Britney Jean Spears is an international pop culture icon; an American singer, dancer, and actress. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica she was born on December 2, 1981. She is the second born child to mother Lynne Irene Bridges and father James Parnell Spears . Though she is best known for her music, dancing and acting, Britney is also an entrepreneur and philanthropist. The hugely successful star’s performances, gender identity and sexual orientation as well her controversies have and continue to intrigue many people all over the world.
Britney Spears is associated with the revival of pop music culture. She is credited with the late 1990’s revival of teen pop music. But before she attained stardom in music, Britney was a child actress. She attended dancing classes at an early age and made her local stage debut at her kindergarten graduation, aged five. Though she did not make it to join the 1990’s revival of Mickey Mouse, aged eight, Britney was hired in the off-Broadway musical Ruthless ! as an understudy. She was also cast in a number of commercials and was a contestant on Star Search . In 1992, she was cast into the Mickey Mouse Club. As a grownup, she had her first starring role where critics praised her acting in Crossroads , released in February 2002.
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In 1997, Britney was signed into the Jives Record label. Her first studio album, ...Baby One More Time ; the biggest selling album to be released by a teenage artist, came out in January 1999 (Folkard, 2003). The album is still the best-selling debut album by any artist ever and also one of the chart-topping albums of all time. In May 2000, Britney released her second studio album; Oops!... I Did It Again . The album was hugely successive and it received Grammy nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album; its title track was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She has gone forth to release other albums which cemented her career success. In 2002, Forbes ranked her as the world's most powerful celebrity.
Other than music and acting, she has been involved in other ventures. In 2000, Britney released a limited edition of glasses. In 2001, she signed a contract with the Skechers shoe company and a huge promotional deal with Pepsi. In 2002, she opened Nyla, her first restaurant in New York City, though the venture soon flopped. In the same year, she opened her video game. In 2009, she became the new face of clothing label Candie's (Miller, 2009). She has released several fragrances with Elizabeth Arden . In terms of philanthropy, Britney has a charitable entity aimed at helping children in need, The Britney Spears Foundation.
There have been rumors that Britney is not heterosexual. These rumors were probably fueled in the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards where while performing Like a Virgin with Christina Aguilera, Madonna joined them and they both kissed her. But Britney’s several marriages paint a different picture. Britney had at one time sensationally announced she wanted to be a virgin until marriage. In January 2004, Britney married her childhood pal Jason Allen Alexander. Unfortunately, the marriage was annulled 55 hours later. In 2004, she married American dancer Kevin Federline from whom she filed for divorce in 2006, citing irreconcilable differences. They had two sons together.
Britney is successful for several reasons. Her perceived innocence when she came into the scene appealed to musical audiences across the globe. When she later showed her bold side, it made people watch her more. Critics talk of the sheer hedonistic pleasure of 2004's Toxic (Goldstein, 2013). The song had elements of bhangra music and featured varied instrumentation. The video casts Britney as a secret agent in the search of a vial of green liquid which she steals and uses to poison her unfaithful boyfriend. Included in the video are interspersed scenes of a naked Britney with diamonds on her body.
She can sing and dance as well. She has worked with varied music producers, producing music that appeals to a diverse audience. She has collaborated with other stars in performances. She draws her strength from the inspirations in her career of megastars such as Janet Jackson, Madonna, and Whitney Houston among others.
Britney has had her dark moments, most especially her 2007 public meltdown. But her fall from grace only added to her allure. She also came back; she did not remain down. That probably gives hope to many; there are second chances in life. Her notoriety kept her in the news even when she was not producing music. Between 2005 and 2008, she was Yahoo !'s most popular search. The Guinness World Records book edition 2007 and 2009 listed her as Most Searched Person; the most searched personality between 2000 – 2009. The proliferation of social media has made her even more popular.
Among the controversies that Britney is associated with is the objectification and sexualization of schoolgirls (Hooton, 2016). A 1998 video, shot to promote Baby One More Time featured Britney, along with the other dancers, gyrating and dancing whilst dressed as schoolgirls. Closely in line with this, the Rolling Stone ’s cover of April 1999 featured her lying on her bed, clad in shorts, a bra and an open top. Subsequently, the American Family Association (AFA) called for the boycott of stores selling Britney's albums (Blandford, 2002). Her performance with a caged tiger and a large albino python draped over her shoulders at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards did not amuse everyone. PETA, the animal rights organization claimed the animals were abused and cancelled arrangements for an anti-fur campaign in which she was to appear.
In February 2006, she was seen with her son Sean, on her lap; she holding the wheel with one hand, and instead of putting Sean in a car seat, she was holding him with the other hand. Child advocates were shocked with her carelessness as a mother. In February 2007, Britney checked herself into an Antigua drug rehabilitation center for less than a day. She used electric clippers to shave her head the following night. She would get herself admitted in other rehabilitation centers in the weeks that followed. At one time she ended up at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a police bust at her house. After she was admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center’s psychiatric ward, she was placed under temporary, and later permanent conservatorship. The court appointed her father and attorney Andrew Wallet to act as conservators. Louis Vuitton, the Paris-based international fashion house, at one time sued her for upholstering her Hummer interior in fake Louis Vuitton fabric in her 2005 music video Do Somethin . Subsequently, the video was banned on some TV stations.
Despite her controversies and her fall from grace, Britney staged a comeback. On August 26, 2016, she released an album, Glory . She won four awards, Favorite Pop Artist, Female Artist, Social Media celebrity as well as Comedic Collaboration at the 43rd People's Choice Awards. This year she announced her Las Vegas residency show would be performed as a world tour. Britney Spears is a world famous pop icon but it is with her strengths and failures that she exemplifies the indomitable spirit of the American people. And for this reason, I find her very interesting.
Blandford, J. R. (2002). Britney . London: Music Sales Group.
Britney Spears - Toxic (Official Video). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOZuxwVk7TU
Encyclopedia Britannica. Britney Spears: American singer . https://Britannica.com/biography/Britney-Spears
Folkard, C. (2003). Guinness World Records 2003 . New York City: Bantam Books.
Goldstein, N. (2013). ‘Why is Britney Spears so appealing to gay fans?’ The Guardian . Thursday 12 December 2013. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/12/britney- jean-spears-new-album-gay-fans
Hollyscope Team (2007), ‘Louis Vuitton Sues Britney Spears’. www.hollyscoop.com
Hooton, J. (2016) ‘How James Corden And Britney Spears Sexualised Schoolgirls ‘One More Time’ In Carpool Karaoke” Huffpost Entertainment 05 September 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/jacqueline-hooton/james-corden-britney- spears_b_11771422.html
Miller, K. (2009). ‘What rocky past?! Britney’s the new Candie Girl’. Daily News 03 March 2009. http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/fashion/Britney-spears-candie-girl-jr-brand- banks-pop-star-future-not-article-1.362599