The rocky relationship between Britney Spears and her younger sister, Jamie Lynn Spears, has long been documented in the press. In January 2022, Britney sent Jamie Lynn a cease and desist letter, asking that she stop speaking about her “derogatorily” during the promotional campaign for Jamie Lynn’s memoir, Things I Should Have Said. Around the same time, the younger Spears sibling sat down with Alex Cooper on the Call Her Daddy podcast and attempted to defend herself, saying she tried to help her sister escape the controversial conservatorship that controlled almost every facet of Britney’s life, from her finances to her personal life. But Britney was not happy with her sister’s book, and in a lengthy, since-deleted Instagram post, wrote, “I wish you would take a lie detector test so all these masses of people see you’re lying through your teeth about me … You are scum, Jamie Lynn.”
By December, Britney seemed to indicate their relationship was on the mend. She posted a tribute on Instagram to her younger sister, writing, “It’s my b-day, but you’re my heart, so I’m thinking about you” and congratulated her on being “so brave,” likely referring to Jamie Lynn’s appearance on the reality TV series Special Forces: The Ultimate Test.
In her new memoir, The Woman in Me, a copy of which was obtained by TIME ahead of its Oct. 24 release, Britney reflects at length on her relationship with Jamie Lynn, writing candidly about how their childhood informed their relationship and where it stands today. (A representative of Jamie Lynn Spears did not respond to TIME’s request for comment.)
Growing up protecting her adored younger sister
Growing up, Britney writes, Jamie Lynn “ruled the roost.” She recalls how her little sister, 10 years her junior, was served milkshakes and got preferential treatment. “It felt like I was a ghost child. I can remember walking into the room and feeling like no one even saw me,” she writes. “Jamie Lynn only saw the TV. My mother, who at one time had been the person I was closest to in the world, was on another planet.”
The pop star writes that she was surprised by how Jamie Lynn spoke to their mother. “I’d listen to her spew these hateful words, and I’d turn to my mother and say, ‘Are you going to let this little witch talk to you like that?’ I mean, she was bad.”
Even though they had their differences, Britney describes being very protective of her younger sister, revisiting an incident that took place on the set of Zoey 101. “After she complained to me about a co-star of hers on her TV show, I showed up on the set to have words with the actress,” she writes. “What I must have looked like, hugely pregnant, yelling at a teenage (and, I would later learn, innocent) girl, ‘Are you spreading rumors about my sister?’ (To that young actress, I’m sorry).”
The co-star in question was Alexa Nikolas, who spoke about the experience on Christy Carlson Romano’s podcast, Vulnerable, in 2022. According to Nikolas, Nickelodeon staffers told her that she was going to get her hair and makeup done, but that she was actually brought to Britney, who yelled at her. Nikolas said she didn’t feel safe or protected, calling the whole event traumatizing. She added that Britney apologized to her, and then Spears publicly apologized in a lengthy post to X (formerly Twitter).
Britney writes that when Jamie Lynn was pregnant at 16, nobody from her family told her. She says she found out through “an exclusive in the tabloids.”
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Turning to Jamie Lynn for help
Britney writes that after being placed in a mental health facility in 2018, she begged her father, who was largely in control of her conservatorship, to let her go home and texted her sister for help. Britney alleges that Jamie Lynn responded, “Stop fighting it… There’s nothing you can do about it, so stop fighting it.”
In a harrowing passage in The Woman in Me, Britney reveals that she feared for her life, writing, “This will sound crazy, but I’ll say it again because it’s the truth: I thought they were going to try to kill me. I didn’t understand how Jamie Lynn and our father had developed such a good relationship. She knew I was reaching out to her for help and that she was dogging me. I felt like she should have taken my side.”
She writes that when her family visited her in the facility, she was given lithium and became “a shell” of herself. “It crossed my mind that they were only visiting to finish off what they’d started a few months earlier, to kill me for real. If that sounds paranoid, consider all the things I’d been through up until this point—the ways in which they had deceived and institutionalized me.” She notes in The Woman in Me that she’s proud of herself for keeping it together and “playing their game,” but “it makes me want to cry, how strong my little heart had to be.”
The end of the conservatorship and Jamie Lynn’s tell-all book
Britney accuses Jamie Lynn of capitalizing on the conservatorship that controlled her life for 13 years. When the legal arrangement was suspended in November 2021, she writes, “I was left with so many emotions: shock, relief, elation, sadness, joy. I felt betrayed by my father, and sadly, by the rest of my family, too. My sister and I should have found comfort in each other, but unfortunately that hasn’t been the case.”
She continues, questioning Jamie Lynn’s motives when it came to her book: “As I was fighting the conservatorship and receiving a lot of press attention, she was writing a book capitalizing on it. She rushed out salacious stories about me, many of them hurtful and outrageous.”
Upset by how everything transpired, Britney writes in The Woman in Me that she now hopes for a different relationship with her sister. “She will always be my sister, and I love her and her beautiful family. I’m working to feel more compassion than anger toward her, and everyone who I feel has wronged me.” But, she adds, “It’s not that easy."
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Write to Moises Mendez II at firstname.lastname@example.org