Following the break-up with her boyfriend of the time, Justin Timberlake, and the release of her fourth album, Britney Spears was pressured by her father to sit down for a heartbreaking interview with journalist Diane Sawyer in 2003.
It came at a time when female celebrities were regularly bombarded with awkward, innapropriate and downright misogynistic questions and expected to answer them with grace; because if they didn’t, both the media and public would label them rude, ungrateful or difficult.
While times have changed in the two decades since Spears broken down in tears in front of the world, the release of her new memoir, The Woman in Me, has brought that fateful day back to the forefront of the star’s mind.
“It was completely humiliating,” Spears said in her new book, who was just 21 years old at the time when she was forced to answer questions about her sex life in a room full of strangers, at the hands of a respected journalist.
“I wasn’t told what the questions would be ahead of time, and it turned out they were 100 per cent embarrassing. I was too vulnerable then, too sensitive, to do this type of interview.”
She was probed about her virginity, and asked relentless questions about her love life and recent split from Timberlake.
“I didn’t want to share anything private with the world,” said Spears. “I didn’t owe the media details of my break-up. I shouldn’t have been forced to speak on national TV, forced to cry in front of this stranger, a woman who was relentlessly going after me with harsh question after harsh question. Instead, I felt like I had been exploited, set up in front of the whole world.”
One of the most shocking moments within the interview came when Sawyer played a clip of the then-wife of a US governor saying: “Really, If I had an opportunity to shoot Britney Spears, I think I would.”
When Britney expressed complete shock over the clip, Sawyer appeared to defend the horrific remark.
“Because of the examples for kids and how hard it is to be a parent and keep all of this away from your kids,” Sawyer told Spears.” It’s one thing to not want to be the role model anymore. It’s another thing not to know that a lot of young girls are looking at this … a lot of them.”
The singer has now labelled the sit-down chat as a “breaking point” for her mentally, and one that would lead her down one of the darkest paths a celebrity has ever trodden in the public eye.
“That interview was a breaking point for me internally — a switch had been flipped,” added Spears. “I felt something dark come over my body. I felt myself turning, almost like a werewolf, into a Bad Person.”
During the interview, Spears was painted as the villain, a girl who had broken the heart of America’s sweet and adorable boy next door.
“You did something that caused him so much pain,” she told Spears. “So much suffering. What did you do?”
At one point, Sawyer held up numerous magazine covers and bluntly asked: “What happened to your clothes?”
A baffled Spears, clearly taken aback by Sawyers questioning, replied: “I hate to bring this up, but Kate Hudson, she’s 22, she’s in sheets. Jennifer Lopez poses very provocatively sometimes. Christina Aguilera, what’s the big deal when I do it? Like, come on!”
Sawyer has been called upon by fans to apologise for a decade now, but the journalist has yet to relent and break her silence over the backlash.