Who Is Britney Spears?
Britney Spears starred in The All-New Mickey Mouse Club at age 11 and began a highly successful career as a pop singer and performer with the release of the single "...Baby One More Time" in 1998. Spears achieved massive sales with albums like Oops!... I Did It Again and Britney, before experiencing a series of personal and professional setbacks. She rebounded with the chart-topping Femme Fatale in 2011 and later enjoyed an extended residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas.
Singer, dancer and actress Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2, 1981, in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana. For more than two decades, Spears has been one of the most successful—and sometimes controversial—solo acts in popular music. For a time, however, she was better known for her personal struggles.
The middle of the three children, Spears developed an interest in performing at a young age. "Ever since I was 7 or 8 years old, my mom would have company over, and I was always performing for everybody in front of the TV. ... Even when I went to school, I was always the weird child; I would go outside and instead of playing, I wanted to have Star Search competitions," Spears told the Hollywood Reporter.
When she was eight years old, she auditioned for a spot on the Disney Channel's The All-New Mickey Mouse Club. Spears did not get the part, but she did eventually achieve one childhood dream: showcasing her vocal talents on the popular entertainment competition Star Search in 1992.
Spears tried again for The All-New Mickey Mouse Club when she was 11. This time, she was picked for the cast, which also featured other up-and-coming talents such as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and actress Keri Russell. Spears appeared on the children's variety show for two seasons. "We had an amazing, amazing time; we got to sing and dance and do everything," she later explained to the Hollywood Reporter.
Breakout Songs: "...Baby One More Time" and "Oops!... I Did It Again"
After the show's cancellation in 1995, Spears focused on developing her musical career. She eventually landed a contract with Jive Records. In September 1998, Spears released her first single, "...Baby One More Time." The catchy tune reached the top of the pop charts at the end of January 1999, propelled in part by a music video in which the singer danced in a skimpy version of a Catholic schoolgirl uniform. Although the racy outfit drew sharp criticism from the parents of her young fans, Spears claimed to be a sweet, innocent Southern girl at heart.
The ...Baby One More Time album hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts that same year, and went on to sell more than 25 million copies worldwide. At the 1999 Billboard Music Awards, Spears picked up four awards, including for female artist of the year and best new artist. Her smashing success made her a headliner of the teen pop music wave that included fellow Mickey Mouse Club alumnae Aguilera and Jessica Simpson.
Building upon her meteoric rise, Spears released Oops!... I Did It Again in 2000. The recording was an instant No. 1 hit on the album charts, selling more than 1 million copies in its first week. The singer's personal life was also receiving more scrutiny, as rumors circulated that she was dating Timberlake, then part of the hit pop group *NSYNC.
A Sexier Image: 'Britney' to 'In the Zone'
With 2001's Britney, Spears made the first move toward shedding her innocent image, while also taking her sound in a different direction. The single "I'm a Slave 4 U" sounded more like a Prince track than her bubblegum pop of the past. "I'd get bored singing the same type of songs all the time. I still love my old stuff, but you have to extend yourself and grow," she explained to Entertainment Weekly. Performing "I'm a Slave 4 U" at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards, Spears made heads turn by dancing with a seven-foot albino python around her neck and wearing a barely-there costume.
Around this same time, Spears took a leading role in the feature film Crossroads. The coming-of-age drama received a drubbing from critics after its February 2002 release, but it ended up grossing more than $60 million worldwide. Later that spring, Spears experienced another disappointment: she and Timberlake announced that they had broken up.
The following year, Spears created some headlines for her actions at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. She and fellow former Mouseketeer Aguilera shared a kiss with pop superstar Madonna during a performance. Some saw this dramatic stage moment as another way for Spears to present the latest version of her more sexualized public persona. Spears acknowledged around this time that Madonna was an important influence on her. "I remember being in my living room and watching her on TV. I'd dance around in my short tops and sing and dream about being her," Spears told Newsweek.
Spears' next album, In the Zone, which included vocals from Madonna on the "Me Against the Music" track, hit stores that November. The album's top single, "Toxic," earned Spears her first Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording.
Marriage to Kevin Federline
By January 2004, Spears appeared to be rebelling again—this time, against her intense work schedule. She married her childhood friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas, but the union was annulled two days later. She then got involved with backup dancer Kevin Federline. At the time, Federline's girlfriend was pregnant with their second child. Spears' relationship with Federline only intensified with the media's scrutiny of her private life.
Spears experienced some troubles in her professional life around this time. She had to undergo surgery to correct a knee injury, forcing her to cancel the last part of her tour. Spears and Federline married on September 18, 2004, in Studio City, California.
Shortly after her wedding, she released Greatest Hits: My Prerogative. Spears covered the Bobby Brown hit "My Prerogative," which seemed to be her way of talking back to her critics and lashing out about the media frenzy that continually surrounded her. The recording sold more than 5 million copies, although it wasn't as successful as In the Zone.
Despite her declining sales, Spears seemed content. She and her husband announced that they were expecting their first child together in April 2005. "I find being pregnant empowering. I think it brings out a pure side of you," Spears told People magazine. However, despite the public fascination with the young couple, few people tuned in to catch a glimpse of their 2005 reality show, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, which told the story of their early relationship through personal videos. That September, the couple welcomed son Sean Preston.
Troubles in the Spotlight
The new mother found herself in hot water in February 2006, after she was caught on film driving her car with her infant son in her lap. Her parenting skills became a subject of national debate, and she was even rebuked by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta for her actions. Calling her behavior "irresponsible" and "troubling," Mineta said that Spears was sending "the wrong message to millions of her fans."
Spears apologized for the incident, claiming that she just wanted to get away from the paparazzi. "I love my baby more than anything, and as unfortunate an experience as this has been for me and my family, if it brings more attention to child safety then I fully support that," she told People magazine.
In September 2006, Spears and Federline had a new addition to their young family with the birth of their son Jayden James. But Spears made a surprising move two months later when she filed for divorce, claiming "irreconcilable differences."
After her separation, Spears frequented the club scene for a time, partying with socialite Paris Hilton, among others. She reportedly checked in and out of rehabilitation, and then shaved her head in a California beauty salon while the paparazzi took pictures in February 2007. She told the salon owner that "my mom is going to freak." The following month, Spears spent time at a treatment center in California.
By the summer, Spears and Federline were in the midst of a difficult custody battle for their two sons, with Spears also estranged from her mother. Despite her personal challenges, she moved forward musically with the album Blackout. The single "Gimme More" was released in September and received a warm reception from the public and critics.
However, Spears' performance of the song at that year's MTV Video Music Awards was a disaster. She appeared nervous on stage, sluggishly dancing and poorly lip-syncing. A few days later, Spears was charged in connection to a hit-and-run incident in a parking lot.
Spears wasn't the only member of her family making headlines in 2007, however. Her younger sister, actress Jamie Lynn, announced that she was pregnant at the age of 16. Jamie Lynn, who was a star on cable's kid-friendly Nickelodeon channel at the time, became a controversial symbol of teen pregnancy.
Despite these setbacks, Blackout reached the second slot on the Billboard charts after its November release. This comeback of sorts seemed to be short lived, as Spears appeared to have yet another breakdown in January 2008. She was taken to the hospital for psychiatric evaluation when she refused to return her sons to their father after a court-appointed visit. Federline eventually received full custody of the two boys.
By month's end, Spears returned to the hospital for another evaluation. Rumors circulated that she had bipolar disorder, but that diagnosis was not confirmed. Her mother, Lynne, later wrote in her memoir Through the Storm that she believed her daughter experienced postpartum depression.
While in the hospital, Spears became the subject of a power struggle between her parents, Jamie and Lynne, and her manager, Sam Lutfi. The couple believed that Lutfi was a bad influence on their daughter and was trying to control her life. Her father went to court and obtained control over Spears' personal, professional and medical matters.
Comeback with 'Circus'
Only a few weeks after her personal crisis, Spears enjoyed a well-received guest appearance on the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother. That summer she made a triumphant return to the MTV Video Music Awards, bringing home three awards for the single "Piece of Me."
In late 2008, Spears released her next album, Circus, which rose to the top of the charts thanks in large part to the success of her No. 1 single "Womanizer." Rolling Stone critic Caryn Ganz heralded the album as "clubby, adventurous pop." The singer's fans agreed, sending the singles "Circus" and "If U Seek Amy" into the Billboard Top 10 and Top 20, respectively.
Spears seemed to have settled down after a turbulent time, telling Glamour magazine that "I don't like going out. ... I love my home and staying in bed and watching Dancing with the Stars or reading a Danielle Steel novel. I'm kind of boring."
'Femme Fatale' and 'X Factor'
Spears proved she could still make powerful pop music in 2011 with Femme Fatale, which featured such hits as "I Wanna Go" and "Till The World Ends." The recording climbed to the top of the charts, becoming her sixth No. 1 album. In addition to all of this commercial success, Spears seemed happier in her personal life. She and then-boyfriend Jason Trawick got engaged in December 2011, though they later split in early 2013.
In 2012, Spears took on a new challenge: She joined the judges' panel of the popular singing-competition show The X Factor in its second season, embracing the role of the difficult-to-please critic. Fellow judge Simon Cowell described Spears as "very unpredictable," according to People magazine. "You never know what is going to happen. She has taken this very seriously and she's surprisingly quite mean." Despite the initial enthusiasm, Spears left the show after one season.
'Britney Jean,' 'Glory' and Las Vegas Residency
In late 2013, Spears made headlines with the release of her eighth studio album, Britney Jean, which the songstress called her "most personal album ever" in a post on her Twitter page. The album's lead single, "Work Bitch," had been released ahead of the album; other tracks included "Alien," "Perfume" and "Passenger." Britney Jean received mixed reviews, with some critics calling it "introspective" and "mature," and others deeming it "forgettable."
That year, Spears also began her residency at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino in Las Vegas with the show Britney: Piece of Me. The residency was initially expected to last for two years, though the singer later signed an extension to stay through December 2017.
In 2015, Spears teamed up with female rap star Iggy Azalea for the single "Pretty Girls." They performed it together at the Billboard Music Awards in May, but the song topped out at a relatively modest No. 29 in the United States. The following year, she released the album Glory and found a new love in model/trainer Sam Asghari, the two meeting while filming the video for her single "Slumber Party."
In November 2017, the pop star oversaw the opening of the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation’s Britney Spears Campus, an effort made possible through the donation of $1 million from her ticket sales. Further demonstrating her attachment to the Las Vegas area, she donated a painting for an auction to support victims of the October 2017 shooting massacre, with famed TV personality Robin Leach splurging $10,000 for the piece.
Shortly after her Vegas residency concluded at the end of 2017, the pop star announced she would be embarking on a tour in a few months. "I'm so excited to announce that we're bringing the #PieceOfMe tour to select cities in North America, Europe and the UK!" she tweeted in late January 2018. "See you guys this summer."
Family and Personal Troubles Resurface
In August 2018, it was reported that Spears was ordered to pay her ex-husband Federline $100,000 in child support dues. The singer had already been shelling out $20,000 per month, but Federline wanted more for their two boys as they approached their teenage years.
In January 2019, shortly before she was scheduled to begin another Las Vegas residency, Spears announced that she was taking an indefinite leave of work to support her ailing father, Jamie. In April, it was revealed that the singer had entered an "all-encompassing wellness treatment" facility amid the stress of dealing with her father's health struggles.
Concerns over Spears' condition remained even after she checked out of the facility that month. In May, it was reported that the singer's mother, Lynne, was seeking to be involved in her daughter's conservatorship. Around that time, Spears' manager, Larry Rudolph, suggested that his client was in no condition to resume performing anytime soon.
In August 2019, Federline obtained a restraining order for his and Spears' two children, Sean Preston and Jayden James, after an incident at the home of Spears' father. According to Federline's attorney, a "disagreement" took place after the singer took the kids to visit their grandfather, leading to a "physical altercation."
Spears endured another setback in early 2020, when she was hospitalized after fracturing her foot while dancing.
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