If you happened to be in elementary school, high school or, well, basically just alive when Britney Spears was introduced to the world wearing a very sexy catholic schoolgirl uniform, you probably either wanted to be her or to be with her.
For a time, Britney could do no wrong. Everything she did was eaten up by all her adoring fans. Red latex jumpsuit? Fans loved it. Rolling Stone cover holding a Teletubby with her bra showing? Fans loved it. Wearing a damn snake like it was no biggie during a VMA performance? Fans loved it. Of course, Britney’s choices at this point in her career weren’t completely without criticism, but her critics were mostly prudish parents who didn’t understand the goddess that was Britney.
Then the s–t hit the fan and all the prudish parents were right. Soon, the same Britney Spears who made every teen girl want a bellybutton ring was bald and married to Kevin Federline. How had this happened? How was this the same girl who had once enchanted us with pop melodies, iconic music videos and out of this world performances? Well, being in the public eye for nearly two decades will result in many different stages in anyone’s public persona. No one can remain the same person they were when they were 16 and wearing pigtails. Change is to be expected and it has resulted in many specific stages in Britney’s career:
10. Young, Innocent Mouseketeer Britney
This was when the world was introduced very briefly to Britney Spears. She first auditioned when she was only eight years old, but didn’t make the cut, deemed too young at the time. This, thankfully, didn’t deter the Kentwood, Louisiana native as she went on to appear on Star Search and a few commercials in the meantime. In 1992, she was finally cast in The Mickey Mouse Club, alongside Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling, and Keri Russell. Of course, she was too young to know that she would later be pitted as rivals against Aguilera in just a few years when they were both huge pop stars. She also didn’t know that she’d go on to date Timberlake, making everyone’s pop couple dreams come true. At this point, Britney was young, fresh-faced and talented.
9. Schoolgirl Britney
The “Baby, One More Time…” music video featured Britney wearing the catholic school uniform that would launch her career. This video, along with the catholic school uniform, would become so iconic that the clothes are even worn to this day as a Halloween costumes for girls. The costumes for this video were supposed all bought at Kmart and none of the clothing costed over $17. This would soon be a far cry from Britney’s highly stylized videos in the future. In the early days of her career, Britney maintained this image of sweetness and sultriness as seen in this video; she was young, only 16 at the time, and selling an image that teetered somewhere between virtuous and hyper-sexualized.
8. Britney Spears, The Sexiest Woman Alive
At this point, Britney was the hottest woman alive. She just was. In 1999, Britney appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone, lying on a bed, with her shirt open, flashing her bra all while holding a Teletubby. The American Family Association deemed the photo to be a “disturbing mix of childhood innocence and adult sexuality,” which was, well, basically the point. The American Family Association probably didn’t like was happened next with the “Oops!… I Did It Again” music video. She appeared in the video wearing a skin tight red latex bodysuit, being somewhat sexualize and somewhat sci-fi but definitely “not that innocent.” She continued to slowly shed that sweet facade and embraced her sultry image. In her 2000 VMA performance, she sang a cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and “Oops!… I Did It Again.” She walked onto the stage wearing a sparkly black suit and a hat, only to, mid-performance, rip it off and dance around in a nude, shimmery and revealing costume.
7. The Golden Girl
At this point, Britney Spears was “it.” She could do no wrong as American’s favorite pop star with abs of steel. (But, seriously, have you seen her abs during the hay day of her fame?) She was basically a walking advertisement for gym memberships. Her good girl image was toast by this point. The final nail in the coffin was the steamy “I’m a Slave 4 U” video and her 2001 MTV Video Music Awards performance of said song. You know, that performance when she had a freaking python on her shoulders like it was a scarf. In 2002, Spears was ranked the world’s most powerful celebrity by Forbes – and they were probably right. At this time, Britney also signed an $8 million deal to be the face of Pepsi, resulting in several commercials. Because Britney could do no wrong, she tried to expand her career beyond commercials and starred in a feature length film, Crossroads. The film was a success, earning $61 million worldwide on its $12 million budget. Everything she touched turned to gold.
6. Britney As The Ex-Girlfriend
The trouble with being a young, successful, beautiful couple is that when you break up, everyone cares, which is exactly what happened when Justin and Britney ended their relationship. Rumors were flying around that she had cheated on him with a back-up dancer. Justin released a song “Cry Me a River” that further fueled the rumors that Britney had been unfaithful with a back-up dancer. The video for the song also went even one step further as he cast a Spears look-alike for the revenge fantasy video. If there was a turning point in Britney’s career, breaking up with Justin was it. There weren’t any huge signs that this was a major change in Britney’s look and persona, but it was the first crack in her perfect façade. We were about to see a whole new side of Britney.
5. The Britney Who Kissed Madonna
After Britney and Justin broke up, Britney would soon spiral into a tabloid sensation. The first of which would be her public make out session with Madonna. Britney Spears’ MTV Video Music Awards performances are legendary, but this may be the most talked about of them all – and let us remind you that she once danced with a python wrapped around her shoulders. The performance began with Britney singing “Like a Virgin” with fellow Mouseketeer, Christina Aguilera. They were joined on stage by pop royalty Madonna, who kissed both girls, but it was the Britney kiss that everyone was talking about. After kissing Britney, the camera cut to Justin Timberlake’s reaction, who kept his cool. Poor, Justin. It’s probably a bit rough watching your ex-girlfriend kiss Madonna on stage in a performance that would be broadcast to millions of people. This would be one of the first huge tabloid stories about Britney.
4. Britney Is A Bride (Twice!)
Britney Spears got married not once in 2004, but twice. Her first marriage was to a childhood friend, Jason Allen Alexander. The pair wed in The Little White Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. What happened in Vegas did not stay in Vegas. Magazines ate up the news. The marriage was annulled 55 hours later, making it one of Hollywood’s shortest marriages. After that, Spears suffered a knee injury, which resulted in her cancelling The Onyx Hotel Tour, another blow for her career that year. The cherry on top of Spears’ 2004 was ol’ Kevin Federline. The pair became engaged only three months after meeting. Better yet, K-Fed’s ex, who he had just recently broken up with, was still pregnant with their second child when his engagement to Spears was announced. How was America’s pop princess engaged to him? Her downward spiral definitely in action during 2004.
3. Bald Britney
In the years following, Britney Spears would give birth to two sons, divorce Kevin Federline and then lose custody of her children to him, all while dealing with the media frenzy that followed. She was even put in a mental institution after she refused to give her one son over to Federline. She didn’t handle the attention from the media in the most graceful of fashions. Britney even went so far as to attack the paparazzi with an umbrella. Oh, this was all while she was bald because she shaved her hair off for fear that a judge would test her hair for drug use. She went from being the sexiest woman in the world, adored by millions of fans, to being some bald psycho who beat people up with umbrellas. Her father and attorney even took over complete control of her assets. In the Britney saga, this is what we would call rock bottom.
2. Comeback Britney
Erasing the image of bald Britney using an umbrella as a weapon is a hard thing to get out of people’s minds, but if it can be done, Britney Spears is the woman who can do it. She disappeared from the limelight for a bit – most likely to grow her hair back in peace and quiet. When she reemerged, she seemed almost like the Britney everyone had once known and loved. She appeared on an episode of How I Met Your Mother, receiving positive reviews and gaining the show its highest ratings. She also eventually gained back visitation rights to her sons. Then, MTV broadcast Britney: For the Record, a documentary that followed her return to the spotlight and allowed her to finally tell her side of the story about her melt down. Britney also appeared on Glee, earning Glee’s highest ratings as well. Her return to the spotlight had to be slow and meticulously planned, as no one wanted another bald breakdown. Britney then signed on to replace Nicole Scherzinger on The X Factor. It’s been reported that her salary for one season of the show was $15 million, the most any judge on a singing competition had been paid. At this point, Britney was making a comeback but was also proving that she was still at the top of her game. All we had to do was forget about (and forgive her for) her 2007 VMA performance and Chaotic, the reality TV show that followed around Britney and Federline.
1. It’s Britney, B*tch
All’s well that ends well. After cleaning up her image, Britney signed on to do a two-year show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas and is making a whooping $300,000 per show. She recently announced that she would be extending Britney: Piece of Me for two more years, because who wouldn’t if they were being paid $300,000 a night. She recently had another cameo on Jane the Virgin, making her acting chops known again with one guest starring role at a time. Britney now takes to Instagram to connect with fans and project the image that she’d like to be known for to her fans. She often posts about exercise and her children, going back to the roots of that sweet girl everyone met 16 years ago. Britney, now 34 years old, projects a certain wholesomeness that comes from being a caring mother but is still the sultry songstress who puts on a show every week in Vegas. It seems she’s now embracing her sweet-but-sexy persona we were introduced to with “…Baby One More Time” once again.