Britney Spears

One of the 21st century's biggest pop stars, Britney Spears has had her fair share of troubles but remains a global icon.

Despite still only being 32, Britney Spears has managed to generate more controversy than your average celebrity manages in a lifetime. From the outset, her sexually provocative image, aided by the slickest hit-making machine, has guaranteed non-stop headlines and constant media scrutiny.

It is all a long way from young Britney’s first televised performance on StarSearch in 1990. This led to the eight year-old Spears auditioning for Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. Initially, she was deemed by producers as being “too young” but, undeterred, she finally made the cut, aged eleven, and appeared singing, dancing, even rapping her way through 110 appearances, alongside fellow Mouseketeers Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.

The show’s cancellation in 1994 left Britney’s future uncertain. Demo tapes led to an audition for Jive Records in which she performed Jesus Loves Me and I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston, to amazed record executives, who signed her instantly.

Appearing as the opening support for *NSYNC’s 1998 tour paled into insignificance with the release, in December 1998, of her first solo single, …Baby One More Time, which achieved 9 million sales worldwide. Dressed in a provocative Catholic-schoolgirl outfit in the memorable video, the debate over sexual exploitation raged, spurring record sales.

A hugely successful first album was succeeded by the hit-laden Oops I Did It Again, a skilful retread of the formula. However, Britney’s private life was beginning to capture as many headlines as her music career. Dating teen heartthrob Justin Timberlake, they made the perfect pop couple, until the relationship died three years later.

Her attempt to capture an older audience failed, and Slave 4 U and sister singles all missed the Top 10. A universally-slated film appearance in Crossroads, and a “joke” marriage to a childhood sweetheart, which was annulled 55 hours later, did little to reassure the public that this was not a career in crisis.

In The Zone marked an indisputable return to commercial form with a new adult sound. A duet with her idol Madonna, coupled with a show-stopping kiss between the two at the 2003 MTV Music awards, confirmed that Britney was again the Pop Princess of her generation.

After these incredible highs, Britney's career began to wobble in 2004 as her controversial private life started to steal the limelight. Her January Las Vegas wedding to childhood friend Jason Alexander was annulled after less than three days. Within a few months she was dating rapper and dancer Kevin Federline, to whom she was engaged by July. The couple were married in October of that year, divorcing in November 2006.

While married to Kevin, Britney gave birth to two children, Sean Preston Federline and Jayden James Federline. She maintained a low profile as a performer, releasing only her first Greatest Hits collection in November 2004. She declared, however, that her career was not over, just on hold while she raised her young family.

2007 also started as a difficult year for Britney, with her erratic behaviour including the surprise shaving of her hair in February and a number of admissions to drug rehab facilities as she fought a custody battle for her children. In September, an LA judge ordered Ms Spears to undergo random drug and alcohol tests twice a week as part of the conditions of her child custody case.

Britney's performance at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards later that month received much media attention and was lauded as her comeback. She performed Gimme More, the lead single from her upcoming album. Reviews of the performance were largely critical, with many noting that the singer seemed confused on stage and appeared to have forgotten the lyrics and dance moves to her routine.

Shortly afterwards, Britney's management company announced that they had terminated their contract with her.

Things went from bad to worse for the troubled star when she was charged with hit-and-run and driving without a valid licence. In October 2007, a Los Angeles judge said Kevin Federline should be given custody of Sean Preston, two, and one-year-old Jayden James, until "further notice". The decision came two weeks after the same judge said the pop star engaged in "habitual, frequent and continuous use of controlled substances and alcohol".

On 3 January 2008, police were called to Britney's home after she refused to relinquish custody of her children to Federline. She was subsequently hospitalised after she "appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance," though blood tests show negative for any illicit substances. She was held for psychiatric evaluation for two days. On 31 January, a court placed Britney under temporary co-conservatorship of her father James Spears and his lawyer, giving them complete control of her assets.

A few days later, a restraining order was issued against Britney's ex-manager Sam Lutfi, who was accused of being a negative influence on the singer's life by her parents.

In March that year, Britney made a successful guest appearance on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother. The pop star played a love-struck receptionist in a tattoo-removal clinic who falls for the main character Ted. Her performance was widely viewed as a positive first step along a possible road to recovery. Britney reprised her role in May 2008, leaving the storyline open for a future return.

On 7 September 2008, Britney opened the MTV Video Music Awards for the third time. Although she didn’t perform, a pre-taped sketch with Jonah Hill and an introduction speech for the show’s opening was shown. To top it off, Britney won Best Female Video, Best Pop Video and Video Of The Year for Piece Of Me.

On 15 September, Jive released a statement announcing the title of her sixth studio album, Circus, as well as the first single, Womanizer. The single was released to radio stations on 26 September, with a release date of 2 December, coinciding with the star's birthday. On 15 October, the song made a record-breaking jump to number 1 in the US and garnered the biggest ever recorded first-week download sales by a female artist. It marked Britney's first number one single on the Hot 100 since her debut Baby One More Time.

Later that month, the charges against Britney for driving without a license were dismissed, upholding Britney’s claims she had a valid Louisiana license and so a California permit was not required. In the latter months of 2008, it looked as though Britney’s career was back on track with a host of new projects in the pipeline including a fragrance.

MTV also signed a deal with her and Jive records to release a documentary entitled Britney: For The Record which was aired to coincide with the release of Circus. The 60-minute documentary was a hit with viewers and was watched by 5.6 million viewers. According to MTV, that marked the highest rating in the network’s history for a programme shown during its Sunday night slot.

Circus, the star’s sixth studio album, was released in December 2008 to positive reviews and went straight in at number one in the US charts. This feat gave her an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the youngest female artist to have five albums debut at the number one spot. The Circus tour began in March 2009 and became the fifth highest grossing tour of that year, netting a cool $131.8 million.

Despite being only 28 at the time, Britney released her second greatest hits album in November 2009. The song 3 from The Singles Collection became the singer’s third number one single in the US. In September 2010, Britney returned to the small screen with a cameo appearance in the hit US TV show Glee, which produced the highest rating the show had ever seen.

After a protracted period of turmoil and struggle for the star, the future began to look bright. Britney began 2011 with the announcement that she would be releasing her seventh studio album, Femme Fatale, on 29 March 2011. It was one of the singer's most successful in recent years, with the record's first single Hold It Against Me debuting at number one in the US Billboard charts. The album also reached the top spot in Australia and Canada.

Femme Fatale was received well by fans and critics alike. Tom Gockelen-Kozlowski of the Daily Telegraph gave Spears four stars for the album, saying that "despite her weak voice and empty lyrics, [Spears] has placed herself at the avant-garde of pop with this masterful mixture of uber-cool dubstep and sugary pop".

Spears began her Femme Fatale tour in the summer of 2011, supported by up-and-coming female rapper Nicki Minaj. The tour opened to mostly positive reviews, with critics praising the star's dancing and stage present. This was a stark contrast to the reception she received for her Circus tour two years earlier, when she was accused by many on overly relying on lip-synching.

In May 2012, Spears replaced Nicole Sherzinger as a udge n the US version of The X Factor. In doing so she became the highest-paid reality TV judge in history, netting $15 million for her efforts. In total that year she was sai to earn $58 million.

December 3rd 2013 saw the release of Britney Jean, Spears' eighth studio album. Sales and chart placings were the lowest of her career thus far. In January 2014, Spears began a two-year residency in Las Vegas, set to perform 100 shows over two years.