People

Britney Spears: A life in pictures

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It's strange to think that 12 years ago, few people had heard of Britney Spears. Now she's a one-woman buzzword for teen pop, media mayhem and the chaos and pseudo-glamour of the late nineties and noughties. Entertainment's ultimate pop princess has had an explosive career to date, with everything from an on-stage kiss with Madonna to a shock Las Vegas wedding featuring in her colourful repertoire. On the back of Stylist's exclusive interview with Britney this week, we chart the highs and lows of her rise to fame. Click on the images below to find out more...

Picture credits: Rex Features and Getty Images

  • Britney Spears: 1994

    Britney Spears was born on 2 December 1981 in Kentwood, Louisiana.

    "Even as a little baby, Britney was a real darling…she was always being noticed," according to her mum, Lynne Spears.

  • Britney Spears: 1994

    Sure enough, the pop princess to be found fame early - at the age of 11 to be precise, on US TV show The New Mickey Mouse Club.

    Her boyfriend and pop rival to be, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera, also had spots on the programme.

  • Britney Spears: 1999

    By the time she was 17, Britney had branched out into music. Her debut single ...Baby One More Time smashed to the top of the charts in January 1999, helped in large part by its raunchy schoolgirl video.

  • Britney Spears: 1999

    Britney later revealed it was her idea to spice up the school uniforms in the music video.

    "The outfits looked kind of dorky, so I was like, 'Let's tie up our shirts and be cute,'" she said.

  • Britney Spears: 1999

    Her runaway chart success was recognised at the 1999 Billboard Music Awards, where Britney picked up three awards including best new artist of the year.

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    By the year 2000, Britney was well on the way to becoming a pop phenomenon, with Oops! I Did It Again selling more than a million copies in the first week of release.

    The rising star grabbed headlines with her sultry performance of the hit at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York in September 2000 (pictured).

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    Britney also co-presented with fellow up-and-coming singer (and former Mickey Mouse Club star) Christina Aguilera at the awards.

    During these early years, the media played up the "rivalry" between Britney and Christina, as both sought fame in a booming teen music market.

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    Meanwhile, Britney continued to reap the benefits of life in the limelight with glamorous photo shoots such as this one in Paris...

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    And a continuing string of accolades and awards (as pictured here at the Billboard Music Awards in 2000).

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    Throughout it all, she had the support of a close family network, headed up by her mother Lynne (pictured).

  • Britney Spears: 2000

    In September 2000, Britney went public on her relationship with Justin Timberlake, then a member of boy band 'N Sync.

  • Britney Spears: 2001

    By the time this photo was taken in November 2001, they had been going steady for over a year and were an established item on the showbiz circuit.

  • Britney Spears: 2001

    It was also around this time that Britney's PR team made a move to vamp up her good girl image, with notably sexier costumes and a slightly different type of music that came with the release of urban hit I'm A Slave 4 U in September 2001.

  • Britney Spears: 2001

    Her rendition of the hit at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2001 caused a stir around the world - pictured here beforehand, she performed it with a 7-ft. albino python draped around her neck and a scantily-clad costume that would come to define her on-stage style.

  • Britney Spears: 2001

    As her tours around the world continued to sell out, Britney developed a reputation for putting on a show in the real sense of the word.

  • Britney Spears: 2002

    By February 2002, Britney had made her first foray into acting with a lead role in coming-of-age movie Crossroads. (pictured here with co-star Anson Mount in the film)

  • Britney Spears: 2002

    But there was sad news too as in spring 2002, Britney and Justin called time on their relationship.

    "(The breakup) was horrible. Very upsetting and it took a lot out of me. He was my first real love, and I doubt I'll ever be able to love anyone like that ever again," she said later.

  • Britney Spears: 2003

    Luckily, Britney had her family to fall back on and support her - including her younger sister Jamie Lynn. The two have always been close and were frequently pictured together in the early days of Britney's fame.

  • Britney Spears: 2003

    In 2003, Britney's attempts to juice up her image continued - she posed like a lap dancer for a front cover shoot on W magazine and admitted losing her (initially much-publicised) virginity to Justin. "I thought he was the one," the pop star told W. "But I was wrong."

  • Britney Spears: 2003

    Britney's commercial success continued with aplomb - and along with it came critical recognition.

    Her single Toxic landed Britney her first Grammy award for best dance recording.

  • Britney Spears: 2003

    Perhaps as a seal of her iconic status, Britney then performed on-stage with Madonna at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards and shared a much-hyped kiss with the original Material Girl.

    The singer later admitted that she idolised Madonna growing up.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    January 2004 brought with it the first real taste of controversy for Britney, as she wed childhood friend Jason Alexander in an impromptu ceremony in Las Vegas, sending shockwaves around the world of entertainment.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    The union was annulled after just 55 hours. Britney told Today's Matt Lauer the entire episode was an act of rebellion, prompted by a challenging performance schedule.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    The incident intensified media focus on Britney and was mocked on a special episode of Saturday Night Live with Jennifer Aniston in the role of the pop singer.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    Britney herself, however, had already moved on. In April 2004, she was pictured with back-up dancer Kevin Federline.

    Their relationship raised eyebrows as Kevin had been dating girlfriend Shar Jackson, who was pregnant with their child, when he turned his attentions to Britney.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    But the speculation was in vain, as one year after Britney opened the MTV Video Music Awards dressed up as a bride (in August 2003), she was preparing for her own big nuptials...

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    On 18 September, 2004, Britney and Kevin tied the knot in Studio City, California. Britney's guests (including sister Jamie Lynn and mother Lynne, pictured) wore special pink tracksuits marked "The Maids" and Kevin's friends wore white tracksuits labelled "The Pimps."

    Britney herself ditched her trademark tracksuits for a $26,000 strapless silk gown by designer Monique Lhuillier.

  • Britney Spears: 2004

    The newlyweds courted attention wherever they went. Britney later described the wedding as "my fairy tale dream."

    Soon after the marriage, she also released a cover of the Bobby Brown track My Prerogative, which some saw as her response to intense media scrutiny. It sold around 5 million copies.

  • Britney Spears: 2005

    By July 2005, Britney was six months' pregnant with her first child.

    She and Kevin also appeared in their own reality show Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, which told the story of their early relationship.

  • Britney Spears: 2005

    Just in time for her first baby, Britney moved back into her newly refurbished LA home in September 2005.

    The sprawling mansion was testimony to the singer's continued success, with a minature replica of the house in the backyard for the kids, a 20-ft barbecue pit and a separate building for the exclusive use of her security team.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    Britney's son Sean Preston was born in September 2005. By the time this photo was taken, in May 2006, she was pregnant with her second child.

    "I find being pregnant empowering. I think it brings out a pure side of you, and I think that's cool," she said.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    As Britney continued to flourish in the limelight - she did "a Demi" and bared her baby bump on the August cover of Harper's Bazaar - questions began to surface over the state of her marriage with Kevin.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    In an interview on NBC in June 2006, Britney broke down in tears and admitted being "an emotional wreck" but denied her marriage to Kevin was in crisis. She said he was helping her through her second pregnancy.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    But by November 2006, two months after the birth of their second son Jayden James, Britney had filed for divorce.

    The star cited "irreconcilable differences" in Los Angeles County Superior Court and sought custody of both their children.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    Soon after, she struck up a friendship with socialite Paris Hilton (pictured here with Britney's son Jayden).

    The two were photographed frequently over this period, at clubs in LA and Las Vegas.

  • Britney Spears: 2006

    With her social life in full swing, tensions between Britney and the flock of paparazzi who followed her around became ever more evident.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    It was not until February 2007 that coverage really went nuclear, after Britney reportedly checked in and out of rehab before shaving off all her hair at this Californian beauty salon.

    "My mom is going to freak," she is said to have told the salon owner, midway through the haircut.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    Britney's hair came back but her partying ways continued - with her cousin Ali Sims (pictured) frequently at her side.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    Around this time, Britney was also embroiled in a fierce battle with ex-husband Kevin over the custody of their kids - with Kevin issuing a subpoena to several of her friends to testify about her parenting skills. In September 2007, a judge ruled she must undergo random drug testing and meet with a parenting coach twice a week.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    Speculation was rife that Britney was somehow "out of control," with photos of her out of the town taking precedence over her music.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    This perception was reinforced at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, where the singer was slammed for her sluggish, low-energy performance that appeared to show her lip-syncing.

    "Visibly nervous, she tottered around the stage, dancing tentatively and doing nothing that sounded or looked like real live singing," a New York Times review read.

    A week after the VMAs, Britney's management team quit.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    But it wasn't only Britney making the headlines in 2007 - her younger sister Jamie Lynn also hit the front page after announcing she was pregnant at the age of 16.

    Jamie, who was a star on kids channel Nickelodeon at the time, became synonymous with teen pregnancy.

  • Britney Spears: 2007

    Through it all, Britney's comeback single Gimme More continued to receive good reviews and in November her new album Blackout sold 290,000 copies in the first week of release and entered at No. 2 on Billboard's 200 album chart.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    In early 2008, Britney's personal problems intensified and on 3 January, she was taken to hospital on a gurney after a stand-off over custody.

    The singer had locked herself in the bathroom of her LA home with her youngest son, Jayden, and refused to hand him over to Kevin Federline. She was released from hospital less than 24 hours later, but a judge granted temporary custody of the children to Kevin.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    Britney was hospitalised again at the end of January for psychiatric analysis.

    "She went willingly. It was like something in her heart was telling her she should go. She knew something was wrong," her then-manager Sam Lufti said.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    But many members of Britney's close circle were concerned about Sam Lufti (pictured to the left of Britney) and the influence he apparently wielded over the singer at an extremely vulnerable time in her life.

    Britney's parents, Jamie and Lynne, became engaged in a battle with Sam over what was best for Britney and in February, Jamie was granted legal control over his daughter's assets and affairs, as well as a restraining order against Sam.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    On 6 February, Britney was released early from a UCLA medical facility and went about rebuilding after her personal crisis.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    Around this time, she also struck up an unlikely relationship with British paparazzo Adnan Ghalib (pictured).

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    Despite the furore surrounding her personal life, Britney returned to the public eye in March, with a guest appearance on CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother.

    She played a receptionist who had a crush on one of the show's lead characters, played by Josh Radnor. The performance earnt her critical praise and she returned to the programme in May, having reunited with her management team.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    As her personal problems came under control, Britney's career also flourished. A year after her disastrous MTV VMA performance, the singer stormed the annual awards, scooping three gongs for Piece Of Me.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    Britney's album Circus was released in December 2008 to instant success, with half a million copies flying off the shelves.

    The popularity of this and her hit single Womanizer - lauded by critics as having a "genius hook" - ensured sell-out tours for the singer throughout the end of 2008 and 2009.

  • Britney Spears: 2008

    As the icing on the cake of her comeback, Britney reunited with her ultimate idol Madonna for the latter's Sticky & Sweet tour in LA in November 2008.

  • Britney Spears: 2009

    In 2009, Britney's live performances went from strength to strength.

  • Britney Spears: 2009

    Wherever she went, she put on a show-stopping spectacle.

  • Britney Spears: 2009

    Naturally, with her career stratosphering once again, Britney was granted the latest in a string of waxworks - seen here at the Madame Tussauds Hollywood Opening in LA in July 2009.

  • Britney Spears: 2009

    Around this time, Britney began dating her agent Jason Trawick. The pair remain together to this day and are rumoured to be planning a Christmas engagement.

    "Britney and Jason discuss marriage all the time. Britney is truly in love with Jason, and well, Jason has loved her for a very long time," a Spears family insider said.

  • Britney Spears: 2010

    2010 sealed Britney's status as the pop princess of the decade with a special appearance on Fox hit Glee.

    Britney played herself in the "Britney/Brittany" episode.

  • Britney Spears: 2011

    Into 2011, and Britney appeared happier than ever.

  • Britney Spears: 2011

    Her seventh studio album Femme Fatale was released in March, with Rolling Stone magazine heralding it as her best work yet.

    A sell-out tour soon followed.

  • Britney Spears: 2011

    With each new performance, Britney proves she's still got what it takes in the pop star stakes, more than 10 years after she first hit the spotlight.

    As the singer told Stylist in her recent interview, "I feel like success isn’t about conquering something, it’s being happy with who you are."