Spears is one of the best-known artists to emerge from Louisiana, having achieved international commercial success at an early age.
Britney Spears is one of the best-known artists to emerge from Louisiana, having achieved international commercial success at an early age. With her heavily stylized videos and image, and a highly marketable mainstream sound, Spears became one of the most famous pop stars in the world beginning in the late 1990s. In 2014 Variety magazine labeled her a “billion dollar empire.”
Born December 2, 1981, to Jamie and Lynne Spears in McComb, Mississippi, Britney was raised in Kentwood, Louisiana, where the family would remain for the rest of her childhood. Spears showed an early affinity for singing and dancing, and won state-level competitions and children’s talent shows. At age eight, an unsuccessful audition for Disney Channel’s The New Mickey Mouse Club prompted Spears’s parents to enroll her in the New York Professional Performing Arts School. From there she won her first professional role as the understudy for the lead in the Off-Broadway musical Ruthless! and appeared on the popular television show Star Search. In 1992 she was chosen for The New Mickey Mouse Club, along with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, and other up-and-coming child stars, but she returned to Kentwood after two seasons.
After an early demo tape caught the eye of music executives, Spears signed to Jive Records and in 1999 released her first album, . . . Baby One More Time. The lead single of the same name, released the previous year, launched her into stardom due to her distinctive vocal quality, catchy sound, heavy marketing and radio play, and the track’s controversial accompanying video. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart. It sold more than ten million copies worldwide. An opening tour slot with the popular boy band NSYNC came soon after, followed by a second studio album in 2000, Oops! . . . I Did It Again. A third album, Britney, debuted in 2001 and displayed a more adult image and complex sound, largely thanks to the lead single, “I’m a Slave 4 U.” Around the same time, Spears took a leading role in the coming-of-age feature film Crossroads. Though poorly received by critics, the film still grossed over $37 million in 2002.
The media used Spears’s high-profile relationships, marriage, motherhood, and personal struggles as tabloid fodder in the 2000s. In 2007 she garnered negative publicity for shaving her head, entering drug rehabilitation facilities for brief periods of time, and losing physical custody of her children to former husband Kevin Federline. In 2008 a judge placed Spears under an involuntary conservatorship. By 2020 a social media movement, known as #FreeBritney, called for termination of the conservatorship. After court proceedings in November 2021, the conservatorship ended.
Spears remains one of the top-grossing solo acts of all time. A Grammy Award winner, Spears has also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, among numerous other awards and accolades.