Singer, songwriter, actress. Born on December 2, 1981, in Kentwood, Louisiana. For more than a decade, Britney 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. Spears launched her latest comeback in 2008, releasing a new album and setting out on a world tour.
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 Hollywood Reporter.
When she was eight, she auditioned for a spot on the Disney Channel's The 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 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 Hollywood Reporter.
After its cancellation, Spears focused on developing her musical career. She eventually landed a contract with Jive Records. In December 1998, Spears released her first single, "...Baby One More Time." The catchy pop tune reached the top of the pop charts at the end of January 1999, propelled in part by its music video. In the video, the teenaged Spears wore a skimpier version of the traditional Catholic schoolgirl uniform, drawing sharp criticism from the parents of her young fans. Despite her racy outfit, Spears claimed to be a sweet, innocent Southern girl at heart.
The entire . . . Baby One More Time album hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts that same year, and went on to sell more than 22 million copies worldwide. At the 1999 Billboard Music Awards, Spears picked up three awards Female Album Artist of the Year, Female Artist of the Year, and Best New Artist of the Year. She was part of a teenage pop music wave, which included fellow Mickey Mouse Club alumni Christina 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 the first week. Her personal life was also receiving more media attention, as rumors circulated that she was dating Justin Timberlake, then part of the hit pop group 'N Sync.
With 2001's Britney, Spears made the first move toward shedding her virginal image, while also taking her sound in a different direction. The track, "I'm a Slave 4 U," sounded more like Prince than her bubble-gum 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.