Britney Spears turns 40: A look back at the defining eras of her career

The Princess of Pop has been setting trends since the Nineties, says Prudence Wade.
Britney Spears turns 40: A look back at the defining eras of her career

By Prudence Wade, PA

Britney Spears is kicking off the festive season in style and turns 40 on December 2nd.

Spears gained a global following in the late-Nineties and early-Noughties with her raw talent and catchy tunes, quickly becoming known as the ‘Princess of Pop’.

More recently, Spears has dominated headlines for her fight against the conservatorship that controlled much of her life for a number of years – something she broke free from in November 2021.

Many of us grew up with Spears, so as she turns 40, let’s take a look back at the defining eras of her career…

Disney days…

Britney Spears 90S GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Spears burst onto the scene in 1992 on Disney TV show The Mickey Mouse Club – something that proved to be a bit of a star-maker, as the show also featured a young Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and Justin Timberlake.

It seems like Spears enjoyed being on the show, as she told ET in 2018: “It was a great time. It was probably one of the most special times in my life, The Mickey Mouse Club” – even suggesting she was up for a reunion.

Baby One More Time…

Baby One More Time Dancing GIF by Britney Spears - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Spears was catapulted onto the public stage with her debut album, …Baby One More Time, released when she was 16. The lead single has a place in history, with Spears dressed as schoolgirl in a miniskirt, thigh-high socks and fluffy pink bobbles in her hair. The look has become so iconic, it’s regularly recreated at Halloween – this year, Hailey Bieber gave it a go.

This was the beginning of Britney mania, compounded by the fact she was also then one half of pop’s golden couple with Justin Timberlake.

Britney Spears and Justin TImberlake
Spears and Justin Timberlake were a pop power couple (Alamy/PA)

It’s hard to skate over the misogyny Spears endured in the late-Nineties and early-Noughties – from being asked about her breasts in interviews to a Rolling Stone cover story talking about her “ample chest”.

For Spears, the hits kept coming – particularly with her second album in 2000, Oops! I Did It Again, with songs including Lucky and Stronger. She solidified her status as a style icon on the red carpet and in music videos – particularly the red catsuit from Oops! I Did It Again.

Changing up her image…

Lights Snake GIF by Britney Spears - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

Spears tried to shed the girl-next-door image with songs like Overprotected and I’m A Slave 4 U in 2001. Her music videos were increasingly racy, and she even performed at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards with a python around her shoulders (a move that didn’t thrill animal rights groups).

Spears and Timberlake split in 2002, and the following year Spears caused even more of a stir by kissing Madonna at the VMAs. Her fashion and music was more grown-up – and her popularity was showing no sign of slowing down.

Starting a family…

Hungry Music Video GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

 

In the mid-Noughties, Spears married Kevin Federline and they had two sons together. She was still producing chart-topping music – Blackout was released in 2007, with bangers like Piece Of Me and Gimme More – but a lot of the songs were overshadowed by tabloid gossip.

There’s really no need to go over this period in Spears’ life – it’s been heavily reported and dissected in the media, when the star might really have benefited from a bit of kindness and respite. In 2008, she was placed under a conservatorship due to her mental state – but she continued to make music. Circus came out the same year, with the lead single Womanizer storming the charts.

Fighting for her freedom…

Graffiti supporting the Free Britney movement
Graffiti supporting the Free Britney movement (Alamy/PA)

Since early 2019, Spears has been on an indefinite hiatus – fighting for her freedom from the conservatorship, which has meant her father Jamie has had control of her business and personal decisions.

She’s been vocal about the damage this arrangement has wreaked on her life, particularly on Instagram and through court testimony. The conservatorship came to an end after 13 years in November 2021, with Spears writing on Instagram: “Best day ever … praise the Lord … can I get an Amen.”

Now, Spears is enjoying her engagement to boyfriend Sam Asghari and announced she’s been working on a new film. With her freedom back, it’s likely we’ll be seeing a lot more of Spears as she moves into her 40s.

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