Britney Spears

It only took a bare midriff, innocently displayed in a high school corridor, to turn the world onto Britney Spears. The former teen singer is now probably one of the best-known figures in the music world.

And, in spite of the short shelf life usually enjoyed by pop stars, her public and private lives have kept her in the public eye over the years.

It's not just her army of teenage fans who took to Britney's musical efforts. Madonna, a notoriously hard person to please, gave the Kentwood, Louisiana-born blonde a personal thumbs up. The Material Girl had Britney's name emblazoned on the front of her T-shirt when she performed in New York in 2000, and the teenager returned the compliment when she was photographed in a vintage top bearing Madonna's image.

"Can I just say that I find it really irritating that everyone beats up on Britney Spears," the pop icon said as Britney's career took off. "I want to do nothing but support her and praise her and wish her the best. I mean, she's 18 years old! It's just shocking... I was so gawky and geeky and awkward and unsure of myself at that age." Over the next few years the two would forge a public friendship, recording a track together - Britney's Me Against The Music, and sharing a kiss on stage during the 2003 MTV Music Video Awards.

It would seem that the sky is the limit for the squeaky clean teenager turned sultry pop starlet who lists Prince William among her fans. She also released her first major motion picture, Crossroads, in 2002, with aims of pursuing an acting career. In fact, the singer says she hopes to team up on screen with Prince William among her fans. She also released her first major motion picture, Crossroads, in 2002, with aims of pursuing an acting career. In fact, the singer says she hopes to team up on screen with Brad Pitt. "He is, like, the ultimate. Soooo sexy," croons Britney.

It's obvious, of course, that Britney is no showbusiness neophyte. As an eight-year-old she auditioned for the US TV show Disney's Mickey Mouse Club and, although the producers deemed that she was then too young to be signed up, she was back singing and dancing with the world's favourite mouse by the time she was 11.

One of her co-stars was 'N Sync vocalist Justin Timberlake, who she eventually admitted to dating after months of caginess. After their break-up in 2002, she was linked with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst and Irish bad boy Colin Farrell, but neither led to serious romance.

On January 3, 2004, however, Britney took the world by surprise when she married childhood friend Jason Alexander in Las Vegas. But the singer later changed her mind and dismissed the wedding as a night of revelry that got out of control. The couple secured an annulment after only 55 hours.

Surprisingly, that trip down the aisle wasn't the only one for the singer in 2004. In September of that year, she wed Kevin Federline, one of her tour backup dancers, in a low-key California ceremony attended only by a select group of friends and loved-ones. Their son, Sean Preston, was born on September 14th, 2005, just prior to the couple's first wedding anniversary.

Hopes her second marriage would stand the test of time were dashed when she filed for divorce in November 2006, two months after the birth of their second son Jayden James. She cited "irreconcilable differences" in legal papers.

Motherhood provided a natural career break for Britney, who had been working solidly since her Mickey Mouse Club days. However, her personal life hit a rocky patch in 2007 as she entered into custody proceeding with Kevin. After less than 24 hours in a rehabilitation facility in Antigua in February the troubled star shaved her head, before heading back to a different treatment centre in California.

She remained there for almost a month but a spate of driving offences followed and after a less than slick comeback performance of new single Gimme More at MTV's Video Music Awards the same year, the pressure proved too much for Britney. In early 2008 her father was granted temporary conservatorship of her assets white the singer sought medical help.

However, the resilient pop singer bounced back. With a well-received cameo appearance on hit US comedy How I Met Your Mother - bringing the show its highest ratings ever, and a regular stint teaching children to dance at an LA studio.
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