Born in McComb, Mississippi and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, Spears first came to fame as a member of the Disney Channel's New Mickey Mouse Club in the 1993 and 1994 seasons.
Her castmates on the show included Justin Timberlake and Joshua Chasez (who later became members of the pop band NSYNC), Keri Russell (star of the TV show Felicity) and Christina Aguilera, also a pop singer. Spears dated Timberlake for about five years.
Oops!... I Did It AgainHer followup album, Oops!... I Did It Again, released on May 16, 2000, also debuted at number one, and was a similarly huge hit.
Following the success of her first two albums, Spears' career skyrocketed, and a multimillion-dollar music, film, advertisement, concert and TV-special "industry" sprang up around her. Her most popular ads were for Pepsi. In 2003 there was media speculation that the soft drink behemoth were planning to replace Spears with Destiny's Child frontwoman Beyoncé Knowles. This speculation turned out to be false, and Spears has gone on to sponsor other Pepsi products.
BritneyHer next album, Britney, was released on November 6, 2001, and debuted at number one in the charts. The first single "I'm A Slave 4 U" was produced by The Neptunes, and its R'n'B stylings heralded the starlet's attempt to grow with her audience, young and old. Over 4 million copies of Britney were sold in the United States alone, and the album went on to sell over 12 million copies worldwide. While the album was very much a hit by anyone else's standards, these figures are low in comparison to the sales of her other albums.
In 2002, Spears starred in a movie, Crossroads, which reached number two in the box office charts. Spears' performance was poorly received by critics and she netted herself a Razzie Award for worst performance of 2002. In June 2002, Spears branched out as a restaurateur with the opening of a New York City eatery, NYLA, but the venture was not a success and the restaurant closed in 2003.
In September 2002, she took a break from the spotlight, and in 2003 many music industry critics speculated that her career was in decline. Over the course of her first three albums, Britney Spears had sold approximately 54 million copies worldwide.
In The ZoneHer fourth album, In the Zone, was released on November 18, 2003. Jettisoning the Max Martin produced synth pop of her earlier releases, the album takes in lesser-known producers such as RedZone as well as such big names as Moby and R. Kelly. Spears co-wrote eight of the album's thirteen songs. The first single, "Me Against the Music" (featuring Madonna), while a staple on MTV's Total Request Live, fared less well on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, though it performed well on other charts.
On Saturday, January 3, 2004, Britney Spears married her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander at The Little White Wedding Chapel on the Las Vegas Strip in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple promptly arranged for an annulment, which occurred on Monday, January 5, 2004, ending their 55-hour marriage.
The second In The Zone single, "Toxic", was released on March 1, 2004, and was followed by a piano-driven ballad, "Everytime", released on May 17.
In June 2004, Spears canceled her planned summer tour after injuring her knee during the filming of a video for her next single, "Outrageous". Shortly after returning from hospital, Spears, 22, announced her engagement to dancer Kevin Federline, 26. Federline, who performed as a backup dancer for Justin Timberlake, Spears' former boyfriend, was previously involved with Shar Jackson, star of TV's Moesha. Federline and Jackson have a two-year-old daughter and are expecting another baby.
ControversySpears' success has rested on a mixed fanbase. Millions of prepubescent girls became enthusiasts for her work, adopting her as an idol. It also appears that many young adult males are also fans. Writers on popular music for the mainstream press, however, have generally been dismissive of Spears' music, considering it to be commercial and shallow.
Some parents of young daughters have ambivalent or even negative feelings towards Britney Spears. To many critics, the singer has combined a very "sexy" public image with a major marketing "play" for the hearts, minds and pockets of prepubescent girls, often as young as seven or eight. The sexualization of such girls is arguably a trend that is visible elsewhere in popular culture, for example in the film and fashion industries.
Some parents take the view that their daughters deserve a chance to participate fully and happily in the pleasures of childhood before being led into an early emotional adolescence. There is also an open question as to whether children of age 7-8 are ready for the often complicated feelings that come with sexual maturity. Lastly, parents may worry that Britney Spears provides an unrealistic role model for their daughters' life and career plans.
The sexual iconography of Britney Spears once again became a topic of debate as a result of her 2003 semi-nude photo spread for the men's magazine, Esquire. Prompted by this, Playboy reportedly offered the star over a million dollars to pose nude for their magazine. It is believed that Spears is still deciding whether to accept the offer.
While young girls seldom address this debate in the same terms as their parents, many are divided on whether they consider Britney Spears appealing, especially in the light of more recent developments in her career.
For her part, Spears has responded to their concerns by stating that she is "not their babysitter. It's the parents' responsibility. If you don't like it, turn the T.V. off. The only person I want to be a role model is to my sister, Jamie Lynn." (From ABC's Primetime interview with Diane Sawyer).
The criticisms leveled against Spears are similar to those Madonna received at the start of her career. Indeed, Madonna's early fans belonged to a similar demographic to Spears' current fanbase.
In common with a number of other popular female figures in show business, Britney Spears' private life has attracted considerable media attention. Indeed, some people feel that she has solicited it by cultivating, in her early years at least, a chaste, God-fearing and "wholesome" image somewhat at odds not only with the traditional pressures, temptations and opportunities of "pop 'n' roll" but with the increasingly sexualized content of her own songs. Regardless of where the responsibility for the gossip industry surrounding the pop star lies, Spears' public response has been to repeatedly express regret and resentment at the intrusive media coverage.