From The Mickey Mouse Club and NSYNC, to all singing and dancing soloist, Justin has created a significant career for himself. How did he get his 'sexy back' to become a dynamic mega star?
Justin Randall Timberlake, who is sometimes called JT, was born to Lynn Harless and Randall Timberlake in Memphis Tennessee on January 31st 1981. He was born with music in his blood, as his father was the choir director for a local Baptist church, and his grandfather, Charles L. Timberlake, was a Baptist minister. Justin spent his childhood in Millington, a small town just north of Memphis. His parents divorced when he was five years of age, and both his parents have since remarried. His mother, Lyn is now married to Paul Harless, a banker, and his father got married again to a lady called Lisa.
Justin now has two half-brothers, both from his father’s second marriage - Jonathan (born in 1993) and Stephen (born in 1998). Justin also has a half-sister Laura, who died shortly after being born in 1997, and she is often mentioned on Justin’s album credits as “My Angel in Heaven”. Justin has always been very close to his mother: “”We have a very special relationship,” he says, “she’s been my best friend since I figured out what I wanted to be. With girls, you keep searching for someone that’s as good as your mum, and that’s a losing battle.” Justin’s mother now runs an entertainment company called JustinTime Entertainment.
Justin showed himself to be a natural performer from a very early age, and by the time he was 10, he was already singing on the stage of the world-famous Grand Ole Opry. The famous Timberlake singing and dancing style are greatly influenced by Michael Jackson, and Justin is often called the new King of Pop. Justin’s first official paid “gig” came in 1993, when he was still only 12, when he sang on stage with the Disney Mickey Mouse Club. Justin’s debut on the Disney stage proved to be a major turning-point in both his professional and personal life, for it was whilst singing here that he met Britney Spears, his future girlfriend; Christina Aguilera, his future touring mate; and also JC Chasez, his future bandmate in 'NSYNC.
When his Mickey Mouse Club appearances came to an end in 1995, Justin asked JC Chasez if he would like to take part in a new all-boy singing band that his buddy Lou Pearlman was putting together with musician Chris Kirkpatrick. Joey Fatone and Lance Bass were the other members of the band, which soon came to be known as 'NSYNC. Funnily enough, it was Justin’s mother who came up with the band’s name by using the last letter in each boy’s name to form the words ‘NSYNC.
With former New Kids On The Block manager Johnny Wright on board as their manager, the emerging boy band sought the help and expertise of seasoned music producers Kristian Lundin (Backstreet Boys) and Denniz Pop and Max Martin (Roby, Ace of Base), and rapidly turned out a swift succession of pop-oriented singles aimed at the teenage market. 'NSYNC released their first single in 1996, and hit the big time in their home market two years later, spreading their music via a tour of American roller rinks. Once they got going, it seemed as though 'NSYNC were virtually unstoppable, and in the year 2000, they released the fastest-selling album of all time, called 'No Strings Attached'.
In 2002, however, the demands of fame began to take their toll. After completing the tour to promote their new album, 'Celebrity', and the release of 'Girlfriend', the third hit single from the album, the group decided to take a break from their exhausting schedule. Justin wanted to keep right on performing, however, and it was at this point that he began to think about pursuing a solo career. He promptly began work on his first solo album, and was keen to take the opportunity to re-vamp his clean-cut image.
Going solo gave Justin the chance to break away from his old boy-band look, and he sought to develop a more mature - and also more openly sexy - style, both in the way he dressed and the way he sang. After many long, hard months working on his new album, which was eventually called 'Justified', Justin performed at the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, where he launched his first solo single, 'Like I Love You', a catchy dance number produced by the Neptunes.
Justin’s new musical style was radically different to the kind of numbers he had performed in his NSYNC days, featuring a heavy R&B influence thanks to the hip-hop inclinations of his new producers, the Neptunes. Following the release of the single, Justin released his first solo album on 5th November the same year. It entered the Billboard 200 Chart at Number 2, and sold nearly half a million copies in the first week alone!
In keeping with his musical background, the album featured several tracks that were originally intended to be released on Michael Jackson’s 'Invincible' album, but never quite made it to the final selection. Several further singles from the album were released throughout late 2002 and 2003, including the hit singles 'Rock Your Body' and 'Cry Me A River'. Justin promoted the album by heading up the Justified/ Stripped Tour with his old stage buddy from Disney Mickey Mouse Club days, Christina Aguilera throughout the summer of 2003.
The Black Eyed Peas frequently opened the tour dates. Incidentally, Justin has often sung with the Black Eyed Peas on stage, but usually goes unaccredited on their albums. At the end of 2003, Justin recorded a song called 'I’m Lovin’ It', which was subsequently adopted by fast-food chain McDonald as the theme song for their "I’m Lovin’ It” campaign.
Like many gifted young singers, Justin’s solo career has not been without its share of controversy. In February 2004, during the half-time show of the Superbowl XXXVIII, Justin performed with Janet Jackson, and tore off part of her black leather costume in order to illustrate the lyrics “gonna have you naked by the end of this song”. But the stunt accidentally went a bit too far, and part of Jackson’s breast was briefly exposed. Justin apologised profusely for the incident, saying “I’m sorry if anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction…it was not intentional and regrettable.”
Thanks to Justin and Janet, The phrase “wardrobe malfunction” has now entered pop mythology and has become a stock phrase ever since. But as a result, Justin and Janet Jackson were banned from the 2004 Grammy Awards unless they consented to apologise once again on live TV before the whole nation. Janet Jackson refused to do so, but Justin attended the event, and read out a pre-written apology. He received 2 Grammy Awards that night, Best Pop Vocal Album for 'Justified', and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for 'Cry Me A River'.
Following the Superbowl scandal, Justin took a break from his singing career, and decided to try his hand at acting. He’d already enjoyed a few cameo roles during his early singing career. These included playing the part of a male model in 'Model Behaviour' in 2000, and another bit part in 'On The Line' in 2001, so he was keen to develop his acting skills. He played a journalist in the thriller 'Edison Force' (2004) and also appeared in 'Alpha Dog', 'Southland Tales' and 'Black Snake Moan'. He is the voice of the young King Arthur in 'Shrek the Third' (2007) and even appeared as a young Elton John in John’s promo video for the song, 'This Train Don’t Stop There Anymore'.
In late 2002, Justin was the first celebrity to appear on 'Punk’d', a candid camera-style show devised by Ashton Kutcher, in order to trick celebrities into making fools of themselves on TV! Three episodes later, Justin set up Kelly Osborne to be punk’d, and thus became the first celebrity to appear on the show more than once. In addition, Justin got his own back on Ashton Kutcher when he subsequently spoofed both Kutcher and 'Punk’d' in an episode of NBC’s 'Saturday Night Live'!
Justin also appeared on 'Saturday Night Live' in December 2006, when he turned up for double duties on the show, acting both as host and musical artist once again. During the show, Justin and his colleague Andy Samberg performed an R&B song for a famous skit called 'Dick In A Box', which some radio stations in America have aired as an unofficial Timberlake single. As well as acting and appearing on TV, Justin found time to launch his own clothing line, called William Rast, which went on sale at Bloomingdales in 2005. He also carried on singing with other artists, like the Black Eyed Peas in 'My Style' on their 2005 album, 'Monkey Business', and was also featured on Nelly Furtado’s song, 'Work It'.
In the summer of 2005, Justin also launched his own record company, JayTee Records. He continued to work on his second solo album, and released 'FutureSex/ LoveSounds' in September 2006. The album went straight to Number 1 in the Billboard chart, and sold 904,000 copies in the first week alone! The album also received the biggest number of pre-orders ever recorded on iTunes. Justin peformed the album’s lead single, 'Sexy Back' at the 2006 MTV Video Music Awards. The second and third singles subsequently released from the album, 'My Love', and 'What Goes Around…Comes Around' also achieved massive sales, with 'My Love' also going straight to Number 1 in the Billboard Hot 100.
Despite his phenomenal professional success, Justin’s private life has not been without its own share of scandal and heartbreak. As a teenager, he first dated his high school sweetheart, and then went out with wannabe pop singer Veronica Finn. But his most famous romance was with fellow superstar pop singer Britney Spears, whom he’d first met back in 1993, on the stage of the Mickey Mouse Club.
Justin and Britney were engaged to be married, with Britney famously declaring her intention to remain a virgin until her wedding night, in interview after interview in the world’s tabloid press! But the ill-starred love affair came to a sudden end in 2002, allegedly because Britney cheated on Justin with choreographer Wade Robson, who was a mutual friend of the couple. Justin was devastated by the break-up, and apparently, so was his mother. Mother Lyn still speaks kindly of Britney: “She grew up on my living-room floor. I still love her to death. They were together ten or eleven years and had, from day one, instant chemistry between them. She’s a sweet girl. I just hate what she’s going through now.”
But every cloud is said to have a silver living, and Justin’s troubled love life is said to have provided the inspiration for his smash hit, 'Cry me A River', one of the best-selling singles from Justin’s album, 'Justified'.
Since splitting up with Britney Spears, Justin has dated a string of high-profile ladies, but none of his romances appear to have stayed the course. The first girl he dated after Britney was actress/ dancer Jenna Dewan, whom he was seeing in 2002; then came actress/singer Alyssa Milano, whom he dated briefly in autumn 2002. Justin’s name was then linked with that of top Hollywood actress Cameron Diaz, some years his senior. Justin and Cameron got together after meeting at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards in April 2003, but their relationship was stormy, and there were frequent rumours of rows and break-ups in the gossip columns and the tabloid press. Finally, in December 2006, the couple did actually split up - and issued the following joint statement…
“It has always been our preference not to comment on the status of our relationship, but out of respect for the time we’ve spent together, we are compelled to do so now, in light of recent speculation and the number of inaccurate stories that are reported by the media. We have, in fact, ended our romantic relationship and have done so mutually and as friends, with continued love and respect for each other.”
He was rumoured to be dating another top Hollywood actress, Scarlet Johansson, who appeared in his music video for the single, ‘What Goes Around…Comes Around’, which reportedly led to the split. Later in January 2007, Timberlake was linked to actress Jessica Biel when pictures of the two together were published by the news media.
A fan of English Premier League football club Manchester United, the award-winning star's sex appeal was recognised in 2009 when both Teen People and Cosmopolitan magazine handed him ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ recognitions. Justin is also a generous person, as highlighted by his links to several charities, which he has donated money to. In 2007, some of the earnings from his Australian tour were donated to Wildlife Warriors, which was founded by the late Steve Irwin. This was followed by a similar contribution to the Memphis Rock 'n' Soul Museum and to the Memphis Music Foundation in 2008.
He is also a supporter of Shriners Hospitals for Children, a charity dedicated to improving paediatric care for sick children. His backing of the organisation coupled with his love of golf resulted in the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The event has raised millions of dollars for the charity since the PGA Tour Las Vegas tournament was changed to carry his name.
Timberlake has continued to forge a successful acting career in recent years. In 2009, he starred in 'The Open Road' alongside Kate Mara and Jeff Bridges. The following year, he appeared in the hugely successful movie 'The Social Network', which was directed by David Fincher and is based on the founding of Facebook. The film received favourable reviews from critics, with Peter Travers of Rolling Stone hailing it as the "movie of the year". His latest roles have been in 'Runner runner' (2013) and 'Inside Llewyn Davis' (2013).
Despite his success on the big screen, Timberlake is still making music. In 2009, he co-wrote and lent his vocals to the song 'Carry Out', which featured on Timbaland's 'Shock Value II' album. In 2013, Justin released an album in two parts, it was called 'The 20/20 Experience' and was a commercial and critical hit.
In March 2011, it was announced that Timberlake had split from his partner of four years, actress Jessica Biel. A statement released on behalf of the couple said the pair had "mutually decided to part ways". It added: "The two remain friends and continue to hold the highest level of love and respect for each other." However, they reconciled and were married in October 2012.