Britney Spears' tumultuous life in the spotlight
Britney Spears has lived her whole adult life in the public eye. We've followed her dramatic ups, as a multi-award-winning artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and downs, with her breakdown and forced hospitalisations.
But since winning the right to end her conservatorship, fans have watched her discover herself as an adult, something that was denied to her for so long.
Now she and her long-term partner Sam Asghari are expecting a baby together, something that Britney, 40, has longed for.
But just how did Britney get where she is today?
The Mickey Mouse Club
Britney was just 11 years old when she was chosen to star on the TV show The Mickey Mouse Club in 1992 with fellow child performers Justin Timberlake, Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling.
Although the show was cancelled 1994, Brit and her co-stars had made an impression on the showbiz world.
In 1997 at just 15, Britney was signed to Jive Records and the following year her debut single ...Baby One More Time was released becoming an instant hit.
And that was just the start. The album, which also included (You Drive Me) Crazy, became the biggest selling album ever by a teen artist.
She followed up that success in 2000 with Oops I Did It Again and in 2003 with Toxic but by then, the icon was well and truly born.
The Justin Timberlake years
Having known each other since their days on The Mickey Mouse Club, Brit and NSYNC boy band member Justin Timberlake started dating in 2000. Given that both were huge stars, the relationship was followed intensely by fans and the media.
They were photographed everywhere together from sports games to award shows. So it came as a shock when Brit broke up with Justin in March 2002.
The rumour mill went into overdrive when Justin released the song Cry Me a River later that year and featured a Brit lookalike in the video, fuelling speculation that Britney had been unfaithful.
Born to shock
While Britney's performance at the 2001 MTV awards with an albino python draped over her shoulders was certainly memorable, she did cop flak about it from animal rights organisation PETA.
In 2003, she hit the headlines again when, after performing Like A Virgin at the MTV Awards with Madonna and Christina Aguilera, she and Madonna shared a kiss. But these are certainly moments that have gone down in pop music history.
Having topped the world of pop, Britney turned to acting, making her debut as one of the stars of the 2002 movie Crossroads with Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning.
While the film was panned, critics did praise Britney's acting ability.
Britney also diversified into commercial ventures including restaurants, perfumes and clothing lines, that over the years, grew her wealth considerably.
In January 2004, just after seeing in the new year in Sin City, Britney married childhood sweetheart Jason Allen Alexander at 5am on January 3rd in the Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas.
By that evening, both were thinking a little straighter and happily signed annulment papers, which were filed at 10am Monday morning, just 55 hours after they wed.
In July that same year, she announced her engagement to backing dancer Kevin Federline after knowing him only three months. They married in September although the marriage was not legal until October 2004 after they'd hashed out a prenup agreement.
It wasn't long before Britney was pregnant with her first child with hubby Kevin.
Sean Preston was born in September 2005 but controversy wasn't far behind. She was chastised in February 2006 for driving with baby Sean on her lap, with one arm around him and the other on the wheel of the car.
In September 2006, Britney gave birth to her second son, Jayden James, and two months later filed for divorce from Kevin, reportedly letting Kevin know via text message.
In early 2007, after losing her aunt to breast cancer, Britney was pictured acting erratically and going out drinking with friends in LA and Vegas.
This culminated in the superstar being photographed shaving her head in a hair salon in California before attacking a car with an umbrella after being told she could not see her sons.
"Recently, I was sent to a very humbling place called rehab. I truly hit rock bottom. Till this day I don't think that it was alcohol or depression," she wrote on her website after the event. "I was like a bad kid running around with ADD."
In October 2007 she lost custody of her kids to Kevin. Though the full reasons were not made public, the court did order regular random drugs tests as they found that Brit engaged in "habitual, frequent, and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol."
In January 2008, after she refused to hand over Sean and Jayden to Kevin, she was hospitalised under an involuntary psychiatric hold. The courts then put her under a conservatorship led by her father Jamie Spears.
In 2009, Jamie claimed that he suspected people close to Britney were trying to gain control of her money and affairs without concern for her health and he got a restraining order against her former manager Sam Lutfi, ex-boyfriend Adnan Ghalib and her attorney.
During her conservatorship, Britney continued to work, releasing albums, going on tour and appearing on TV shows including Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Jane The Virgin and The X Factor.
She also signed up for two residencies in Las Vegas. The first ran from 2013 to 2017. The second was supposed to start in 2019 however it was cancelled just before it was due to begin due to her father's ill health.
But when a podcast called Britney Gram released a voice recording alleging Jamie was holding Britney against her will, had cancelled the residency because she wasn't taking her meds and that Brit's conservatorship was supposed to have finished in 2009, a movement was started.
Britney responded to the podcast allegations at the time taking to Instagram to say: “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,”
“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,” she added in the post that included a video.
That did not deter Britney's fans and many celebrities from backing the campaign to free the pop star from her conservatorship.
On August 17, 2020, Britney's court-appointed lawyer submitted a court filing to have Britney's conservatorship altered, to replace Jamie as the conservator. However, when it finally got to court, Britney asked for the conservatorship to be removed altogether.
“I just want my life back," she told the Los Angeles County Superior Court.
"I was told right now in the conservatorship, I'm not able to get married or have a baby," Britney told the court. "I have an I[U]D inside of myself right now so I don't get pregnant. I wanted to take the IUD out so I could start trying to have another baby, but this so-called team won't let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don't want me to have children, any more children.
"This conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good," she added.
On 12 November 2021, after 13 years, the conservatorship was finally cancelled.
Now Britney is free to make her own successes and mistakes (like all of us do) and live her life her way. And the start of that seems to be marrying her partner of six years, Sam Asghari.
In her Insta post revealing that she's pregnant with her third child, she even referred to Sam as her husband.
Regardless of what happens in her future, it is for Britney's to decide. Will she shock again? Definitely. Will she screw up? Probably. But no life is perfect and she deserves a chance to live hers as she sees fit.
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