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Britney Spears, Emily Ratajkowski, and how women can reclaim their own narratives

June 25, 2021, 12:41 PM UTC

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Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Bobbi Brown is back, Buffalo is all but set to get its first female mayor, and Emrata offers a unique perspective on Britney Spears’ conservatorship. Have a great weekend!

– Emrata on #FreeBritney. At Fortune, we’ve been busy with our Most Powerful Women Next Gen Summit over the past two days. But there was one news story that was impossible to ignore during that time: Britney Spears’ court testimony about her “abusive” conservatorship.

A quick recap: Spears told a judge on Wednesday that she is “traumatized” by the control she’s been under for 13 years—from being required to perform while sick to the disturbing claim that she is not permitted to have her IUD removed. The pop star wants the conservatorship ended without delay.

One of the speakers to join us at Next Gen yesterday was uniquely positioned to comment on feeling like you’re not in control: Emily Ratajkowski. The model, actor, and author recently published an essay describing her journey to regaining ownership of her image and likeness; she even minted an NFT to do so.

During their interview, Kristen asked Ratajkowski for her thoughts on Spears. It turns out, the model has already written an essay on the singer as part of her forthcoming collection My Body.

“She was the ultimate sacrifice, commodified woman—really a girl,” Ratajkowski said. “Anyone who ingests media the way that we do, we’re [removing] her ability to control the narrative.”

Ratajkowski has found a sense of ownership through writing (Personally, I can’t wait to read her book this fall). “When you write your own story,” she said yesterday, “that’s the ultimate way of regaining control.”

Of course, Spears’ situation is different from Ratajkowski’s; the singer can’t publish an essay or mint an NFT to escape her conservatorship. Still, while Spears isn’t writing her story right now, she is voicing it—for what sounds like the first time.

Emma Hinchliffe

The Broadsheet, Fortune’s newsletter for and about the world’s most powerful women, is coauthored by Kristen Bellstrom, Emma Hinchliffe, and Claire Zillman. Today’s edition was curated by Claire Zillman


- Beauty tips. Bobbi Brown launched her new beauty brand Jones Road in October, more than 25 years after selling her namesake line Bobbi Brown Cosmetics to Estee Lauder. This time around, she's fostered friendly relationships with other founders, even those running rival brands. “There’s enough room for all of us to be successful,” she told the Next Gen audience. Fortune

- Sale racked. J.Crew Group CEO Libby Wadle is trying to break shoppers' addiction to discounts. That will require J.Crew to sell products customers want to pay full price for, a straightforward proposition that the brand hasn't mastered for some time. "Once you get the product right and the inventory investments right, you don’t need all those [discounts]," Wadle said at Next Gen. Fortune

- By design. Quarantine-friendly companies like Zoom, Amazon, and Netflix were obvious pandemic winners. A lesser-known company that came out on top is Canva, the Australia-based design platform that's now worth $15 billion, up from $3.2 billion in 2019. CEO Melanie Perkins told Next Gen how the startup “transitioned to really support our community” by creating tools and templates to help businesses and individuals adapt to the new reality. Fortune

- Finding a seat. Dambisa Moyo, economist, author, coprincipal at Versaca Investments, and board member at Chevron and 3M, told the Next Gen audience about her seven-year effort to land a directorship. “It was incredibly difficult because I did fall outside the traditional hunt or pool for candidates,” she said. What ultimately scored her a board seat? A book she wrote on emerging markets that ultimately caught the attention of the SABMiller board. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: D.E. Shaw & Co. named investor relations head Alexis Halaby, a managing director, as the second woman on the hedge fund's six-person executive committee.


- Uneven burden. A global study confirmed what many women likely witnessed in their own households: Women on average completed three times as much childcare as men during the pandemic—173 additional hours versus 59, according to the Center for Global Development, a poverty non-profit. The gap widened in low- and middle-income nations. Bloomberg

- Mayoral firsts. India Walton on Wednesday defeated a four-term incumbent in the Democratic primary to be Buffalo, New York's next mayor. There is no Republican candidate in the race so Walton is all but assured to become Buffalo's first-ever female mayor and the first self-described socialist to lead a major American city in decades. Guardian 

- Doctor is in. Alexandra Friedman, a mother of ten in Monsey, New York, became a rarity among Hasidic women last month when she graduated from medical school and obtained a residency in pediatrics. She'd started med school when she was younger, but dropped out. “Being religious was kind of a full-time job, but once I got the hang of motherhood and Orthodox life, that yearning sort of came back,” she says. Her story is worth a read: New York Times


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The secret to checking items off the corporate to-do list? Decluttering, says Poo~Pourri CEO Fortune


"Every disappointment is a blessing if you allow it to be."

- Los Angeles Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike, who executive produced the WNBA documentary 144, recalling her father's advice at the Fortune MPW Next Gen summit.

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