Childhood & Discovery
Britney Spears was born in McComb, Mississippi, and raised in Kentwood, Louisiana as a Southern Baptist. Her parents are Lynne Irene (née Bridges), a former elementary school teacher, and Jamie Parnell Spears, a building contractor. Spears’s brother Bryan works as a manager for the Spears family interests and her sister Jamie Lynn is an actress and singer. Her maternal grandmother Lillian Woolmore was an English war-bride, born in Tottenham, London who met Spears’s grandfather Barnett O’Field Bridges in England during World War II. Her paternal grandparents were June Austin Spears and Emma Jean Forbes. Spears was an accomplished gymnast, attending gymnastics classes until age nine and competing in state-level competitions. She performed in local dance revues and sang in her local Baptist church choir. At age eight she auditioned for the Disney Channel series The New Mickey Mouse Club. Although she was considered too young to join the series at the time, a producer on the show introduced her to a New York City agent. Spears subsequently spent three summers at NYC’s Professional Performing Arts School and also appeared in a number of off-Broadway productions, including 1991′s Ruthless!. In 1992, she landed a spot on the popular television show Star Search. She won the first round of competition, but ultimately lost. At age eleven, Spears returned to the Disney Channel for a spot on the The New Mickey Mouse Club in Lakeland, Florida. She was featured on the show from 1993 to 1994, until she was 13. After the show ended, Spears returned to Kentwood and attended high school for a year. In 1997, Spears briefly joined the all-female pop group Innosense. Later that same year, she recorded a demo solo and was signed by Jive Records. She began a U.S. concert tour sponsored by American teen magazines, and eventually became an opening act for ‘N Sync and the Backstreet Boys.
Spears posed for her first major magazine publication, Rolling Stone in April 1999. Shot by photographer David LaChapelle, the photo shoot garnered much criticism for the controversial mixing of child-like innocence and adolescent sexuality. The cover featured her in a skimpy outfit lying on a bed. More controversy arose when Spears declared that she would “remain a virgin until marriage”. This pledge has been questioned due to her apparently sexual relationship with fellow pop singer Justin Timberlake. In early 2002, Spears’s four-year relationship with Timberlake ended. His 2002 song “Cry Me a River” and its music video, which featured an actress resembling Spears, caused speculation that Spears had been unfaithful; Timberlake, however, denied that his song was meant to portray her. June 2002 saw the opening of Spears’s restaurant, Nyla, in New York City, which served Louisianan and Italian cuisine. However, she was pulled out of the business venture in November as a result of debts and management issues. Nyla officially closed in 2003. In the same year, Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst confirmed that he was in a relationship with Spears. Durst was also hired to help write and produce tracks for her album In the Zone, which were eventually scrapped. Spears married childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander on January 3, 2004, at The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. The marriage lasted 55 hours, ending with an annulment stating that Spears “lacked understanding of her actions to the extent that she was incapable of agreeing to marriage because before entering into the marriage the Plaintiff and Defendant did not know each others’ likes and dislikes, each others’ desires to have or not have children, and each other’s desires as to State of residency.” Months after her Las Vegas marriage, Spears embarked on The Onyx Hotel Tour, which was canceled in June, after Spears injured her knee during the filming of the video for the single “Outrageous”. She then became involved in the Kabbalah Centre in September 2004 through her friendship with Madonna. However, she publicly left the religion in 2006, stating on her website, “I no longer study Kabbalah, my baby is my religion.”
In July 2004, Spears announced her engagement to Kevin Federline, three months after they met. Federline had recently been in a relationship with actress Shar Jackson, who was eight months pregnant with their second child. These initial stages were chronicled in Spears’s first reality show Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, which aired on UPN in May and June 2005. On the night of September 18, Spears married Federline in a surprise, non-denominational ceremony at a residence in Studio City, California, filing legal papers on October 6. After the marriage, Spears announced via her website that she would be taking another career break to start a family. She gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, on September 14, 2005 in Santa Monica, California by a scheduled caesarean section. Spears announced her second pregnancy in May 2006 during an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. She also appeared on Dateline the next month to discuss tabloid rumors about an impending divorce, and motherhood. She addressed an incident which occurred in February when photos revealed her driving with her son unrestrained in her lap, explaining, “I see a bunch of photographers and I’m scared and I want to get out of the situation… They’re coming up on the sides of the car which is a scary situation for me… so I get my baby out of the car and I go home.” The month following the televised interview, Spears posed nude for the August 2006 cover of Harper’s Bazaar. Just two days before Sean’s first birthday, Spears gave birth to her second son, Jayden James Federline on September 12 in Los Angeles. Spears filed for divorce from Federline on November 7, citing irreconcilable differences and asking for both physical and legal custody of their two children, with visitation rights for Federline. The following day, Federline filed a response to Spears’s divorce petition, seeking physical and legal custody of their children. American attorney Laura Wasser was hired to represent Spears in the case. According to a representative for Federline’s lawyer, the divorce filing “caught Kevin totally by surprise”. The couple reached a global settlement agreement in March 2007 and their divorce was finalized in July.
Spears’s aunt Sandra Bridges Covington, with whom she had been very close, died of ovarian cancer on January 21, 2007. Spears then stayed in an off-shore drug rehabilitation facility in Antigua for less than 24 hours on February 16. The following night at a hair salon in Tarzana, California she shaved her head with electric clippers. A few days later, she admitted herself to another treatment facility in Malibu, California. While leaving the facility briefly, she quickly returned on February 22. The previous day, Kevin Federline had requested an emergency hearing regarding the custody of their children but then his attorney announced that Federline asked to cancel the court appearance. No further explanation was given. Throughout 2007, Spears’s behavior received heightened media attention, including attacking a paparazzi vehicle with an umbrella. Spears left the rehabilitation center on March 20 according to her manager, who said she was released after “successfully completing their program.” As the legal battle over the custody of their children continued, many members of her entourage have been summoned to testify about her parenting skills. In September 2007, the official findings in Spears’s custody battle were announced by the court. She was ordered to undergo random drug and alcohol testings and to attend parenting counseling. Spears and Federline continued to share joint custody of their two children on a conditional basis. A few days later, she was officially charged with misdemeanor hit-and-run and driving without a license. If convicted, she could face a year in jail. Spears lost physical custody of her children to Federline on October 1, with the court ruling that Federline will keep full custody of the children. The charges for her alleged hit-and-run that occurred in August 2007 were officially laid, she was booked for the charges by the Los Angeles Police Department on October 15 but was not arrested. On the evening of January 3, 2008, after not sleeping for over four days police were called to Spears’s home after she refused to relinquish custody of her children to Federline’s representatives. She was hospitalized at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after she “appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance”, though blood tests tested negative for any illicit substances. She was held for psychiatric evaluation for two days. Pending a February 19 hearing, Commissioner Scott Gordon issued an order on January 14 stating that her visitation rights have been suspended indefinitely. On January 31, a court placed Spears under temporary co-conservatorship of her father James Spears and attorney Andrew Wallete, giving them complete control of her assets. As a result of an order placed by her psychiatrist, she was taken to UCLA Medical Center to be put on a 5150 involuntary psychiatric hold for the second time that month. On February 1, a restraining order was issued against Sam Lutfi, a prominent figure in Spears’s life. She was released from the hospital on February 6, amid speculation that she has bipolar disorder, although medical records are classified, and no confirmation has been made. Her parents expressed disappointment and concern at the decision to release her. She has regained some visitation rights after coming to an agreement with Federline and his counsel. On July 18, 2008, Spears and ex-husband Federline reached a custody settlement in which Federline retains sole custody while Spears keeps her visitation rights