Perhaps the best known face and most followed celebrity in the entertainment business, “Pop Princess” Britney Spears has led one of the most commercially successful and controversial lives in Hollywood.
Spears was born on December 2, 1981 in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana by parents Jamie and Lynn Spears. As a young girl, Spears took an interest in gymnastics, dance, and especially singing. In 1992 young Spears appeared on Ed McMahon’s Star Search, and from 1991 until 1994 she became a cast member on the Mickey Mouse Club, which also served as a launching pad for fellow pop sensations Christian Aguilera and Justin Timberlake.
In 1998 Spears got her big break signing with Jive Records, and released her single “…Baby One More Time” late that year. The song became an instant sensation, and is largely credited with reviving the teen pop movement in the U.S. In early 1999, Jive released Spears’s debut album of the same name, which sold more than 10 million copies and made Spears a household name and multi-award winner, including Billboard’s Top Female Pop Artist. During this time, to help promote her album and gain visibility, Spears made cameos on shows like Disney’s The Famous Jett Jackson (1999) and Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1999) and performed her popular songs on air. In 2000, Spears followed up with another successful album, “Oops! …I Did It Again.”
Around this time, Spears began to be as well known for her publicity stunts and personal life as she was for her music. In 2001, the media heavily followed Spears’s ongoing romantic relationship with Justin Timberlake of NSYNC. After putting out her third album, Britney (2001), Spears also landed her first major movie role in “Crossroads,” and in the film performs a cover of “I Love Rock’N’Roll” and her hit single, “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”
In 2004, Spears released her fourth album, In the Zone, with its smash hit single, “Toxic.” The same year, Britney began dating and eventually married backup dancer Kevin Federline, with whom she gave birth to two sons in 2006 and 2007. Spears won her first Grammy in 2005 for “Toxic,” which was named Best Dance Recording, and starred in a short-lived reality television series about her new married life, called “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic.” Spears and Federline divorced in 2007, and an ugly, heavily publicized custody battle over their two children ensued. A period of intense personal struggle followed for Spears, including erratic public behavior and time spent in a rehabilitation center. The public became fixated on Spears’s downward spiral, and her troubling antics, such as shaving her head, a hit-and-run, and her ongoing legal troubles, were regular tabloid fodder and water cooler gossip.
Spears has overcome loads of personal and professional obstacles, has cleaned up her public image in recent months and appears on the verge of a massive comeback. She made a cameo on the popular sitcom How I Met Your Mother (2008) that was heavily praised by critics and the show’s cast members. In 2007, Spears released a critically acclaimed fifth studio album, Blackout, and in 2008 will release her sixth, Circus. Spears is cited as the eighth best-selling female artist of all time, with more than 31 million record sales in the U.S., and more than 83 million worldwide.