Britney Jean Spears (born December 2, 1981), is an American recording artist and entertainer. Born in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears first appeared on national television in 1992 as a contestant on the Star Search program, and went on to star on the television series The New Mickey Mouse Club from 1993–1994. After a brief membership with the pop musical group Innosense, Spears signed a recording contract with Jive Records, releasing her debut album ...Baby One More Time in 1999. The album established her as a pop icon and "bona fide pop phenomenon", credited for influencing the revival of teen pop in the late 1990s.
Spears is ranked as the eighth best-selling female recording artist in the United States according to the Recording Industry Association of America with 31 million certified albums and one of the world's best-selling music artists having sold an estimated 83 million records worldwide. Spears also holds the title to multiple Guinness World Records.
Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana as a Southern Baptist. Her parents are Lynne Irene (née Bridges), a former elementary school teacher, and Jamie Parnell Spears, a former building contractor & chef. Spears has two siblings, Bryan and Jamie Lynn. Spears was an accomplished gymnast, attending gymnastics classes until age nine and competing in state-level competitions. She performed in local dance revues and sang in her local Baptist church choir. Spears entered New York City's Professional Performing Arts School when she was eight.
At age eight Spears auditioned for the Disney Channel series The New Mickey Mouse Club. Although she was considered too young to join the series at the time, a producer on the show introduced her to a New York City agent. Spears subsequently spent three summers at NYC's Professional Performing Arts School and also appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions. She was an understudy in the 1991 off-Broadway musical Ruthless!. In 1992, she landed a spot on the popular television show Star Search. She won the first round of competition, but ultimately lost. At age eleven, Spears returned to the Disney Channel for a spot on the The New Mickey Mouse Club in Lakeland, Florida. She was featured on the show from 1993 to 1994, until she was 13. After the show ended, Spears returned to Kentwood and attended high school for a year.
In 1997, Spears briefly joined the all-female pop group Innosense. Later that same year, she recorded a demo solo and was signed by Jive Records. She began a U.S. concert tour sponsored by American teen magazines, and eventually became an opening act for 'N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
Spears released her debut single, "...Baby One More Time", in October 1998, which peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1999 and topped the chart for two weeks. Gillian G. Gaar, author of She's a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll (2002), documented that "eyebrows were raised over the schoolgirl-in-heat persona Spears projected in her [music video for ...Baby One More Time], along with an increasingly revealing series of stage outfits". Spears's debut album ...Baby One More Time peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 album charts in January 1999. Rolling Stone magazine, in a review of the album, wrote: "While several Cherion-crafted kiddie-funk jams serve up beefy hooks, shameless schlock slowies, like [']E-Mail My Heart,['] are pure spam". NME commented "[Spears's debut album and its title-track] are the kind of soullessness that saturates Stateside charts and consists of nothing but over-chewed bubblegum beats and saccharine sensibilities". In contrast, Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic wrote: "Like many teen pop albums, ...Baby One More Time has its share of well-crafted filler, but the singles, combined with Britney's burgeoning charisma, make this a pretty great piece of fluff". ...Baby One More Time was later certified fourteen times platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America, denoting fourteen million units shipped within the United States.
Spears posed for the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in April 1999, shot by photographer David LaChapelle. Geoff Boucher of The Los Angeles Times reported, "there was no mistaking the titillation factor in the recent Spears cover story and accompanying photos in the April 15 issue of Rolling Stone, which sent eyebrows arching throughout the music industry, where several executives half-jokingly called it "child pornography." Gillian G. Gaar reported, "The American Family Association charged that the pictures, which showed Spears in push-up bras and a minuscule pair of shorts with "Baby" in rhinestones on the bottom, presented a "disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality" and asked that all "God-loving Americans" boycott stores carrying her albums". More controversy arose when Spears declared that she would "remain a virgin until marriage". This pledge has been questioned due to her apparently sexual relationship with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake.
In late 1999, Spears appeared on the sitcom Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and performed the song "(You Drive Me) Crazy"; this cameo was a cross-promotion for the film Drive Me Crazy, which starred Sabrina's Melissa Joan Hart and was named after the song. In December 1999, she won four Billboard Music Awards, including Female Artist of the Year. A month later, she received the Favorite Pop/Rock New Artist award at the American Music Awards.
Following the success of her previous album, Spears released the album Oops!... I Did It Again in May 2000. It debuted at number one in the U.S. by selling 1,319,193 units during its first week of sales, breaking the SoundScan record for the highest album sales in its debut week by any solo artist. The RIAA awarded the album with a diamond certification with 10 million copies sold in the U.S. Allmusic gave it awarded the album 4 out of 5 stars, saying that the album "has the same combination of sweetly sentimental ballads and endearingly gaudy dance-pop that made "...Baby One More Time." Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 stars out of 5 by noting the album as "fantastic pop cheese" and "Britney's demand for satisfaction is complex, fierce and downright scary." The album's lead single "Oops!... I Did It Again " broke the record for most radio station additions in a single day, and quickly became a top ten hit in the U.S. and other countries. The same year, Spears launched her first world tour, the "Oops!... I Did It Again World Tour". During the tour, she made a stop in New York for the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards. As part of her performance, she ripped off a black suit to reveal a provocative nude-colored and crystal-adorned outfit that generated much controversy. Spears earned two Billboard Music Awards for Oops!... I Did It Again.
Spears released her third studio album Britney in November 2001. Although not as successful as her previous albums, she assumed some creative control by co-writing five of the album's tracks. Britney debuted at number one in the U.S. by selling 745,744 units during its first week. The album's success made her the only female artist in music history to have her first three albums debut at number one. The album fared well with critics such as Allmusic who gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, describing the album's title tracks as being "pivotal moments on Britney Spears's third album, the record where she strives to deepen her persona, making it more adult while still recognizably Britney." In contrast, Rolling Stone said of the album Britney "belabors the obvious: Spears is one month away from entering her twenties and clearly needs to grow up if she's going to bring her fans along." Britney's lead single "I'm a Slave 4 U" peaked at 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 making it the album's biggest hit. To help promote the album, Spears embarked on the Dream Within a Dream Tour in November 2001. The tour was forced to cut short in Mexico City due to bad weather. With the end to her tour, Spears announced she would take a six month break from her career.
Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 3, 2004, at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted 55 hours, ending with an annulment stating that Spears "lacked understanding of her actions to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to marriage because before entering into the marriage the Plaintiff and Defendant did not know each others' likes and dislikes, each others' desires to have or not have children, and each other's desires as to State of residency".
Months after her Las Vegas marriage, Spears embarked on The Onyx Hotel Tour, which was canceled in June after Spears injured her knee during the filming of the video for the single "Outrageous". The tour's choreography generated much controversy and criticism, which was cited inappropriate with the presence of young children in the audience. In September 2004, Spears became involved in the Kabbalah Centre through her friendship with Madonna. However, she publicly left the religion in 2006, stating on her website, "I no longer study Kabbalah, my baby is my religion."
In July 2004, Spears announced her engagement to Kevin Federline, three months after they met. Federline had recently been in a relationship with actress Shar Jackson, who was eight months pregnant with their second child. These initial stages were chronicled in Spears's first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, which aired on UPN in May and June 2005. On the night of September 18, Spears married Federline in a surprise, non-denominational ceremony at a residence in Studio City, California, filing legal papers on October 6. After the marriage, Spears announced via her website that she would be taking another career break to start a family. She gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, nearly one year later, on September 14, 2005 in Santa Monica, California by a scheduled caesarean section.
November 2004 saw the release of her first greatest hits collection, Greatest Hits: My Prerogative, which features all of Spears's singles with the exception of "From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart". It also featured three previously unreleased songs, them being a cover version of American R&B singer Bobby Brown's 1988 hit "My Prerogative", "Do Somethin'", produced by Bloodshy and Avant, whom she had worked with on In The Zone, and "I've Just Begun (Having My Fun)", which was a song recorded for Spears's fourth album, In The Zone, but did not make the final cut. By the end of that year, Spears had become one of the best-selling artists in the world.
In November 2005, Spears released her first remix album, B In The Mix: The Remixes. The album ranged from "...Baby One More Time" to "Toxic". Her single "Someday (I Will Understand)" was also remixed. Another single, "And Then We Kiss", was only released in Asia, where it charted in many countries. The song peaked at number 15 on Billboard's Hot Dance Airplay chart, despite it not being officially released in the U.S.
In 2006, Spears guest-starred on the Will & Grace episode "Buy, Buy Baby" as a closeted lesbian. Spears announced her second pregnancy in May 2006 during an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. She also appeared on Dateline the next month to discuss tabloid rumors about an impending divorce, and motherhood. She addressed an incident which occurred in February when photos revealed her driving with her son unrestrained in her lap, explaining, "I see a bunch of photographers and I’m scared and I want to get out of the situation... They’re coming up on the sides of the car which is a scary situation for me… so I get my baby out of the car and I go home." The month following the televised interview, Spears posed nude for the August 2006 cover of Harper's Bazaar. Just two days before Sean's first birthday, Spears gave birth to her second son, Jayden James Federline on September 12 in Los Angeles.
Spears's aunt Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died of ovarian cancer on January 21, 2007. Spears then stayed in an off-shore drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua for less than 24 hours on February 16. The following night at a hair salon in Tarzana, California she shaved her head with electric clippers. A few days later, she admitted herself to another treatment facility in Malibu, California. While leaving the facility briefly, she quickly returned on February 22. The previous day, Kevin Federline had requested an emergency hearing regarding the custody of their children but then his attorney announced that Federline asked to cancel the court appearance. No further explanation was given. Spears filed for divorce from Federline on November 7, 2006, citing irreconcilable differences and asking for both physical and legal custody of their two children, with visitation rights for Federline. The following day, Federline filed a response to Spears's divorce petition, seeking physical and legal custody of their children. American attorney Laura Wasser was hired to represent Spears in the case. According to a representative for Federline's lawyer, the divorce filing "caught Kevin totally by surprise". The couple reached a global settlement agreement in March 2007 and their divorce was finalized in July.
Throughout 2007, Spears's behavior received heightened media attention, including attacking a paparazzi vehicle with an umbrella. Spears left the rehabilitation center on March 20 according to her manager, who said she was released after "successfully completing their program." As the legal battle over the custody of their children continued, many members of her entourage have been summoned to testify about her parenting skills. In March 2007, Leonard Pitts, Jr. wrote that in the aftermath of Spears' personal struggles that have become widely publicized, Spears had been reduced to an abstract idea as opposed to being regarded as a real person. "The abstraction is not surprising: Whatever media touch, they objectify... What must it be like to have your marriage and divorce, your relationship with your parents and kids... dissected by millions of strangers who think they know you?" Pitts further commented that fame and fortune do not qualify the media scrutiny Spears has faced, but observed that fact has been overlooked by "our rush to a day of 'reality' television" and "tabloid journalism". Though "[t]here is no reverence, no privacy, [and] nothing held back as sacred", Pitts argues "Britney Jean Spears is not an idea."
In May 2007, she produced a mini-tour for the House of Blues just after she left a rehabilitation facility under the name The M+M's; with six shows altogether, she sang live during some lines of her songs. She recorded her latest album with producers such as Sean Garrett, J. R. Rotem and Nate "Danja" Hills throughout 2006 and 2007.
In September 2007, the official findings in Spears's custody battle were announced by the court. She was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testings and to attend parenting counseling. Spears and Federline continued to share joint custody of their two children on a conditional basis. A few days later, she was officially charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving without a license. If convicted, she could face a year in jail. Spears lost physical custody of her children to Federline on October 1, with the court ruling that Federline will keep full custody of the children. The charges for her alleged hit-and-run that occurred in August 2007 were officially laid, she was booked for the charges by the Los Angeles Police Department on October 15 but was not arrested.
The release of Spears's fifth album, Blackout, was rescheduled to October 30, 2007 rather than November 13, 2007 due to online leaks. Blackout debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200., making Spears the only female music artist to have her first five albums go to number one and two. It was fairly well received by critics. As of June 2008, there have been 3.1 million digital downloads of the songs and remixes from the album in the United States. Rolling Stone gave the album 3.5 out of 5 stars. Allmusic also rated the album 3.5 out of 5 stars, calling Blackout "coherent and entertaining" and stating that "it holds together better than any of her other records". Blackout's lead single, "Gimme More" leaked on the internet on August 30. The song, which was Spears's first produced by Danja, peaked at number three on Billboard Hot 100 on October 3, making it her most successful single in the U.S. since her debut, "...Baby One More Time". Spears's highly anticipated performance of "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards was panned. The BBC stated that "her performance would go down in the history books as being one of the worst to grace the MTV Awards", and The Times noted that "Spears was out of synch as she lip-synched and at times just stopped singing altogether". Despite the criticism on her performance, the single has achieved worldwide success. The second single, "Piece of Me", was certified platinum in the U.S.
On the evening of January 3, 2008, after not sleeping for over four days, Spears refused to relinquish custody of her children to Federline's representatives. In response, police were called to Spears's home. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after she "appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance", though blood tests tested negative for any illicit substances. She was held for psychiatric evaluation for two days. Pending a February 19 hearing, Commissioner Scott Gordon issued an order on January 14 stating that her visitation rights have been suspended indefinitely. On January 31, a court placed Spears under temporary co-conservatorship of her father James Spears and attorney Andrew Wallete, giving them complete control of her assets. As a result of an order placed by her psychiatrist, she was taken to UCLA Medical Center to be put on a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold for the second time that month. On February 1, a restraining order was issued against Sam Lutfi, a prominent figure in Spears's life. She was released from the hospital on February 6, amid speculation that she has bipolar disorder, although medical records are classified, and no confirmation has been made. Her parents expressed disappointment and concern at the decision to release her. She has regained some visitation rights after coming to an agreement with Federline and his counsel. On July 18, 2008, Spears and Federline reached a custody settlement in which Federline retains sole custody while Spears keeps her visitation rights.
Vanessa Grigoriadis reported in "The Tragedy of Britney Spears" (2008), her cover story for Rolling Stone, that "more than any other star today, Britney epitomizes the crucible of fame for the famous: loving it, hating it and never quite being able to stop it from destroying you". Grigoriadis wrote that "every day in L.A., at least a hundred paparazzi, reporters and celebrity-magazine editors dash after her" and that paparazzi estimated Spears generated "up to twenty percent of their coverage for the past year". She further documented that in addition to tabloid journalists, the Associated Press declared that everything Spears does is considered news. "The paparazzi feed the celebrity magazines, which feed the mainstream press, while sources sell their dirtiest material to British tabloids, and then it trickles back to America," wrote Grigoriadis, "She's the canary in the coal mine of our culture, the most vivid representation of the excess of the past decade."
In 2008, Spears guest-starred on CBS's television show How I Met Your Mother playing a receptionist. She received positive reviews for her performance as well as bringing in the series' highest ratings ever. Spears reprised her role in May 2008, leaving the storyline open for a future return.
On September 7, 2008, Spears opened the MTV Video Music Awards for the third time. Although having not performed, a skit with Jonah Hill was pre-taped, as well as an introduction speech to the official opening of the show. Spears won Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Video Of The Year for "Piece of Me". On September 15, Jive released a statement announcing the title of her sixth studio album, Circus as well as the first single, "Womanizer". The single was released to radio stations on September 26, and the release date for the album is December 2, Spears' 27th birthday. On October 15, the song made a record-breaking jump to number one on the Billboard Hot 100, breaking the record set by T.I.'s Live Your Life. It also garnered first-week download sales of 286,000, the biggest opening-week tally by a female artist since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking digital downloads in 2003. It marked Spears's first number one single on the Hot 100 since her debut, "...Baby One More Time".
On October 21, 2008, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Steele declared a mistrial and dismissed the August 2007 driving without a license misdemeanor charges against Spears, who was represented by attorney J. Michael Flanagan. Spears claimed she had a valid Louisiana license and a California permit was not required.
On November 6, 2008, Spears won two awards at the MTV Europe Music Awards 2008, "Album of The Year" for Blackout and "Act of 2008", and despite not being present, two acceptance videos were taped and shown at the show. Circus debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 selling 505,000 copies in its first week. This became Spears' fifth number one album, making her the only act in Nielsen SoundScan history to have four albums debuted with 500,000 copies or more. It is also Spears' second album, the first being ...Baby One More Time, to have charted two top-ten singles as "Circus", the follow up single to the number-one hit "Womanizer", debuted at number three on the Hot 100, making it her highest debut on the chart as well as her seventh top ten hit.
In early 2002, Spears's four-year relationship with Timberlake ended. His 2002 song "Cry Me a River" and its music video, which featured an actress resembling Spears, caused speculation that Spears had been unfaithful; Timberlake, however, denied that his song was meant to portray her. June 2002 saw the opening of Spears's restaurant, Nyla, in New York City, which served Louisianan and Italian cuisine. However, she was pulled out of the business venture in November as a result of debts and management issues. Nyla officially closed in 2003. In the same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst confirmed that he was in a relationship with Spears. Durst was also hired to help write and produce tracks for her album In the Zone, which were eventually scrapped.
Spears had her first starring role in the 2002 film Crossroads, in which she portrayed a high school graduate who travels to find her long-lost mother. The movie was poorly received, as was her performance; Spears received Razzie Awards for Worst Actress and for Worst Original Song. Nonetheless, the film grossed over $60 million worldwide. Spears also made cameo appearances in Austin Powers in Goldmember and Longshot. Footage of Spears appeared in the 2004 documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, which samples a 2003 CNN interview about the Iraq War in which Spears says, "Honestly, I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes and should just support that, you know, and be faithful in what happens."
Spears made her third consecutive MTV Video Music Awards performance. While performing "I'm a Slave 4 U", she controversially utilized caged animals and danced erotically with a large albino python draped over her shoulders. Animal-rights organization PETA claimed that the animals featured in the performance were mistreated and cancelled plans for an anti-fur billboard that was to feature Spears. Her career success was highlighted by Forbes magazine in 2002 as Spears was ranked the world's most powerful celebrity. At a performance at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards, she appeared with Aguilera performing the song "Like a Virgin", and was later joined by American pop singer Madonna. Spears locked lips with Madonna in a highly publicized kiss.
Spears initially supported the policies of President Bush in a CNN interview in 2003 with conservative political pundit Tucker Carlson. However, her support was not due to politics; instead more to show patriotism. Carlson praised Spears for her support of the president, who was unpopular at that time among Hollywood entertainers.
Spears released her fourth studio album In the Zone in November 2003, jettisoning the Max Martin-produced synthpop of her earlier releases. The album took in lesser-known producers such as RedZone and big names including Moby and R. Kelly. Spears co-wrote eight of the album's thirteen songs and co-produced several pieces of her material for the first time. In the Zone reached number one in the U.S. charts during its debut week, selling over 609,000 copies. This made Spears the first female in the Nielsen SoundScan era to have her first four studio albums to debut at number one. The album had a mild reception from critics. Stylus Magazine gave the album a D and even blamed Spears's career choices by stating, "Ultimately, In the Zone suffers greatly from Britney's uneasy transition from teen tart to sexually powerful woman. Had Britney been in charge of her career direction instead of mercilessly prostituted by her management, she might have been able to produce something with some semblance of musical vision." The Guardian praised the album's melodies and her effort, giving it 4 out of 5 stars: "Unlike previous Britney albums, In the Zone has no filler and no shoddy cover versions, just 57 varieties of blue-chip hit-factory pop. There is southern hip-hop, deep house, Neptunes-style R&B, the ubiquitous Diwali beat and, most importantly, oodles of Madonna." The album spawned the hit single "Toxic", winning Spears her first ever Grammy in the category of Best Dance Recording.