Jean Spears was born December 2, 1981, in Kentwood, Louisiana, USA,
and began performing as a singer and dancer at a young age. She made a nationally
televised appearance on Star Search and then auditioned for the Disney Channel's
New Mickey Mouse Club at age eight. The producers turned her down because
they felt she was too young. However, one of them saw her potential and
introduced her to an agent in New York. Spears spent the next three years
studying at the Professional Performing Arts School, and also appeared in
several television commercials and off-Broadway plays. At age 11, she returned
to The New Mickey Mouse Club for a second audition, and this time made the
grade joining fellow 'Mouseketeers' such as Justin Timberlake, JC Chasez,
Christina Aguilera, and Felicity actress Keri Russell. Sadly during her
second season the show was canceled. For a year she returned to High School
but then, at age 15, she returned to New York started auditioning for pop
bands and recording demo tapes. One of her tapes was heard at Jive Records
who promptly signed her up.
In late 1998, Jive released her debut single, "Baby One More Time." The single shot to the top of the charts, aided by a video. When Spears' debut album of the same title was released in early 1999, it entered the charts at number one and stayed there for six weeks. Once the ubiquitous lead single died down, the album kept spinning off hits: the Top Ten "(You Drive Me) Crazy," the near-Top 20 ballad "Sometimes," and the Top 20 "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart." By the end of 1999, Baby One More Time had sold ten million copies, and went on to sell a good three million more on top of that. Britney was a superstar and pictures of her appeared in countless magazines.
Oops!...I Did It Again appeared in the spring of 2000, and the title track was an instant smash, racing into the Top Ten. The album entered the charts at number one and sold over a million copies in its first week of release, a new record for first-week sales by a female artist. Like her previous album it spawned hit singles "Lucky," the gold-selling "Stronger," and "Don't Let Me Be the Last to Know". A year after its release, Oops!...I Did It Again had sold over nine million copies. Rumors that 19 year old Britney was dating N Sync heartthrob (and ex-Mouseketeer) Justin Timberlake were eventually confirmed and the media attention lavished on her soared.
For her third album, Britney started 'growing up'. Released in late 2001, Britney presented herself as a more mature young woman and hinted that her personal life wasn't always completely puritanical. Again it debuted at number one, although this time around the singles, "I'm a Slave 4 U," "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman," and "Overprotected" weren't as successful. They all missed the Top Ten slot. Sales of this third album stalled at a 'mere' four million copies.
In early 2002, Britney's feature-film debut, 'Crossroads', hit theaters, but didn't make a huge impact. Neither did her cameo appearance in Mike Myers' Austin Powers: Goldmember, or contribution of a remix of "Boys" for the soundtrack. Her romance with Timberlake fizzled not long after. Spears took a break from recording and performing for several months, and began work on a new album, 'In the Zone', which sold over 600,000 copies in it's first week. Yet again the album was carefully crafted to sell Britney as a sex idol walking a finely balanced line between virginal coquette and brazen tart. In the video she appeared to be naked apart from strategically placed diamonds.
Those marketing tactics made Britney a somewhat controversial figure, the subject of endless debates concerning appropriate role models for teenage girls. Early on, she tried to defuse the controversy by preaching abstinence until marriage, and even denied that she was consciously cultivating such a sexualized image. Of course, the more provocative and revealing her on-stage wardrobe became, the less plausible that claim seemed. Rumour and negative press came in the form of claims that she was an alcoholic - strenuously denied. At a concert in Rio someone carelessly left on a microphone which recorded Britney throwing a tantrum backstage. Her marriage to Jason Alexander in January 2004 was followed two days later by an annulment. 'It was a joke carried too far' was the claim.
However, no matter what the rumours, you can't get away from the fact that Dax's distant cousin, Britney is still a global superstar.
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