Few stars have fans as wildly devoted as those who support Britney Spears. In recent months, as the pop star’s attorney has more aggressively fought aspects of the personal and financial conservatorship Britney has been under for the last 12 years, the #FreeBritney movement has exploded. It has one goal: to advocate for the end of the conservatorship and aid Britney in her fight to get her life back after decades of drama.

Interest in how she got to where she is today has intensified lately, thanks to the February 5 release of The New York Times Presents: Framing Britney Spears. The documentary explored shocking new details about the 39-year-old singer’s rise to fame, her devastating 2008 mental breakdown (and how it may have been linked to postpartum depression), plus efforts to challenge her father Jamie Spears’ control as conservator. 

“Britney was overwhelmed after seeing the support it’s inspired,” an insider exclusively tells In Touch. “She’s glad that people have stopped mocking her and are taking what she’s been subjected to seriously.” And that, adds the insider, included the intense aftermath of her split from Justin Timberlake, 40. “The documentary really frames what happened with Justin in a whole new light,” said the insider, “and now some fans are blaming Britney’s downfall on Justin’s behavior nearly 20 years ago.”

Young Love

They seemed like the perfect couple. First, they were infatuated with each other as child co-stars on The All New Mickey Mouse Club. A few years later, they reunited as teenage pop stars. “Britney was young, naive and heavily influenced by her team when she and Justin dated” between 1998 and 2002, explained the insider. “Managers, agents and publicists saw dollar signs — they knew that being a young Hollywood power couple would benefit their brands.”

Britney and ’NSync standout Justin thought they were in love. “But they could never really be a normal couple,” the insider said, “because of all the pressure. There was a huge clash of egos and jealous fights became a regular occurrence. Justin had trust issues.”

Breaking Down Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s Relationship Before Abortion Revelation
Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images

Reg Jones, who says he was a 14-year-old Britney’s first real boyfriend, claimed she and Justin were both “living a lie.” While JT once unchivalrously admitted in an interview that he and the singer (who’d publicly claimed she wanted to save herself for marriage) had had sex, Reg alleged to Life & Style that he was her “first” sexual partner: “Her people made her lie about it. When she started touring with ’NSync, they pushed me away …. Her relationship with Justin was for publicity [at first]. But he ended up taking my girlfriend.”

The Spiral Begins

It all imploded in 2002. Justin played the victim, implying Britney had cheated on him — and he shamed her by having a look-alike actress stray on him in his “Cry Me a River” music video. “He took control of the narrative,” former MTV VJ Dave Holmes said in the Britney documentary. Added NYT critic-at-large Wesley Morris: “The way that people treated her, to be very high school about it, was like, she was the school slut and he was like, the school quarterback and he essentially weaponizes the video for one of his singles to incriminate her in the demise of the relationship.” Britney was deeply hurt as her girl-next-door image was blown up. “His bitterness got the better of him with his interviews and this revenge song,” said the insider. “Brit was heartbroken that Justin, whom she once loved and still did to some extent, was portraying her as this terrible woman.” It wasn’t the whole truth. “Justin was no angel,” explained the insider. “He had a wandering eye but conveniently forgot to include that part! Talk about double standards. It destroyed her.”

Indeed, life would never be the same again. “She started partying to numb the pain, mixing with the wrong people because she was so lost and lonely,” said the insider. “After the hell Justin put her through, Britney just dreamed of having a normal life — a family and kids.” So in 2004, she married backup dancer Kevin Federline, 42, after a few months of dating and in less than two years, they’d welcomed two sons, Sean, 15, and Jayden, 14. But she filed for divorce in 2006 and then spiraled. “They fought over custody. She wanted to see them. He wouldn’t let her. And that’s when she really hit rock bottom,” alleged the insider. In 2007, Britney famously shaved her head and attacked a photographer’s truck with an umbrella. By 2008, things were so dire that she’d lost physical custody of her boys and twice been committed to involuntarily psych holds, leading to the conservatorship that put her dad in charge of her money and her destiny.

Hope For the Future

Now she’s trying to move on from the men who’ve defined her past. In November 2020, her attorney told the judge in her conservatorship case that she’s said she “will not perform as long as her father is in charge of her career.” And, according to the insider, “Britney has forgiven Justin.” She was in love with trainer and fitness model Sam Asghari, 26, for four years, and by all accounts, he had her back. “I … will continue to support her following her dreams and creating the future she wants and deserves,” Sam said on February 8, adding that he was “looking forward to a normal, amazing future together.” That’s all Britney wanted, too. “I’ll always love being onstage,” she wrote on Instagram on February 9, “but I am taking the time to learn and be a normal person.

Now, Britney is a single woman again. A source exclusively told In Touch on August 16 that a “divorce” was “in the works” for her and Sam after they split in July. That same day, he filed for divorce at the Superior Court of California in Los Angeles County, citing “irreconcilable differences,” according to court documents obtained by In Touch.

Have a tip? Send it to us! Email In Touch at contact@intouchweekly.com.