Spears, Britney


Spears, Britney
▪ 2003

      In 2002 American pop phenomenon Britney Spears made her big-screen debut in Crossroads; though many speculated that the singer's foray into movies would be more “oops” than a success, the coming-of-age film was a modest hit, and she followed that with a cameo in the hugely popular Austin Powers in Goldmember. Soon afterward Spears formed her own production company and announced that she was developing a film about NASCAR. Her numerous ventures—as a singer, actress, commercial spokesperson, and restaurateur—helped make Spears the world's most powerful celebrity, according to Forbes magazine. Her exhausting schedule, however, as well as public scrutiny (especially tabloid coverage of her breakup with Justin Timberlake of the boy band *NYSYNC) led Spears to announce at midyear that she was taking a six-month sabbatical.

      Britney Jean Spears was born on Dec. 2, 1981, in Kentwood, La. She began singing and dancing at age two and was soon competing in talent shows. At age eight she auditioned for Disney's television show The All New Mickey Mouse Club but was deemed too young for the program. The impressed producers did, however, encourage her to get an agent in New York City, and she began spending her summers there, attending the Professional Performing Arts School. During this time she started making television commercials and in 1991 appeared in Ruthless, an Off-Broadway play. At age 11 Spears finally became a cast member of The All New Mickey Mouse Club, joining such fellow Mouseketeers as Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.

      After the show's cancellation in 1993, Spears returned home, but she was soon eager to resume her career. At age 15 she made a demo tape that earned her a development deal with Jive Records. Two years later she released her first single, “…Baby One More Time.” The song soon became the subject of controversy, both for its lyrics (“Hit me baby one more time”) as well as for its Lolita-like video, in which Spears appeared as a provocative schoolgirl. The attention, however, only helped the song, and when the album (…Baby One More Time) was released in 1999, it quickly went to number one on the charts, eventually selling more than 11 million copies. Her success produced a number of imitators and helped spark the teen-pop phenomenon. In 2000 she released her second album, Oops!…I Did It Again. It sold 1.3 million copies in its first week of release, setting a record for first-week sales by a solo artist. Although Spears drew criticism for her revealing attire—often imitated by her female fans—she was able to convey a wholesomeness that proved highly profitable. In 2001 she signed a multimillion-dollar deal to be a spokesperson for Pepsi and released her third album, Britney. Although none of the singles from Britney made the Top Ten, the album sold more than four million copies.

Amy Tikkanen

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▪ American singer
in full  Britney Jean Spears 
born Dec. 2, 1981, Kentwood, La., U.S.

      American singer who helped spark the teen-pop phenomenon in the late 1990s and later endured intense public scrutiny for her tumultuous personal life.

      Spears began singing and dancing at age two and was soon competing in talent shows. At age eight she auditioned for Disney's television show The All New Mickey Mouse Club but was deemed too young for the program. The impressed producers did, however, encourage her to get an agent in New York City, and she began spending her summers there, attending the Professional Performing Arts School. During this period she started making television commercials and in 1991 appeared in Ruthless, an Off-Broadway play. At age 11 Spears finally became a cast member of The All New Mickey Mouse Club, joining an ensemble of Mouseketeers that included future pop stars Justin Timberlake (with whom she was later romantically linked) and Christina Aguilera.

      After the show's cancellation in 1993, Spears returned home, but she was soon eager to resume her career. At age 15 she made a demo tape that earned her a development deal with Jive Records. Two years later she released her first single, "…Baby One More Time." The song soon became the subject of controversy, both for its lyrics (“Hit me baby one more time”) as well as for its Lolita-like video, in which Spears appeared as a provocative schoolgirl. The attention, however, only helped the song, and when the album (…Baby One More Time) was released in 1999, it quickly went to number one on the charts and eventually sold more than 11 million copies. In 2000 she released her second album, Oops!…I Did It Again. It sold 1.3 million copies in its first week of release, setting a record for first-week sales by a solo artist. Although Spears drew criticism for her revealing attire—often imitated by her female fans—she was able to convey a wholesomeness that proved highly profitable. In 2001 she signed a multimillion-dollar deal to be a spokesperson for Pepsi and released her third album, Britney, which sold more than four million copies. Her later albums include In the Zone (2003), which featured the hit single "Toxic" ; Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (2005); Blackout (2007); and Circus (2008). Spears also pursued an acting career, and in 2002 she made her film debut in Crossroads. Soon after, she had a cameo in the popular comedy Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).

      Spears often found herself in the spotlight less for her music than for events in her personal life, most notably her tumultuous marriage (2004–07) to dancer Kevin Federline. For many, she came to epitomize the endemic growth in the public's fascination with celebrities, catered to by paparazzi and tabloid journalism and fueled by gossip and scandal.

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Universalium. 2010.

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