Britney Spears’ new memoir, The Woman in Me, is a heartbreaking story about a life spent at the mercy of others. She spares no detail, for instance, in describing her time spent in a conservatorship overseen by her father.
However, the book, a copy of which was obtained by TIME ahead of its Oct. 24 release, also includes some lighter moments—including a number of run-ins with A-list stars and other public figures. From Madonna to Natalie Portman to Lenny Kravitz to Justin Timberlake, the book details the many actors, musicians, and journalists she’s spend time with.
Cher gets a reference, as Spears at one point moves into a New York City apartment once owned by the icon, and Robin Williams, Mel Gibson, and Olivia Newton-John make quick cameos as Spears’ neighbors in various locations. “Sandy from Grease lived nearby, too. I’d see her and call out, ‘Hi Olivia Newton-John! How are you, Olivia Newton-John?” she writes. Missing from the celebrity laundry list? Surprisingly, Lindsay Lohan only receives a single mention, and Jessica Simpson isn’t named at all.
Below, find a comprehensive list of the A-listers Spears mentions.
Spears’ parents put her to work at a young age. She picked up prizes across regional talent shows and the family started to set their sights on bigger opportunities. Spears writes that when Jamie and Lynne Spears saw an open call for The All New Mickey Mouse Club, the family packed up their bags and drove the eight hours to Atlanta for the audition. Over 2,000 kids auditioned, including Keri Russell—who Spears describes as “a beautiful girl from California,” and Christina Aguilera, who, like Spears, didn’t make the cut.
Later, Spears auditioned again. This time, she made it. She was reunited with Aguilera and Russell—and met other castmates who would go on to have significant careers, like Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake, for the first time.
Spears writes that she and Portman first crossed paths as understudies in the off-Broadway show Ruthless! They both played a “sociopathic child star” named Tina Denmark, a role which Spears writes “hit close to home.” Following Spears’ breakup with Timberlake, Spears and Portman co-hosted a New Year’s Eve party in New York—a call back to their theater days.
Following her turn in Crossroads, Spears auditioned for The Notebook. According to her memoir, casting came down to her and Rachel McAdams. In the end, Spears says she’s “glad” she didn’t get the part, because she’d struggled to separate herself from her character in Crossroads while making the film. “If I had,” she writes, “I’d have been acting like a 1940s heiress day and night.”
Shortly after her breakup with Timberlake, Spears writes that she laid eyes on a “handsome” guy, Colin Farrell. She got in her car and drove up to the set of S.W.A.T., which Farrell was filming at the time. There was no security, so Spears walked right onto the soundstage where the director invited her to sit in his chair, and Farrell approached her. Spears refers to their fling as a “two-week brawl.” “Brawl is the only word for it—we were all over each other, grappling so passionately it was like we were in a street fight,” she writes. He even took her to the premiere of The Recruit, where she accidentally wore a pajama top. She met his family, who she describes as “warm,” but it was simply too soon, she writes. She wasn’t over Timberlake yet.
In 2007, Spears’ was slated to perform “Gimme More,” at the VMAs. That night, Sarah Silverman took the stage to roast her, saying that by age 25, Spears had done everything worthwhile in her life she’d ever do; she even called her babies “the most adorable mistakes you’ll ever see.” Backstage, Spears writes that she was “sobbing hysterically.”
Though Spears doesn’t describe any interactions with Reese Witherspoon in her memoir, the actor and producer is namechecked. Spears writes that during her third year of her Las Vegas residency, she knew something had to change. She cites Witherspoon as a great example of a woman who wields her power in a positive way, writing that, “Once you start to see yourself that way—as not just someone who exists to make everyone else happy but someone who deserves to make their wishes known—that changes everything. When I started to think that I could be, like Reese, someone who was nice but also strong, it changed my perspective on who I was.”
Spears and Aguilera first met while auditioning for The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. Neither made the cut the first time around, but they were reintroduced after they were later cast, even sharing a dressing room during their time on the show in the ’90s. In the early aughts, the up-and-coming starlets were pitted against each other in the media, often portrayed as rivals. Spears doesn’t shed much light on any tension between the two in The Woman in Me. But she does note her confusion when Aguilera voiced her support for the idea of Spears and Timberlake reconciling in a 2003 Rolling Stone interview, writing that she was surprised by Aguilera’s comment considering “how negative she’d been elsewhere.” Aguilera is also completely missing from Spears’ account of her iconic kiss with Madonna at the VMAs, despite performing alongside them.
Elsewhere in the book, while discussing her own nerves when it comes to television appearances, Spears compliments Aguilera, writing that she—and Gwen Stefani—always are “really professional on TV.” “When the camera is on them, they thrive,” she writes.
The only other appearance Aguilera makes is brief. Spears shares how during one tour, she and Aguilera employed a lot of the same dancers. They all went out together, but while under the conservatorship, Spears was barred from drinking and had to stay sober. Aguilera, meanwhile, “seemed pretty messed up,” according to Spears, who wished she could have let loose too. “It would have been nice to have drinks with them, to get rebellious, sassy, fun,” she writes.
There may be no other romance that signals early-aughts celebrity culture like Britney and Justin. Timberlake and Spears first met in 1992 when they were both cast as “Mouseketeers” on the Disney variety show The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. In the book, Spears recalls that they had an instant connection, and that Timberlake was even her first kiss. The pair later reconnected in 1998, when Spears joined NSYNC as the opening act for the group’s tour; Spears and Timberlake began dating in 1999. Though the relationship only lasted for three years, their relationship and subsequent messy breakup became the stuff of pop culture legend. In Spears’ memoir, however, readers get the most candid look at their relationship yet: Spears reveals that she had a medical abortion while they were dating because Timberlake “didn’t want to be a father.”
“But Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy,” she writes. “He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young. If it had been left up to me alone, I never would have done it.”
Spears also shared that Timberlake broke up with her via text and believes that he prompted a split because he wanted “ammunition for his record,” his first solo album, Justified. Spears also cleared up longtime speculation about infidelity in their relationship. While she was heavily scrutinized post-split, in part because of Timberlake’s framing of the breakup and implication that she cheated on him, she alleges that he was unfaithful to her several times. Spears shares that she cheated on him when she made out with her backup dancer, Wade Robson, a move she says was motivated by Timberlake’s indiscretions.
While working on her first album, Spears was urged by record label execs to meet a “producer from Sweden.” She and Max Martin, who went on to become one of pop music’s most successful songwriters and producers, met for a private dinner—no assistants or label representatives. Within seconds of sitting down, a candle flipped and their table went up in flames. “We should go now, yeah?” Martin said to Spears. They started working together immediately after, with Spears frequently flying to Sweden to record.
Spears may have had her biggest fan girl moment with Mariah Carey. In the early years of her career, Spears—a longtime fan of Carey’s (as a child she would practice performing by making homemade music videos of herself dancing and singing to Carey’s music— introduced herself to the legendary singer by knocking on her dressing room door backstage at an awards show. Spears detailed that she asked Carey for a photo and that the singer kindly obliged, but in true Mariah fashion, would not accept anything but good light and the right angles for the photo.
“I did everything Mariah Carey told me to do and we took the photo,” she writes. “Of course she was completely right about everything—the photo looked incredible. I know I won an award that night, but I couldn’t even tell you what it was. The perfect photo with Mariah Carey—that was the real prize.”
Madonna’s name is mentioned a whopping 17 times throughout The Woman in Me. As a young girl, Spears idolized the star—and wanted to be like her. Once Spears was on the awards show circuit, she started running into Madonna “all over the world.”
Later, when Spears decamped in Cher’s old NoHo apartment, Madonna dropped by for a visit. “She walked into the place and immediately, of course, she owned the room. I remember thinking, it’s Madonna’s room now,” Spears writes.
In Madonna, Spears found a mentor. “Madonna’s supreme confidence helped me see a lot about my situation with fresh eyes. I think she probably had some intuitive sense of what I was going through. I needed a little guidance at that time,” she writes. Madonna performed a red-string ceremony with Spears to initiate her into Kabbalah; she also gifted Spears a “trunk full” of Zohar books.
It was while rehearsing for the VMAs that Spears had the idea to feature Madonna on Me Against the Music, her latest single at the time. She approached Madonna directly with the request, and the rest was history.
Spears’ admiration for Madonna, and her “supreme confidence,” is made clear. “If I could go back now, I would try to become my own parent, my own partner, my own advocate—the way I knew Madonna did,” she reflects. During their Me Against the Music shoot, Spears was in awe of how Madonna refused to compromise her artistic vision and integrity. “It was an important lesson for me,” Spears writes. “One that would take me a long time to absorb: she demanded power, and so she got power.”
It was when Spears and Timberlake were in New York that the couple ran into Ginuwine.
According to Spears, Timberlake got excited: “Oh yeah, fo shiz, fo shiz! Ginuwiiiiiine! What’s up, homie?” After Ginuwine walked away, Spears’ personal assistant Felicia Culotta poked fun at Timberlake and impersonated what he just said, but Timberlake “wasn’t even embarrassed,” writes Spears. “He just took it and looked at her like, Okay, f-ck you, Fe.”
“Sometimes,” she writes of NSYNC, “I thought they tried too hard to fit in.”
Sir Elton John plays a pivotal role in helping Spears to find her musical voice after her struggles with her conservatorship. In her memoir, Spears shared that she hadn’t been thinking about recording music until John reached out to her to collaborate on “Hold Me Closer,” a modern duet version of his hit song, “Tiny Dancer”—a song that Spears had listened to frequently as a child. Spears and John had met a decade earlier and gotten along well, but she was excited to now work with him—the result was her first number one song and longest-charting single in nearly 10 years.
“I was so honored,” she writes of the experience. “Like me, Elton John has been through so much, so publicly. It’s given him incredible compassion. What a beautiful man on all levels.”
According to Spears, one of the highlights of her early career was performing at the 2001 Super Bowl halftime show, which was headlined by Aerosmith and NSYNC and included appearances by her, Mary J. Blige, and Nelly. She has positive memories of getting to meet Steven Tyler..
“I was brought to Steven Tyler’s trailer to meet him right before the show, and his energy was incredible: he was such an idol to me,” she writes.
Two mentions of Lenny Kravitz prove that the rocker left his mark on Spears. Upon getting a glimpse of him at the VMAs, Spears was stunned. “Legends! Legends everywhere I look!” she writes.
In September 2002, Spears attended a party thrown by Donatella Versace. The guest list, she writes, was full of cool people, but the only attendee she names is none other than Kravitz.
In 2003, fresh off the success of her fourth album In the Zone—and in the shadow of her high-profile breakup with Timberlake—Spears sat down (on a sofa she still has to this day) for a now infamous interview with Diane Sawyer. Sawyer seemed focused on Spears’ image, deeming it “racier than ever,” and pressed her about drug use, shopping habits, and her relationship with Timberlake.
“It was completely humiliating,” she writes. “I wasn’t told what the questions would be ahead of time, and it turned out they were 100 percent embarrassing. I was too vulnerable then, too sensitive, to do this type of interview.”
The interview, she says, “was a breaking point.”
“I didn’t want to share anything private with the world,” Spears writes. “I didn’t owe the media details of my breakup. 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.”
Following her breakup from Timberlake, Spears’ squeaky-clean image was criticized, especially after he talked about their sexual relationship in interviews. Spears suffered public backlash, but found support from an unlikely ally in Oprah during this time.
“I’d appreciated it when Oprah told me on her show that my sexuality was no one else’s business,” she writes. “And that when it came to virginity, ‘you don’t need a world announcement if you change your mind.’”
In 2006, after the birth of her second son, Spears largely shied away from doing press in an attempt to protect her children from the relentless scrutiny. She did grant an interview to Matt Lauer, who interrogated her about her parenting skills and the media frenzy that surrounded her.
“He said that people were asking questions about me, including: ‘Is Britney a bad mom?’ He never said who was asking them. Everyone, apparently,” she writes. “And he asked me what I thought it would take for the paparazzi to leave me alone. I wished he’d ask them—so whatever it was, I could do exactly that.
Spears’ sole interview for her 2007 album Blackout was a live radio chat with Ryan Seacrest. She remembers being frustrated by Seacrest’s focus on her personal life, particularly her custody battle with her ex husband, Kevin Federline, as opposed to her music.
“It felt like that was the only thing people wanted to talk about: whether or not I was a fit mother,” she writes. Not about how I’d made such a strong album while holding two babies on my hips and being pursued by dozens of dangerous men all day every day.”
In September 2002, in the throes of heartbreak after her split from Timberlake, Spears took a trip to Milan to visit Donatella Versace. While she was originally slated to perform at the designer’s runway show, she didn’t feel up to it, opting instead to meet the models and attend the after party, which Spears remembers fondly.
“That trip invigorated me—it reminded me that there was still fun to be had in the world,” Spears writes. “Donatella is known for her lavish parties and this one was no exception. I remember seeing Lenny Kravitz there, all these cool people. That party was really the first thing I did to put myself out there after the breakup with Justin—on my own, innocent.”
In Paris Hilton, Spears found a kindred spirit and some levity during some of the darker moments of her life. Hilton, no stranger to the relentless scrutiny of the public eye and the harshness of tabloid culture, was in Spears’ words, “one of the people who was kindest to me when I really needed kindness…she encouraged me to have fun for the first time in a long time.” Hilton was part of the Vegas crew that Spears frolicked with before she got spontaneously married for 55 hours to her childhood friend, Jason Alexander. And Hilton became Spears’ partner in crime for her “party stage,” although Spears makes it clear in her memoir that “it was never as wild as the press made it out to be.”Leave a comment