero visitation rights with her young children. While it was originally intended to be a temporary measure, according to reports, the conservatorship was made permanent within a year.
The singer’s efforts to push back against the constraints bestowed on her began immediately, according to The New Yorker. Spears was reportedly denied the opportunity to hire her own legal counsel, however, because the California legal system considered her incapable of consent. Spears’ choice of manager, Sam Lutfi, was immediately cut from her life and career, having earned the ire of Jamie Spears.
At a Beverly Hills hotel in January 2009, according to The New Yorker, Lutfi’s sister Christina successfully executed a covert operation to give Britney Spears a cellphone without her parents’ knowledge, so she could contact a lawyer.
“I got a prepaid cell phone and pretended I was a guest,” Christina Lutfi told the publication. “She and her mom were at the gym, and so I got on a bike next to her. I was dressed to go out that night, so I took my fedora off and hid it. A bodyguard was watching her while she worked out, and then she went to the locker room, and I followed her, and the bodyguard was standing outside. Then I saw her go to the steam room, and I threw a towel over my shoulder and followed her in. She almost screamed — it was steamy, and I’m not sure she was wearing anything, maybe a towel, and this stranger comes in wearing a fedora. But then I said I was Sam’s sister, and gave her the phone in a ziplock, and she thanked me and ran to put it in her locker.”
Spears’ plan was ultimately foiled when word got to her father that she had obtained a phone.
The report outlined several other occasions in which the multimillionaire pop star with nine studio albums under her belt would ask to borrow strangers’ cellphones in order to make calls without her father’s knowledge.
The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow and Jia Tolentino spoke with several people who used to work for Spears, including a former housekeeper, along with a former friend of the Spears family named Jacqueline Butcher, who volunteered some of the most damning details.