Many make it into the public eye, but few endure there. Fewer become celebrities before they can legally smoke. Almost none become a cultural reference before they are permitted to drink1.
Britney Spears has done all that, entering the public vocabulary while still a teen. Both loose women and poorly built electronics have been described as 'cheaper than Britney Spears'. Something glaringly self-evident is 'as obvious as Britney's navel'. After her comment 'I get to go to many overseas places, like Canada,' it was difficult to be dumber than Britney Spears (although Paris Hilton succeeded). More recently, it would take effort to spout a lie balder than Britney's head. And both publishers and producers are aware of the lucrative niche market of '30-something Britney Spears watching males'.
Who is Britney Spears? Why does she garner such fascination? The saga will not end until the young singer dies, naturally or not-so-naturally, but this will bring you up to speed on the most important points of her life and career.
Disclaimer: This entry is based on research, not a personal interview. Therefore it perpetuates a flaw found in many other Britney-bios: the dearth of parental mention. Few toddlers are ambitious, and almost no youngsters enter themselves in contests. The parental figure guiding Britney's career appears to be her mother. However, the extent of Mrs Spears's involvement in Britney's career is not generally documented and perforce must be neglected.
On 2 December, 1981, Britney Jean Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, later moving south to Kentwood, Louisiana, where a Southern Baptist upbringing clearly made little impression on her. Two-year-old Britney loved dancing, so her doting mom drove two hours daily to deliver the young future star to gymnastic lessons. This didn't happen at the age of two, but very soon after; Britney was competing by age six, thanks to the habit of practising three hours a day. The precocious and unabashed child also began her singing career quite early. Her parents managed to fit voice lessons into her busy schedule, and she sang (quite appropriately) 'What Child is This' solo at her kindergarten graduation. She also entered (or was entered into) many other competitions: she won the beauty pageant at the Kentwood fair at age five, and collected a silver medal at Miss Talent USA by age seven.
At some point in her early career, young Britney cut back on her gymnastics in favour of dance. Surprise, surprise: she won cases of dance competition trophies before her age required double digits. She auditioned for a part in Disney Channel's 'The Mickey Mouse Club' at age eight, and naturally flattened the competition. But the powers that be at Disney decided her age was too tender for their stage, and they sent her off to get stage training in New York City. At age 11 she arrived back at Disney with plenty of theatre and television experience behind her and was awarded a part.
And that is not all, oh no that is not all. Between Mickey Mouse Club shoots, Britney landed a part in a Broadway show. She competed in a talent search contest, and then she was hired by the Mickey Mouse Club to sing and dance with other future celebrities (think Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera) on the show. Until the show ended in 1994. The budding young pop star was cut adrift at the tender age of 13 to blaze her own trail in life.
So she went back to the land of opportunity: New York City. She recorded a few songs, sent them to her agent who sent them to a recording studio who invited her for an audition. As usual, Britney floored her audience and was offered a contract on the spot. The lucky studio, Jive Records, embarked on a massive publicity blitz, making Britney a celebrity by 17. Naturally, awards and honours followed, albums hopped off the shelves and her fan base multiplied like bacteria in a rotten cabbage.
The Bare Facts
What's the big deal? I have really strong morals, and just because I look sexy on the cover of Rolling Stone doesn't mean I'm a naughty girl.
~ Britney Spears, after appearing for a photo shoot in hot pants and a push up bra at age 17
No record of the rise of Britney would be complete without mention of her belly. A great deal of the fascination with Britney is really a fascination with her midriff. Modesty is not one of the singer's selling points. For her first album, Britney was supposed to appear in a schoolgirl's uniform. Calling it 'dorky', she tied up the shirt revealing midriff, and a tradition was born. Britney's navel rapidly attained the public recognition levels of Mt Rushmore and J Lo's derrière. Britney primed her abs for public viewing with up to 1,000 crunches a day. Unfortunately, that stretch of skin lost its shock value while Britney was still a teenager, driving the young woman to perform a single on MTV wearing little more than a snake. Later, Britney jazzed up the view a bit by getting pregnant a few times. This led to the inevitable weight gain, and since then, her stomach has spent more time under wraps. Britney has made up for it by flashing her crotch instead, thanks to a habit of going commando in skimpy attire.
Just Crazy, Man
We were just looking at each other and said, 'Let's do something wild, crazy. Let's go get married, just for the hell of it.
~ Jason Alexander
Britney takes her responsibility to provide the tabloids with fodder very seriously. Late night partying and the interesting and often illegal state that follows rapidly became part of her repertoire. In 2004 she married a childhood friend for 55 hours 'just for the hell of it,' and let her lawyers arrange the divorce. A bizarre marriage to rapper Kevin Federline less than a year later ended in a supernova of a custody case in 2007, during which Britney comported herself matchlessly. She shaved her head. A parade of wigs soon followed. Her agent checked her into a drug rehab clinic and she checked herself out one day later. Repeat incident, but with Britney checking out before evening. Repeat again, but this time Britney finishes the term. She was charged with hit-and-run driving after hitting and running from a parked car - without a valid driver's license. She attacked a paparazzo with an umbrella. Pantyless partying with Paris Hilton, sleepwalking through an MTV Awards performance, and displaying nether regions while climbing into a car wearing a microskirt and nothing underneath2, complete the picture. From impulsive puppy purchasing to meltdowns on the photo shoot set, Britney, in her own words, 'hit rock bottom'.
I know I'm a good mom.
~ Britney Spears
Britney lost custody of her children to her ex-husband K-Fed in October 2007, ending a typical celebrity marriage. Kevin had run out on Shar Jackson, mother of his two children, to tour Europe with Britney, who proposed in June 2004. The wedding followed three months later.
In 2006, Britney was caught driving with infant Sean Preston in her lap (instead of in a car seat). When questioned, she said she did it with her dad all the time - didn't know it was wrong - and blamed the paparazzi. Two months later, Sean Preston falls out of his high chair. CAT scans showed a minor skull fracture and a blood clot. Britney blamed the nanny. One month later, trying to juggle Sean Preston and her coffee while walking down the street, Britney comes close to dropping the child, but thankfully doesn't spill any java. She blames the pavement. When accused of being a bad parent on 'Dateline', she cries.
363 days after Sean Preston was born, Jayden James entered the world as Sutton Pierce (according to K-Fed; there seems to have been a dispute that Britney won). Less than two months later, Britney filed for divorce and sole custody, letting her husband know by txtmsg. He fought back for sole custody. Britney fired her bodyguard for not picking up a hat. He responded by filing a deposition claiming he saw Britney abuse her children in regard to 'nudity, drug use, and safety issues'.
Caught between a rock and hard place, the judge recommended that both parents take parenting classes. Britney fired her lawyer (or he quit first). K-Fed threw his boys a birthday party. Britney took them out of state - and breached every other court-ordered stipulations for her temporary custody. K-Fed got indefinite sole custody of kids. Britney goes bawling to her mother, who begins writing a tell-all book about being a celebrity's mom.
You have babies at home. And... you have a life. And if you don't, you have to realize that we're people and that we... just need privacy and we need our respect. And those are things that you have to have as a human being.
~ Britney's message to the paparazzi
Famous for a Song
Her first three albums debuted at #1, making her one of the first three female singers to achieve that glorious conquest. Her first single, '...Baby, One More Time' was released in 1998 and sold nine million worldwide, last time anyone checked (2007). This was the song that went with the famous belly-baring schoolgirl business. Her second, 'Oops...I Did It Again' sold over one million copies in the first week of release3, breaking the record for highest debut-week sales for a solo artist. The catchy title also entered the public vocabulary, and has been parodied for many tabloid headlines topping articles about Britney's antics. The third, released in 2000, was modestly entitled 'Britney' and sold a correspondingly modest three-quarters of a million in its first week out. Album #4, 'In the Zone', included original work by Britney, and debuted at #1 with a relatively unimpressive (for Spears) 600,000 sales. The critics were unimpressed, but 'In the Zone' made Britney the only female artist to debut four albums at #1.
In terms of style, Britney sings pop music, accompanied by music video and tour performances that compare favourably (or unfavourably) to the best (or worst) of MTV offerings. In fact, she's attended quite a number of MTV Music Video Awards, and her antics have never left the audience, or the tabloids, bored. In 2000, she tore off a black suit to reveal a provocative flesh-coloured and crystal adorned outfit. In 2003 she snogged Madonna. In 2007 she simply did such a terrible job lip-synching to her songs that at times she had to turn her back to the audience and untangle herself.
When she married in 2004, Britney retired from the stage to work on a family. To keep the income coming, she released 'Greatest Hits: My Prerogative', which included a cover of the Bobby Brown title song, and 'B in the Mix: The Remixes', which was a remix of Britney's greatest hits.
Britney returned to the music scene in 2007 with the album 'Blackout' and the hit single 'Gimme More', which is her greatest hit since '...Baby One More Time'. The tour and stage performances that went with the album disappointed, however; Britney danced and lip-synched instead of singing.
Where This All Will End...
Technically, Britney's steady income of three-quarters of a million a month removes from her the necessity of working. But her monthly spendings, including $500 in charitable donations, eats up most of it. So the young singer must work to pad her income.
A brief foray back into acting in 2006 received mixed reviews, while her music still gets fans excited. Yet, as of 2007, Britney seems emotionally incapable of even stripping for a photo shoot for OK! magazine. Fans online plead with her to get a grip and grow up. If past performance is anything to go by, the singer's future career will be a roller coaster ride. So if you care, grit your teeth and hang on.
Or you can just subscribe to more expensive magazines and pretend that Southern California doesn't really exist.