Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

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Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

Everyone who has a sibling knows how potent a feud can be. We don’t choose our siblings, yet there they are, usually similar to us in age, and with a near-identical upbringing.

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The ground for jealousy and rifts is nutrient-rich. From Mary and Elizabeth Tudor to the Gallagher brothers, there’s something raw and primal about a sibling rivalry.

And the media (as evidenced, in part, by this very article) can’t get enough of it. It’s a fun narrative for the tabloids, and one to which many of us can relate personally. Perhaps if we inhale enough content about a celebrity sibling rivalry, we’ll feel better about our own family dramas.

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If it’s interpersonal drama you’re looking for, the Spears family has a lot to go around. Many people cheered back in November, when Britney Spears was released from the conservatorship through which her father, Jamie, had controlled her life for 13 years.

Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

Britney Spears in the television documentary Shooting Britney. Photo / Supplied, File

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Two months later, however, Britney is under public attack from her younger sister, 30-year-old Jamie Lynn.

In an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on January 14, the latter – while promoting her new memoir – claims to have always supported her sister. Jamie Lynn says that she even tried to help Britney break free from the conservatorship.

And yet she stands by words used in her new book, Things I Should Have Said, about Britney’s state of mind when the conservatorship came into force. Jamie Lynn – echoing years of cruel speculation – refers to her sister as “erratic”, “paranoid” and “spiralling”.

In recent days, on the Spotify podcast Call Her Daddy, Jamie Lynn has discussed an alleged incident from 2004, in which Britney (supposedly in a paranoid outburst) grabbed a kitchen knife and locked the two of them in Jamie Lynn’s bedroom, and has read out alleged text exchanges between her and her sister.

— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) January 15, 2022

Jamie Lynn Spears, of course, is not the first person to dish on a more famous sibling in a tell-all memoir. In 2008, Madonna’s brother, Christopher Ciccone, published the (creatively titled) Life With My Sister Madonna.

Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

Life With My Sister Madonna by Christopher Ciccone. Photo / Supplied, File

Ciccone and his sister had already ceased communication before the book’s release, so he didn’t have much to lose by opening up about how poorly he claims Madonna treated him, back when he was working as her backstage dresser and show designer.

But it’s the seeming apologism for Britney’s conservatorship by Jamie Lynn that makes her memoir particularly controversial.

In most families, these sorts of accusations of mental instability might lead to an argument, a period of silence between the feuding siblings, and then a very awkward Christmas.

In the Spears family – one that has lived in the public eye for decades – it results in legal action. Following the ABC interview, Britney’s lawyer issued Jamie Lynn with a cease-and-desist letter. Included are charges that Jamie Lynn is essentially trying to profit, via “misleading or outrageous claims” in her book, from the media attention placed on the post-conservatorship Britney.

Jamie Lynn is 10 years younger than Britney. In 1999, when the former was only seven, she saw her sister become one of the biggest stars in America, after the wild success of …Baby One More Time.

Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

Jamie Lynn Spears at a celebrity softball game in 2016. Photo / Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Aged 11, Jamie Lynn got her own taste of fame when given a role in Crossroads, the 2002 film in which Britney played the lead. Fittingly, Jamie Lynn played the younger version of Britney’s character.

By 2005, Jamie Lynn was starring in her own show on Nickelodeon, Zoey 101; in the same year, Britney won her first Grammy, for her single Toxic.

It was around this time that, according to an Instagram post by Britney on January 19, the sisters’ relationship began to sour. “Jamie Lynn is 12, she indulges with the TV for hours then goes to lay out on a raft at the pool… I’m in shock because this was never my life!”, wrote Britney to 39 million followers.

In the post, she calls her sister a “spoiled little brat”, accusing her of freezing her out and mistreating their mother Lynne. (Jamie Lynn’s lawyer has since responded, saying his client denies the allegations, which he calls “vile statements”.)

She relates how easy things were for Jamie Lynn, who was living with Lynne in a house bought for them by Britney, something for which – according to the Instagram post – Jamie Lynn was ungrateful.

Britney refers to the knife incident in the post, addressing Jamie Lynn directly, writing that it’s “ironically, the only lie you’ve ever told in your life”.

— Britney Spears (@britneyspears) January 14, 2022

In spite of their financial stability (thanks to Britney’s success), both sisters had a messy home life. Backing up Britney’s claims that their father is an alcoholic, Jamie Lynn opens up about her relationship with him in the book.

The hardest part, she says in the ABC interview, was the lack of trust she had in him. Within this unstable setting, Britney was “another mama” to Jamie Lynn – but, the latter claims, this changed as Britney became more famous. Even so, Jamie Lynn claims to have remained her sister’s “biggest supporter”.

Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

A publicity shot released for Britney's spill-all interview with Diane Sawyer in Britney Speaks in 2003. Photo / Supplied, File

Jamie Lynn’s public statements about her sister’s conservatorship, however, have always been cagey. When the “Free Britney” movement kicked off in 2019, she objected to being lumped in with the rest of the Spears family – who, we learned, had put Britney in a mental-health facility – writing: “Ten years ago, who was there? I have been here long before anyone else and I’ll be here long after.”

Yet in February 2021, shortly after the Framing Britney Spears documentary aired, Jamie Lynn denied having attended a virtual Free Britney rally.

Since the conservatorship ended last year, Britney hasn’t given an interview. She’s famously cautious about doing so, which is understandable for someone who’s been under sustained attack from the press for most of her life.

And many feel that, given that Britney hasn’t felt able to publicly tell her side of the story, her sister has (seeing dollar signs) jumped in to fill that void. Any proximity to the star is highly lucrative. (Britney’s lawyer has alleged in a court filing that, throughout the conservatorship, Jamie Spears and his legal team took over $36 million from Britney’s estate.)

According to The Sun, an interview with Oprah is now “in the works” for Britney. If it goes ahead, it will surely give the Harry and Meghan interview a run for its money.

So far, the feud between the Spears sisters has consisted entirely of Jamie Lynn’s interviews followed by Britney’s social-media rebuttals. An actual interview would be what the Britney-obsessed portion of the world has been waiting for, for years.

Meanwhile, in a gesture supposed to address accusations of money-making, Jamie Lynn has cancelled her book tour. This comes after the cease-and-desist letter, in which lawyer Mathew Rosengart wrote that, if Jamie Lynn continued to talk about his client “derogatorily” while promoting her book, Britney would sue.

“Although Britney has not read and does not intend to read your book,” he wrote, “she and millions of her fans were shocked to see how you have exploited her for monetary gain.”

It can’t be easy growing up in a sibling’s shadow. Jamie Lynn has her own career as an actress and singer, and is surely aware that this may not have happened had it not been for her older sister producing hit after hit.

Britney versus Jamie Lynn: The toxic saga of the Spears sisters

A reflective Britney Spears in TV documentary For the Record in 2008. Photo / Supplied, File

In the ABC interview, she discusses Britney’s upset at seeing her perform a tribute to Britney’s music at the Radio Disney Music Awards in 2017. “Truthfully, I don’t know why that bothers her,” says Jamie Lynn.

Britney responded on Twitter, explaining that it was difficult to watch her sister perform a Britney medley when “she never had to work for anything. Everything was always given to her!” Britney fans were thrilled for the singer when she was freed from her conservatorship.

But now, with this onslaught of family drama, it’s harder to believe she’s fully out of the woods.

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