With a fresh divorce from Sam Asghari and speculative headlines about Britney Spears’ life back in tabloid headlines, fans of the pop star are entering a new era of uncertainty and looking into the future with cautious optimism. After all, they, along with Spears, have somewhat been here before.
When news broke that Asghari filed for divorce from Spears last week after less than two years of marriage, stans ran to the internet to express their conflicting feelings. Some celebrated her separation from the dancer, questioning his character and motive, while others were more concerned with the singer’s well-being. Now, as Spears goes through her second divorce (her first brief marriage to Jason Alexander was annulled), some leading stan accounts tell Rolling Stone that they are “optimistic” Spears will come out of the heartbreak stronger, while others worry about the impact the separation may have on the singer.
Jordan Miller, who runs Spears fan community site BreatheHeavy.com, says “a level of concern” among many fans lingers about how the singer will navigate the next chapter, especially when reflecting on her divorce from Kevin Federline in 2007.
“There’s a sense of wanting her to take the steering wheel and be empowered, but there are a lot of fans who’ve been watching her entire career and saw what transpired after her last divorce,” Miller says. “There’s a level of angst that she may fall into similar patterns as before.”
Tabloid fodder overtook Spears’ life during her divorce from Federline. She went through a prolonged, well-publicized mental health crisis and a custody battle, ultimately placing Spears under a conservatorship in early 2008.
“No matter what she does, there’s a sense of worry. And it’s not for nothing. She’s had a tumultuous past, but fans want the best for her and don’t want her to go through that again,” Miller adds. “She has to live her life and not be protected in a bubble that some people want her in.”
Linsey Shrewsbury — one of the lawyers behind the @BritLawArmy account on Twitter, which famously analyzed court documents during the singer’s conservatorship battle — is hopeful that a support system surrounds Spears to help her “come out stronger” from the heartbreak.
The #FreeBritney movement, which ended in November 2021 when the singer was freed from her conservatorship after 13 years, prioritized fighting for her autonomy. Kevin Wu, who helped lead the movement in Los Angeles, says that the core intent of their advocacy persists today with the news of the split.
“One of our objectives was to advocate for her to live life on her own terms,” he says. “Supporting her through the divorce is part of that… I’m hopeful for the future. She’s working through her issues and dealing with how to live life as a free woman on her own terms.”
Asghari, whom the singer married just over a year ago, was generally supportive of the #FreeBritney movement and stood by Spears’ side during some of the lowest points of her lengthy legal battle to end her conservatorship. But many fans were also uber-protective of the singer from afar and questioned his role in her life amid the conservatorship.
Wu explains that opinions in the fandom around Asghari were diverse throughout their six-year relationship, but that most fans were “diplomatic about Sam out of respect for Britney.” He says, “#FreeBritney supports her freedom, and that included the freedom to choose who she loves.” BreatheHeavy’s Miller agrees, adding that he and many fans gave Asghari the benefit of the doubt but that any time Spears has a new person in her life, their intentions “will always be under the spotlight.”
Now, Wu and Miller hope that the divorce goes smoothly for all parties involved. But they are also aware of the rumors surrounding their relationship and what might have led to their downfall. Following news of the split, several reports, citing sources, emerged about the couple’s relationship. The reports seemed to suggest Asghari — or people close to him — was angling to undermine Spears with allegations of wrongdoing in their marriage and squeeze additional money out of her in the divorce. (His rep said he’s “not threatening to exploit” her.)
Nicholson, for his part, thinks the separation is “Sam’s opportunity to show he was in this for Britney” from the beginning. “If he doesn’t make big demands on her, it’ll show he’s really supportive,” he says.
“The worst possible outcome is that he isn’t who he says he was and that this becomes a money grab that invokes publicity she didn’t ask for,” Shrewsbury adds. “As a fan following her for many years, there’s a concern that he’s going to turn into another individual who shows up for her money… But we hope it’s a smooth separation.”
On Friday, the singer broke her silence about the separation, saying she was a “little shocked” that she and Asghari were no longer together but “couldn’t take the pain anymore honestly!” The singer added that she had been “playing it strong” online but that her social media presence was “far from reality.” She ended her post by saying she’d be as “strong as I can be” during the process and assured fans that she’s “doing pretty damn good” despite the heartbreak.
Asghari also issued a statement shortly following the news breaking, saying he and the pop star had “decided to end our journey together.”
“Any time there’s no clear-cut answer as to what’s going on with Britney, there’s a level of speculation,” says Miller. “There’s an element of the unknown that makes Britney mysterious to everyone.”
“When there’s mystery, people want to discover the answer,” he adds. “But I’m not convinced there will ever be a real answer to what is going on. Spears’ life is very complex.”