Britney's sister went on the show to promote her new book and delivered the banal PR event we all love to hate.
2021 was another shitty pandemic year during which a lot of things we’d like to forget transpired. But one silver lining was that it was the year of Britney Spears. After 13 years in an abusive conservatorship, aided by fans, several documentaries, a new legal team and general mass hysteria for the cause, Britney was dramatically and triumphantly freed from her father Jamie Spears’ maniacal control. With the massive media attention on every detail as the story unfolded over the year, and Britney’s often cryptic, but sometimes very candid Instagram persona, we all became re-invested in the life of our former reigning pop queen. And with that renewed support, anger for her family who participated in keeping her in a celebrity prison of sorts also percolated. Britney’s younger sister Jamie Lynn has written a memoir called Things I Should Have Said (out January 18), and has now given her first major interview since Britney was liberated on Good Morning America. Unfortunately, it was the exact kind of puffed pastry, PR-controlled interview you’d expect.
Jamie Lynn Spears is so far removed from the spotlight at this point that many may not even know who she even is. Since leaving Hollywood, Jamie Lynn has been dipping her toes in the waters of country music. She moved to Nashville in 2011, and has had middling success in that arena through releasing music that appeared on the Billboard country charts, landing some credits as a songwriter and appearing on the Grand Ole Opry in 2016 (where Britney showed up to surprise her with an introduction).
The height of her fame though was as a young Nickelodeon star on the show Zoey 101 from 2005 to 2008, following in the footsteps of her big sister as a child celebrity. But Jamie’s star always seemed a bit dull compared to her megastar sister — a bit of a Haley versus Hillary Duff situation, if you will. The feeling in the air always seemed to be one of nepotism and piggybacking off of Britney, taking whatever low brow crumbs came her way. It’s hard to be the sibling of a huge star while trying to fledge your way into entertainment, and it rarely works out for both. There are exceptions like Timothée and Pauline Chalamet, and Jonah Hill and Beanie Feldstein — but those success stories are not the rule.
As tabloids swirled about Britney’s mental health around 2008 — the same time the conservatorship began — Jamie Lynn courted her own controversy, announcing at age 16 that she was pregnant. Having been a child star up until that point, Jamie Lynn did face quite a bit of public scrutiny that she admits to GMA’s Juju Chang affected her mental health. She only just re-entered the acting world in 2020 by landing a role on Netflix’s show Sweet Magnolias, and it seems Jamie Lynn has been focusing on motherhood most of all. That topic is perhaps the most revealing and interesting part of the interview. Jamie Lynn cites her daughters, Maddie (13) and Ivey (3), as her impetus for writing her new book. “It was really important to me to, first off, honor my voice...I have to do it or how else can I expect my daughters to stand up for themselves?" It’s an angle perfectly primed by a press rep, because how can anyone refute Spears’ motherhood as her driving force?
Spears does reveal a harrowing story of almost losing her daughter in an ATV accident when she was only eight, but it’s what she says about what the family pushed her to do when pregnant with Maddie that’s the most telling of a broader story. She seems to admit that she was pressured to have an abortion so she could go back to being “the perfect little sister,” and that when she was adamant on keeping the baby she was sent away to a remote cabin, with no phones or television, to avoid paparazzi. She remembered thinking, “Maybe this is in my best interest, and maybe this is what I’m supposed to do...but it felt like I was being alienated.” It’s a much less significant, but still eerie parallel to what happened to her sister, and reveals a pattern of manipulative control that the Spears camp, led by father Jamie, seems to have exacted over both daughters.
But that’s the only moment really when Jamie Lynn garners much sympathy. Her vague explanations for her role in Britney’s conservatorship are likely to get her in hot water with the #FreeBritney crowd. Chang reveals that the words Spears uses to describe Britney in the book at the dawn of the conservatorship were “erratic,” “paranoid,” and “spiraling.” And while Jamie Lynn asserts, “I understand just as little about it then as I do now,” she also seems to have had her own involvement. She admits that at some point she was asked to be what sounds like a guardian for Britney’s boys, but eventually removed herself. She provides a vague non-answer about her own monetary gain stating, “There was no me overseeing funds, and if there was, it was a misunderstanding.” It was reported last summer though that Jamie Lynn had been using a Florida condo worth a million dollars paid for by Britney, which isn’t touched on in this interview.
Jamie Lynn ultimately makes sure to paint her role in a positive light, asserting, “I went out of my way to make sure [Britney] had the contacts she needed to possibly go ahead and end this conservatorship,” suggesting that it was Britney’s team of lawyers who rebuffed her. And while Jamie Lynn tearily professes her love for her sister, saying “I’ve only ever loved and supported and done what’s right by her, and she knows that, so I don’t know why we’re in this position,” Britney made her feelings known in her usual hinting way on Instagram posing a picture of a typewriter with the caption, “Shall I start from the BEGINNING???” It’s clear from the interview that Jamie Lynn desperately wants her reputation back, but lukewarm, finessed and careful press interviews aren’t likely to get her any traction — especially considering how beloved her sister is by adoring fans who went out of their way to help free her. Her book probably won’t change any minds that weren’t already made up; it’s just another celebrity memoir press cycle we must endure. The book we’re really waiting for is Britney’s.