It seems Britney Spears’ reason for shaving her head and her subsequent punishment for doing so boils down to one thing: control.
On Tuesday, People published an excerpt from the pop icon’s upcoming memoir The Woman in Me, in which Spears recounts her reasons for her very public breakdown in 2007 and how her attempt to reclaim autonomy completely backfired.
In 2007, Spears was going through a very public divorce from ex-husband Kevin Federline, and was experiencing relentless harassment from the paparazzi. During this time, she was famously photographed shaving her head, and many assumed her decision to do so was a response to the paparazzi’s behavior.
Spears explains in her memoir that her decision to buzz off her locks was much more complicated — and it was a response to a much larger issue.
“I’d been eyeballed so much growing up. I’d been looked up and down, had people telling me what they thought of my body, since I was a teenager,” Spears wrote.
“Shaving my head and acting out were my ways of pushing back.”
Her act of rebellion was met with even more restraint, however, and in 2008 she was placed under a court-ordered conservatorship. The conservatorship granted her father and a lawyer control over Spears’ finances, personal life and, ultimately, her overtly sexualized public image.
“Under the conservatorship I was made to understand that those days were now over,” she wrote. “I had to grow my hair out and get back into shape. I had to go to bed early and take whatever medication they told me to take.”
Spears went on to explain that during her nearly 14-year conservatorship, she was unable to explore her own identity and was forced to peddle an image thrust upon her as a teenager. It all made her incredibly unhappy — despite releasing four successful albums and having a Las Vegas residency.
“I would do little bits of creative stuff here and there, but my heart wasn’t in it anymore. As far as my passion for singing and dancing, it was almost a joke at that point,” she wrote. “Thirteen years went by with me feeling like a shadow of myself.”
“I think back now on my father and his associates having control over my body and my money for that long and it makes me feel sick … Think of how many male artists gambled all their money away; how many had substance abuse or mental health issues,” she continued. “No one tried to take away their control over their bodies and money. I didn’t deserve what my family did to me.”
In November 2021, a California judge dissolved Spears’ conservatorship, but not before Spears made some very alarming allegations during the trial. In June 2021, Spears had stunned the public with a series of revelations about the terms of her conservatorship.
The Woman in Me is out October 24.