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|Also Known As:||Britney Jean Spears||Died:|
|Born:||December 2, 1981||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||McComb, Mississippi, USA||Profession:||Music ... singer music producer actor|
With her baby doll sexuality and infectious dance tracks, Britney Spears became the definitive pop princess of the late 1990s, ushering in a new era of bubble gum music for an entire generation of young fans. Pretty, talented and incubated on performance hothouses like "Star Search" (CBS, 1983-2004) and "The Mickey Mouse Club" (The Disney Channel, 1989-1994), Spears was groomed for fame from her earliest years. In 1998, she exploded on the pop music scene with her smash hit single ". Baby One More Time," which preceded a series of hit singles, sold-out concerts, TV specials and even a feature film, "Crossroads" (2002), all of which made her an ubiquitous pop culture presence. By 2004, however, Spears was becoming overshadowed by her increasingly bizarre personal travails covered relentlessly in the tabloids. She had married and divorced former back-up dancer Kevin Federline, given birth to two children, entered rehab, lost custody of her children and been twice admitted to a psychiatric ward for involuntary observation. Then, defying the odds, a more mature Spears gradually began making her comeback with two more multi-platinum albums - Circus (2008) and Femme Fatale (2011). To most observers, her 2011 engagement to boyfriend Jason Trawick and signing on to judge "The X Factor" (Fox, 2011-14) alongside Simon Cowell signaled calmer waters ahead. Regardless of her struggles to stay relevant and grounded during her time at the top, there was no denying Spears' stature as one of contemporary music's more popular and beloved entertainers.
Born Dec. 2, 1981 in McComb, MS, to parents Jamie and Lynne Spears, and raised in the rural Louisiana town of Kentwood, the young girl started training for her future superstar status as a small child. A skilled dancer and gymnast, as well as a capable singer, Spears had the determination and stamina to get to the top, starting her career in the entertainment industry early - too early, in fact - for producers of the revamped "The Mickey Mouse Club" (The Disney Channel, 1989-1994). Producers of the star-making kiddie show turned down the talented youngster because of her age when she first auditioned in 1990. Mindful of her potential, Spears was hooked up with an agent and temporarily moved with her mother and baby sister to New York City the following year. Here, she starred in the off-Broadway production, "Ruthless," a stage comedy loosely based on "The Bad Seed." Playing the evil but seemingly angelic child was an enjoyable role for the 10-year-old Spears, who next wowed judges with her debut performance on the televised talent competition, "Star Search" (CBS, 1983-2004) in 1992. A year later, she was finally welcomed into the cast of the "Mickey Mouse Club," becoming a part of an elite cast that included future TV star Keri Russell as well as fellow teen pop luminaries Justin Timberlake and J.C. Chasez of *NSYNC and Christina Aguilera. As part of the ensemble, she could do all the dancing, acting and singing her heart desired, but unfortunately, the show ended its run in the midst of only her second season.
When "MMC" called it a day in 1994, the young star-in-the-making returned to Louisiana and attended a private junior/senior high school in nearby McComb, MS, but missed the excitement of the entertainment world. In 1997, she signed with Jive Records, beginning a partnership that would make Spears a household name. In 1998, she toured the malls of America a la teen pop star Tiffany did a decade earlier, getting her bouncy, blonde image into the minds of the people while, at the same time, getting her promo tape into their stereos. Her debut single "...Baby One More Time" was a smash hit in the last days of 1998, thanks, in part, to the provocative schoolgirl uniform-sporting music video that accompanied the catchy and oddly edgy tune. While the fresh-faced teen sensation improbably crooned "My loneliness is killing me," audiences of all ages were transfixed - from middle-aged men creepily fixating on the singer's short plaid kilt and midriff-baring blouse, to seven-year-old girls hopping around the playground, strangely pleading "Hit me baby, one more time." Spears' debut album went multi-platinum while her single stayed at the top of the charts in the first months of 1999. Upping her visibility, Spears' controversial Rolling Stone cover (clad only in a bra and hot pants, surrounded by stuffed animals while talking on the phone) had parent groups up in arms when the overtly sexy image hit stands in April, nearly eight months before the star's 18th birthday. Meanwhile, Spears and her inner circle began a long-standing policy of sending mixed messages, proclaiming the star's commitment to Southern, church-going values and remaining a virgin until she married.
Appearances on a myriad of specials and awards shows and a guest stint on the ABC sitcom "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" (ABC/The WB, 1996-2003) helped keep her in the minds and hearts of the public in between record releases. When her follow-up effort, Oops!... I Did It Again dropped in 2000, her audience welcomed it with open wallets. Another round of multi-platinum sales were made, and the video for the lead-off title track won the performer more kudos, proving her dance talents with an eye-catching routine in a fetching red vinyl catsuit. When Spears appeared at that year's "MTV Video Music Awards," tearing off a man's tuxedo to reveal a flesh colored body suit, her sexy image was solidified. Indeed, it became central to her routinely controversial image, with fans and media debating over lurid topics such as whether or not the young star had received breast implants. Spears' sex appeal was tempered for her more family value-minded fans by her sweet and seemingly chaste relationship with longtime boyfriend (and former Mouseketeer) Justin Timberlake, now the lead singer of the hugely popular boy band *NSYNC, which shared the same musical management as Spears. Expressing herself, showing her versatility and growing up in the public eye while losing very few of her original preteen fans, the singer seemed poised to stand the test of time.
Though potential roles on the TV series "Dawson's Creek" (The WB, 1998-2003) and the feature "Scary Movie" (2000) came to naught - reportedly due to her busy schedule - new projects with Spears' name attached sprung up frequently. Rumors of her co-starring with hot Latin singer Ricky Martin in a sequel to the 1987 hit musical, "Dirty Dancing," were not realized, but the singer/dancer made another major impression on TV viewers. Following a second erotically charged performance on the 2001 "MTV Music Video Awards," during which she undulated in a barely-there harem outfit to her new song "I'm a Slave for U" while an albino python wrapped around her neck, viewers of both sexes were blown away yet again by her brazen "barely legal" performance. Britney-mania continued with her saucy performance in the HBO live concert, "Britney Spears: Live in Las Vegas" (2001), a production that demonstrated her adult sex appeal as much as it did her propensity to lip-synch. Not satisfied with just conquering the music market, Spears tried her hand at publishing, co-authoring with her mother the autobiographical tome Britney Spears' Heart to Heart (2000) and the novel A Mother's Gift (2001); the latter of which was turned into the ABC Family Channel telepic, "Brave New Girl" (2004), which Spears and her mother co-executive produced.
After much build-up, at last the young diva made her big-screen acting debut in "Crossroads" (2002). Directed by Tamra Davis, the critically panned flick focused on three childhood friends on a road trip of self-discovery. Neither the mawkish film nor Spears' candy-coated, "aw-shucks" performance were exactly Oscar material, but it did appeal to a certain audience of die-hard Spears fans - namely the preteen and teen female and occasional smitten male. A blight on an otherwise world-conquering 2002 - including opening her own New York restaurant NYLA (which became a spectacular failure) and continuing to tour around the globe - was Spears' very public breakup with Timberlake, amid sordid rumors of infidelity on her part. On the defensive, Timberlake rather ungentlemanly confirmed to much feigned shock that he and Spears had, indeed, put an end to her much-discussed virginity (as well as later outing her as the cheater in his future solo hit single and video, "Cry Me a River"). Amidst all the professional solo triumphs and personal set-backs, she found time for a brief cameo in the comedy hit "Austin Powers: Goldmember" and to record songs for a variety of film soundtracks.
By 2003-04, the media saturation of Spears and her fellow teenybopper idols (including Aguilera, Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC) resulted in the beginnings of the inevitable backlash, with the singer making news more for her personal escapades than professional activities. In a move many saw as desperate for all parties involved, Spears made headlines when, during an appearance on the 2003 "MTV Music Video Awards," she opened the show in a musical sequence opposite her idol Madonna and her reported rival Aguilera, in which she shared a lip-lock with the Material Girl. That was followed by the release of her fourth album, In the Zone, in which the singer further pushed provocative boundaries in an obvious attempt to establish herself as a grown-up artist and to capitalize on her always buzzed-about sexpot charms. The album received a critical drubbing in most quarters and did not entirely live up to commercial expectations. The disc still provided hit singles, including the ubiquitous dance floor favorite "Toxic" and its controversial, overtly sexy music video, which was briefly relegated to late-night-only airings on MTV. Oddly, during the promotional period for the album, Spears appeared in many increasingly provocative, skin-baring photographs, including a recreation of a 1960s-era Angie Dickinson shot with her bare bottom peaking out of a strategically stretched sweater for the cover of Esquire, yet she claimed in interviews she did not approve the shots, still trying to project - albeit, unconvincingly at this point - an innocent, girl-next-door persona.
The wild child beneath the surface was bubbling over into her public persona, with the mainstream and tabloid press endlessly chronicling every juicy aspect of her behavior, which allegedly included late night partying and hook-ups with celebrity lotharios Fred Durst and Colin Farrell. The dam seemingly broke loose in January of 2004, when the singer shocked fans with a surprise marriage to her childhood friend Jason Alexander in an apparently booze-fueled New Year's Eve wedding in Las Vegas - something she called "a joke that had gone too far." The marriage was annulled within 55 hours (with a lucrative pay-off to Alexander), but that did not stop Spears' shocking second rush to the altar later that same year; this time to seemingly back-up dancer, Kevin Federline. This union was not without its controversy either, as at the start of their romance, Federline was an expectant father involved in a relationship with actress Shar Jackson, who had already bore him one child not long before. Their engagement was announced in June, with plans for a fall 2004 wedding. Somewhere between romances, Spears continued to self-promote with faux-revelatory documentary specials on MTV, ABC and E! networks, and she performed a surprisingly uninspired live version of her universally panned Onyx Hotel tour for the HBO special "Britney Spears: Live in Miami" (2004). The blonde idol pulled out of the final leg of her poorly received tour after injuring her knee in June of that year, requiring surgery and four months of recuperation (she also admitted that her head "really wasn't into" the tour).
As a newly married woman in September of 2004, Spears increasingly found herself the subject of snarky bloggers and tabloid magazines. Much of it she brought on herself, as she was constantly photographed leaving gas station bathrooms barefoot and chowing down on Cheetos while cruising around town in a number of luxury vehicles. Worse yet, she often looking disheveled and messy coming in and out of seemingly every fast food restaurant in the greater Los Angeles area. And interestingly enough to the public, she seemed not to care what people thought of her or her new husband. This was most apparent when Spears and Federline sold home movies taken during their courtship to UPN, resulting in the May, 2005 premiere of their reality show, "Britney & Kevin: Chaotic" - complete with the questionable catchphrase: "Can you handle our truth?" By this time, it seemed the answer was no. Critics were less than kind, to say the least. In fact, the show made the couple an even bigger laughing stock than before, what with the constant stream of nonsensical baby-talk, mugging close-ups and uncomfortable pawing of one another. But Spears seemed happy, especially after giving birth to her first child, Sean Preston in September 2005.
Not long after her son's birth, however, Spears found that the media had zeroed in on something more sensitive than her fashion sense or choice in men: her mothering skills. In a quick succession of scandalous incidents, starting in early 2006, Spears was photographed driving with her infant son on her lap; with her infant son in the wrong car seat, facing the wrong way in a convertible; and tripping on a NYC street, almost dropping the baby. The public lambasting of Spears as bad mom was at an all time high that spring - enough that by the third incident in New York, some celebrity first-time mothers and organizations stuck up for her, especially after video footage shot through a restaurant window hit the Internet, clearly showing Spears clinging to her baby and crying after the tripping incident. By the fall, the public scorn seemed to shift and redirect toward Federline, especially after he was spotted in L.A. and Las Vegas, partying with cronies, while his wife, now pregnant with their second son, was home. When a bedraggled Spears was forced to do damage control by sobbing to Matt Lauer on a notorious "Dateline NBC" interview in June, fans began counting down the days until Spears come to her senses and left the man they considered the ruin of the old Britney. The week the wannabe rapper released his first album, Playing with Fire, to a unanimous and expected critical beatdown, the public got its wish. On November 7th 2006, Spears filed for divorce from Federline, citing "irreconcilable differences" and asking for physical and legal custody of one-year-old Sean and two-month-old Jayden. Spears gave the date of separation as the day before; the same day she flaunted her revamped post-pregnancy physique during a surprise appearance on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS, 1993-2015).
Following her divorce announcement, Spears made news of a different kind. Free from her troubled marriage, the singer began a seemingly non-stop series of nights-on-the-town. When Spears was shot on three different occasions getting out of cars sans underwear, she became the toast of celebrity blogs and late night comics the world over, many of whom seemingly relished Spears' new out-of-control lifestyle. Her parenting again was called into question, as everyone - including her estranged husband, who was now, looking more and more the stable parent - wondered who was at home, minding the boys while Spears hit the club scene. During the months of nighttime cavorting, Spears changed her hair color repeatedly; after a one-day stint in rehab for undisclosed reasons, she shaved it off altogether, leaving fans in shock at her radical appearance. The weekend after photos of a bald Spears hit the media, the troubled star checked herself into rehab for another one-day stint, only to take off with no explanation. Only days later, after an alleged confrontation with Federline, who reportedly threatened to take the boys away if she did not reenter rehab, Spears once again entered Promises Malibu. Things went from bad to worse once Spears was released on March 20. Allegedly feeling her family and manager had turned against her by forcing her to seek help that she did not believe she needed, she began cutting people out, including even her mother, whom Spears reportedly believed was siding with her soon-to-be ex-husband in his quest for custody. Things went from bad to worse once Spears was released from Promises.
In a summer of seemingly one train wreck after another, Spears started appearing in the press wearing a variety of hats with wig attached, attacking a photographer with an umbrella, spontaneously frolicking in the ocean in her underwear, making out with a college-age extra while skinny-dipping in a hotel pool, and hitting clubs left and right - all while Federline began lining up witnesses for his custody fight, including issuing subpoenas covertly to many in his ex's inner circle, including assistants, nannies and her long-time manager, Larry Rudolph. After a disastrous photo shoot with OK magazine in August - during which Spears reportedly seemed "out of it," went to the bathroom with the door open, wiped her greasy fingers on expensive frocks and then took off with some of the pricey wardrobe provided without even finishing the interview or shoot - things seemed to be reaching a boiling point for the girl who had cut out everyone in her life who cared for her. When the singer was announced as the opening act of the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards, public interest ran high; could she pull it off? Performing her first single off her first studio album in some time, "Gimme More," Spears bombed so spectacularly that even she appeared to realize it, giving up mid-song. Her lip-synching was off, her dance moves lethargic and she even stumbled a bit just walking through her routine. It did not help matters that she was poured into a sequined bikini that was not flattering to her figure. Critics wasted no time slamming the singer, who reportedly left the stage in tears, for not only phoning it in, but for partying in Vegas non-stop in the days leading up to the anticipated performance.
If Britney-watchers thought that things could not get worse for the former pop princess, they were wrong. Only weeks after the VMA disaster, a judge ordered Spears to surrender custody of her two children to her ex-husband, ruling that Federline would take custody of Sean Preston and Jayden James only two days after said ruling "until further order of the court." The order stemmed from an unspecified oral motion made by Federline's attorneys and was handled in a closed-door hearing. The judge's order did not state the reason for the change in custody and all transcripts of the proceedings were ordered sealed. However, that did not prevent many in even the mainstream "respectable" media from taking a stab at what moved the process from court-ordered parenting classes and drug/alcohol testing to losing physical custody only days after the previous rulings that still allowed for 50/50 custody. Some suggested it was because she had recently been photographed driving with the children in the backseat, sans a valid California driver's license; others guessed it might be a failed drug/alcohol test. Whatever the reasons, the ruling surprised many with its abruptness. Spears responded by chirping happily to paps who followed her to her tanning salon, but not long after, her long-estranged mother and her little sister arrived from Kentwood. After missing her first scheduled visit, it was announced that the judge was suspending her visitation rights only two weeks after the original ruling. The reason given: Spears had failed to comply with the judges orders; the specificity of which, was not given, leading to further speculation.
Spears remained relatively quiet throughout the rest of 2007, following the court's Oct. 1 custody ruling. But she was back in the news in a big way on Jan. 3, 2008, when, following a scheduled visit, she refused to turn over Sean Preston and Jayden James to Federline's bodyguard. The bodyguard arrived at her Beverly Hills home at 7 p.m. to pick up the children, but Spears failed to relinquish them; a violation of her visitation rights. Police arrived on the scene around 8:30 after receiving a call about a "custodial dispute," followed shortly by Federline's lawyer, Mark Vincent Kaplan. Soon, news helicopters, paparazzi and an ambulance were also on the scene; Spears allegedly locked herself in a bathroom with Jayden and refused to come out. Eventually, the fire department and a mental evaluator arrived, and her two children were finally whisked away and delivered to Federline. Spears was detained by police, who said she was allegedly "under the influence of an unknown substance," before being sent by ambulance to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she remained for 72 hours under a 5150 hold - an involuntary confinement administered when a person has been deemed a danger to themselves or others as the result of a mental disorder.
After making news in mid-January for failing to report to a child custody hearing, Spears was seen again leaving her home in an ambulance on Jan. 31, 2008. Apparently, the singer had not slept for several days, prompting her psychologist, who felt her condition had deteriorated, to have her brought to UCLA Medical Center on a "mental evaluation hold." She was again placed on a 5150, with the possibility of an additional 14-day hold looming over her. In the meantime, her parents petitioned the court to take over her health and finances in conservatorship, as well as start the restraining order process to keep Spears' "manager" Sam Lufti away from their daughter. In little more than a day and a half, Jamie Spears and a lawyer were granted conservatorship and Lufti was indeed looked at by the courts as a threat to Spears. A restraining order was issued after Lynne Spears' terrifying declaration was leaked to the press, including allegations of Lufti drugging her daughter, cutting her phone lines, allowing paparazzi in her house and hiding her dog to upset her. No sooner had Spears 14-day hold been announced, then the singer was released quietly from the hospital for outpatient care, reportedly for a bipolar disorder. Surprisingly, Spears remained largely out of the public eye for the next several months, only to occasionally appear on magazine covers at the beach or about town appearing healthy and happy. Then on July 18, 2008, Federline's attorney announced that the sparring couple finally reached a deal that gave her ex-husband sole custody of both sons, though Spears did retain visitation rights.
In September 2008, Spears appeared in a pre-taped comedy bit with actor Jonah Hill to open the MTV Video Music Awards ceremony. Later that evening, she went on to win awards for Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Video of the Year for the single "Piece of Me." The following month, the network aired "For the Record" (MTV, 2008), a Britney Spears documentary special that set ratings records for MTV in its timeslot. Spears continued to bounce back with her sixth studio album Circus and its hit single "Womanizer." One of the fastest-selling albums of the year, Circus had the distinction of making Spears the youngest female artist ever to have five albums debut in the No. 1 spot. After successfully obtaining a restraining order against Sam Lufti in January of 2009, the singer embarked on a hugely successful world tour in support of the album, dubbed "The Circus: Starring Britney Spears." In the fall of 2010, an appearance on a Spears-centric episode of "Glee" (Fox, 2009-15) garnered the show some of its highest ratings ever.
In March 2011, Spears released Femme Fatale, another smash hit album that not only won praise from most critics, but had the distinction of giving her three No. 1 singles from the same album; a first for the entertainer. Following a well-received tour in support of Femme Fatale, Spears confirmed her engagement to longtime beau and former manager Jason Trawick in December of 2011. Having seemingly turned a monumental corner in both her professional and personal life, the singer let it be known that her plans for much of 2012 involved some much deserved time off. But those plans did not last long, as rumors began to swirl that Spears was going to become a judge on Simon Cowell's "The X-Factor" (Fox, 2011-14), his much-hyped post-"American Idol" singing competition that struggled for ratings during its inaugural season. Cowell released both Paula Abdul and Nicole Sherzinger from their contracts in January 2012, leading to rumors of Spears being a possible replacement. Initially, she was offered $10 million, but declined while citing Christina Aguilera's higher payday on "The Voice." Eventually the sides agreed to $15 million, making Spears the highest-paid judge on television. Her deal was completed in April 2012 and announced officially the following month. After only a few months on the job, Spears announced she would not return for the next season of the talent show, choosing instead to concentrate on her music.
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