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Britney Spears: 5 things to know

Published: Thursday, April 25, 2019 @ 9:22 AM

What You Need to Know: Britney Spears

Britney Spears has been in the public eye since she was a pre-teen. Through controversies, sold-out shows, marriages, children and media scrutiny, she’s sold more than 70 million records in the U.S. alone.

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Here are things to know about the pop icon:

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Small town roots

Spears was born in Dec. 2, 1981 in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana. She’s the middle child of Jamie and Lynne Spears. She got her start performing at talent shows, later co-starring with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling in “The All-New Mickey Mouse Club” at age 11. 

A few years later, after the cancellation of the show, Spears signed with Jive Records and recorded her debut album, “...Baby One More Time.” The single was released in October 1998 and the video premiered a month later.

The debut single went to No. 1 at the same time as the album, and a whirlwind tour and string of albums, singles and tours followed, including 2000’s “Oops!... I Did It Again” and 2001’s “Britney.” 

Tumultuous times

In 2002, Spears broke up with her longtime boyfriend, singer and former NSYNC lead singer Justin Timberlake. The next year, she released her album, “In The Zone,” and shocked TV viewers when she kissed Madonna on stage during an MTV VMAs performance with Christina Aguilera and Missy Elliot. The controversy was par for the course for the singer, who danced with a snake at the show in 2001 and donned a nude-colored outfit during her 2000 performance at the award show.

Singers Britney Spears(L), Madonna, and Christina Aguilera perform onstage during the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on August 28, 2003 in New York.(Frank Micelotta/Getty Images)

In September 2004, Spears married her backup dancer, Kevin Federline, in a surprise ceremony in Los Angeles. Months earlier, in January, Spears got married to her childhood friend Jason Alexander. It was annulled after 55 hours.

Spears’ marriage to Federline didn’t last long. In November 2006, eight weeks after welcoming her second son, the 24-year-old singer filed for divorce. They reached a divorce settlement the next year and had joint custody of sons Sean Preston and Jayden James.

What followed was years of what the media considered a “meltdown” for the singer. She was photographed shaving her head in February 2007 and getting new tattoos, and reportedly checked into rehab days later. 

In what was billed by MTV as a comeback, Spears opened the 2007 VMAs with a lackluster performance that was later blamed on nerves. Spears appeared in blue contacts, blonde extensions and a sparkly bikini to perform her new single. “Gimme More.”

Related: Photos: Britney Spears through the years

By October 2007, Spears lost custody and was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testing twice a week after it was revealed she engaged in “habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol.” She released her album, “Blackout,” Oct. 30 and the second single, “Piece of Me,” tackled the tabloids.

In January, Federline was awarded sole legal and physical custody of Spears’ sons after she was taken from her Los Angeles home in an ambulance after an hours-long custody standoff the day before. Spears was released from the hospital, but was taken back by an ambulance and police escort weeks later. She was placed on psychiatric hold for three days. During that time, her father, Jamie Spears, was granted a temporary conservatorship, which was made permanent by all sides in October 2008. The conservatorship, which is still in place today, gives Jamie Spears control over his daughter’s personal life and finances.

Coming back strong

With the conservatorship in place, Spears was able to focus on herself and got back to recording music, even making cameo and guest appearances on TV shows like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Glee.”

Just before documenting her return to the recording industry in the 2008 documentary “Britney: For the Record,” Spears released her sixth studio album, “Circus.” A world tour followed, which grossed nearly $95 million worldwide.

As the tour wound down, Spears began recording for her seventh studio album. “Femme Fatale” was released in 2011 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. A tour of the same name, which launched a few months after the album’s release, brought Spears across Europe and North America, and she was honored with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards. 

Britney Spears, winner of the Video Vanguard Award and Best Pop Video Award for 'Till the World Ends' poses in the press room during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE on August 28, 2011 in Los Angeles.(Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

That same year, her agent-turned-boyfriend, Jason Trawick, proposed and the two were engaged after four years of dating. In January 2013, Spears confirmed she and Trawick called off their engagement.

“Jason and I have decided to call off our engagement,” she said in a statement to People. “I’ll always adore him and we will remain great friends.”

“As this chapter ends for us a new one begins,” Trawick said in his own statement. “I love and cherish her and her boys and we will be close forever.”

Spears also joined season 2 of the U.S. version of “The X Factor,” serving as a judge alongside Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and Demi Lovato. She left the show after one season.

Vegas residency

It turns out that Spears left her brief time at “The X Factor” because she had a residency in Vegas in the works. “Britney: Piece of Me” was announced on “Good Morning America” in September 2013. Initially planned to run for two years, the show continued into 2017, closing on New Year’s Eve that year.

The residency in Vegas and its proximity to her home in L.A. allowed Spears to spend more time with her sons. She also found love: In October 2016, she met Sam Asghari, an actor in her “Slumber Party” music video. She made things Instagram official with Asghari the same day she closed “Piece of Me.”

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Happy New Year 🎉🎉🎉

A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on

The success of Spears’ residency sparked a renaissance of sorts. Since “Piece of Me” opened in 2013, as other artists, including  including Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera have announced and done Vegas residencies of their own.

Lifelong pop star

With a successful residency under her belt, Spears announced she would be returning to Vegas with “Britney: Domination” at the new Park MGM resort. 

Singer Britney Spears attends the announcement of her new residency, "Britney: Domination" at Park MGM on October 18, 2018 in Las Vegas.(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The residency has since been put on hold as the singer announced she would be going on an indefinite hiatus since her father had health issues.

“I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart,” she said in a statement. “However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make. A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand.”

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I don’t even know where to start with this, because this is so tough for me to say. I will not be performing my new show Domination. I’ve been looking forward to this show and seeing all of you this year, so doing this breaks my heart. However, it’s important to always put your family first… and that’s the decision I had to make. A couple of months ago, my father was hospitalized and almost died. We’re all so grateful that he came out of it alive, but he still has a long road ahead of him. I had to make the difficult decision to put my full focus and energy on my family at this time. I hope you all can understand. More information on ticket refunds is available on britneyspears.com. I appreciate your prayers and support for my family during this time. Thank you, and love you all… always.

A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on

The stress in her personal life led Spears to take time to care for herself. With the support of Asghari, she checked into a mental health facility. When speculation emerged that Spears was actually in treatment against her will and some fans began trending #FreeBritney across social media, the star had to interrupt her hiatus.

“There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said,” she wrote in the caption of an Instagram video. “I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear.”

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I wanted to say hi, because things that are being said have just gotten out of control!!! Wow!!! There’s rumors, death threats to my family and my team, and just so many things crazy things being said. I am trying to take a moment for myself, but everything that’s happening is just making it harder for me. Don’t believe everything you read and hear. These fake emails everywhere were crafted by Sam Lutfi years ago... I did not write them. He was pretending to be me and communicating with my team with a fake email address. My situation is unique, but I promise I’m doing what’s best at this moment 🌸🌸🌸 You may not know this about me, but I am strong, and stand up for what I want! Your love and dedication is amazing, but what I need right now is a little bit of privacy to deal with all the hard things that life is throwing my way. If you could do that, I would be forever grateful. Love you ❤️❤️❤️

A post shared by Britney Spears (@britneyspears) on