Whether you like her or not, we can all agree that Britney Spears has been a pop culture fixture for the past decade — which is why Glee is devoting an entire episode to her this coming Tuesday night. To help build up the excitement (or to school the non-believers among us), we’ve put together a visual primer of Britney highs and lows that spans her entire 28 years. Even longtime fans might find a few pieces of info that we’ve found (can you say, “Hair Zone Mall Tour”?) rather surprising.
Britney Jean Spears was born on December 2, 1981. She started taking dance lessons when she was only 3 years old.
Britney made her local stage debut at 5, singing “What Child Is This?” at her kindergarten graduation.
Britney traveled to Atlanta to audition for The Mickey Mouse Club when she was 8 years old, but was rejected by casting director Matt Cassella for being too young. She spent the next three years in New York City attending the Professional Performing Arts School Center.
Britney landed a role as the understudy for the lead role of Tina Denmark (which was played by Legally Blonde star Laura Bell Bundy) in the off-Broadway production Ruthless!. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a picture of her on stage. Fun fact: When Britney left, she was replaced by Natalie Portman.
At the age of 10, Britney performed on Star Search. She won the first round of competition, but lost in the second round singing “Love Can Build A Bridge.”
Britney joined the sixth season of The Mickey Mouse Club when she was 11. Among her soon-to-be famous costars: Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Ryan Gosling. Poor Jessica Simpson tried out, but didn’t make the cut. When the show was canceled in 1994, she returned to her hometown of Kentwood and enrolled at Parklane Academy where she was “so bored.”
After being rejected by three other labels, Britney signed to Jive Records and flew to Sweden to record her first album, …Baby One More Time in March of 1998. Upon returning to the US, she embarked on the Hair Zone Mall Tour, which like it sounds, was a tour of shopping mall food courts a la Tiffany and Deborah Gibson. Britney followed this up with her first real concert tour, where she opened for ‘N Sync.
…Baby One More Time — which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200— was released in January. The title track was also the lead single, and for the music video, Britney suggested a Catholic schoolgirl theme. Good instincts.
This was a big year for Brit. After headlining the …Baby One More Time Tour, she released her sophomore album, Oops!… I Did It Again, in May. It sold over 20 million copies worldwide, which led to the Oops!… I Did It Again World Tour. That September, she performed a mash-up of “Satisfaction” and “Oops … I Did It Again,” at the MTV Video Music Awards in a sequined flesh-colored bodysuit. She also “officially” announced that she was dating ‘N Sync’s Justin Timberlake.
Another year, another buzzed about VMAs performance. This time it involved a caged tiger and an albino python, which upset PETA. The song was “Slave 4 U.”
2002 is the year that Britney topped Forbes’ Celebrity 100. It is also the year that she starred in Crossroads, broke things off with Justin Timberlake, and gave Michael Jackson a birthday cake that he mistakenly thought was a Lifetime Achievement Award. You win some, you lose some.
When Britney and Madonna kissed at the 2003 VMAs, it was kind of like the Queen of Pop giving her blessing to its Princess. (Yes, Christina Aguilera was there performing “Like a Virgin” and she kissed Madge too. But Brit is the one who we remember.) This is also the year that she released In the Zone, which made her the first female artist to have first four studio albums debut at number one.
Britney married her childhood friend Jason Alexander in Vegas, ushering in the era of Crazy Britney. Their marriage was annulled 55 hours later. This is also the year that Britney suffered from a knee injury while shooting the video for “Outrageous” (putting an end to The Onyx Hotel Tour), started doing Kabbalah stuff because of her new pal Madonna, and announced her engagement to Kevin Federline. Their relationship was document on a train-wreck of a reality show called Britney & Kevin: Chaotic. They were married that fall, and Britney announced that she would be taking a break from her career to start a family.
Britney gave birth to her first child, Sean Preston Federline, on September 14, 2005.
In February, pictures surfaced of Britney driving around Malibu with Sean in her lap. She blamed the situation on the paparazzi. Thus began the Bad Mom Britney phase. Happy 2006 highlights include a hilarious guest role on Will & Grace as a closeted lesbian, a nude cover of Harper’s Bazaar (inspired by Demi Moore’s infamous Vanity Fair cover), and the birth of her second child, Jayden James Federline. On November 7, 2006, she filed for a divorce.
After an aunt whom she was close with died of ovarian cancer in January, Britney checked into a rehab facility in Antigua, where she stayed for less than a day. The next night she was back in California and shaving her head. There were visits to other treatment facilities in the weeks that followed, including a month-long program at Promises. She lost physical custody of her kids to K-Fed that October — the same month that she released Blackout, her fifth studio album. There was also this ill-advised performance at the 2007 VMAs.
Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse: After an incident with police, Britney’s visitation rights with her kids were suspended in early January. Later that month, she was committed to the psychiatric ward of Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and put on an involuntary psychiatric hold. She was released on February 6. A month later she guest starred as Abby, a rather dimwitted receptionist, on How I Met Your Mother, which led to the show’s highest ratings ever. In July, she regained some of her visitation rights. At that 2008’s VMAs she won Best Female Video, Best Pop Video, and Video Of The Year for “Piece of Me” — but she didn’t perform live. Britney released her sixth studio album, Circus, that December.
In many ways, Britney was back. Thanks to Circus, she had earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest female artist to have five albums debut at number one. “Womanizer,” the lead single, became her first number one in the Billboard Hot 100 since “…Baby One More Time.” In March, she embarked on the Circus Tour, which raked in $131.8 million.
Which brings us to the present. In May of this year, Britney’s reps confirmed that she was dating her agent, Jason Trawick (who has since quit the gig to focus on their relationship). There have been rumors of a wedding in the coming months, but nothing has been confirmed. Music-wise, she is working on her seventh studio album, which is slated for a 2011 release. And then there’s the much-anticipated Britney episode of Glee, which is only a few days away.
Here’s what we know so far: Britney will both appear in and sing during the episode — setting it apart from previous shows devoted to Lady Gaga and Madonna. The featured songs will include “…Baby One More Time,” “Toxic,” “I’m A Slave 4 U,” “Me Against the Music,” and “Stronger.” From the leaked photos, we assume that she’ll be doing a duet with Glee‘s Brittany, but that remains to be seen. Fingers crossed.