Anatomy of a Pop Superstar: Happy 30th Birthday, Britney Spears!

To celebrate the music icon's three decades on the planet, we take a look back at the high- and lowlights of her career

By Gina Serpe Dec 02, 2011 2:00 PMTags
Britney SpearsBeretta/Sims/

Grab the Cheetos and the fancy Red Bull, y'all, because we've got a birthday to celebrate!

That's right, Britney Spears has reached yet another milestone, this time of the birthday variety, and today turns the big 3-0. To help the Mouseketeer-made-good-then-bad-then-good-again celebrate, we're taking a look back at her life—and what a life it's been!—over the past three decades.

Where to start? Where not to start is the question…after all, it's Britney, bitch.

Dec. 2, 1981: Britney Jean Spears is born in Kentwood, La. The world doesn't know what hit it.

1993: Making good on her prowess for performing at a young age, Britney joins the cast of The New Mickey Mouse Club, alongside once and future contemporaries Keri Russell, JC Chasez, Christina Aguilera, Ryan Gosling and, perhaps most notably, Justin Timberlake.

1996: At age 15, Britney lands her first solo record deal with Jive.

1998: Britney released her debut smash single, "…Baby One More Time," and while it was a massive hit, what really catapulted her into the public consciousness (and fantasy) was the accompanying now-iconic music video released several months later, which saw her wearing an ultra short schoolgirl skirt, donning pigtail braids and engaging in rather suggestive school-hall dance numbers. Soon after, she's linked to fellow Mousketeer and 'NSync runt Justin Timberlake, though the couple are urged by their management to both keep their relationship quiet and announce that they planned to abstain from sex until marriage. Um, best-laid plans.

AP Photo/Suzanne Plunkett; Christopher Polk/AMA2011

1999: At 17 years old, Britney releases her first album and tests the bounds of both the stretching power of spandex and the patience of conservative parents everywhere. It's in this year that she nabs her first Rolling Stone cover, which not only sparks controversy for showing the teen reclining in her underwear, but sparks rumors that the bustier-than-remembered singer had gotten breast implants.

2000: Britney releases her second album, Oops!...I Did It Again, which sells more than 1.3 million copies its debut week. She also takes to the MTV VMA stage donning a nude, sheer, bedazzled body suit. Don't remember it? J.Lo sure does.

January 2001: Seven words: Britney. Justin. American Music Awards. Matching denim. Later that month, she performs alongside 'NSync and Aerosmith during the halftime show at Super Bowl XXXV.

Fall 2001: Britney's third album, Britney, arrives, and while sales are still massive, they show signs of dipping from the strength of her previous two. Her watercooler quotient is as high as ever, though, which she ensures by taking to the VMA stage to perform "I'm a Slave 4 U," this time accompanied by an albino snake whose writhing is rivaled only by that of Spears herself.

Kevin Mazur/

2002: Britstin? Justney? Whatever they would have been called (and thank God they decoupled before the advent of the one-named wonders), Britney and Justin broke up. Teenage girls everywhere rejoice and Britney is villainized after Justin's "Cry Me a River" is released and seems to indicate that infidelity (paging Wade Robson) was to blame for their split.

2002: The same year, the newly single Spears takes on her first acting role, the widely panned Crossroads.

September 2003: For the third year in a row, Britney creates a sensation at the MTV VMAs, sharing the stage (and some saliva) with Madonna and Christina Aguilera. She also releases her fourth album, In the Zone and takes the opportunity to present a birthday cake to Michael Jackson, which he infamously misinterpreted as an award for Artist of the Millennium. Which doesn't exist.

Nov. 17, 2003: Spears receives a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Jan. 3, 2004: The start of something not so good. Spears shocks the world by tying the knot with her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander in a quickie wedding in Las Vegas. A few days later, the marriage is annulled.

Ben Rose/Getty Images

June 2004: Her fourth world tour is canceled when Spears suffers a debilitating knee injury while filming the music video for "Outrageous."

Sept. 18, 2004: At the age of 22, she marries backup dancer Kevin Federline.

2005: Not content to let the tabloid press do the dirty work for her, Britney makes strides in taking herself off whatever pedestal she was on (inadvertent though that may have been) by turning her home video footage into the UPN reality show Britney and Kevin: Chaotic. And it was.

Sept. 14, 2005: She gives birth to her first son, Sean Preston Federline.

June 2006: After a string of questionable, caught-on-camera maternal missteps, Britney sits down with Matt Lauer for an emotional interview defending her mothering skills and her marriage. It doesn't help her case all that much.

Sept. 12, 2006: Her second child, son Jayden James, is born.

Nov. 6, 2006: Britney files for divorce from K-Fed and immediately begins making the social rounds with Paris Hilton—and thus begins a string of questionable moves, associations and an alarmingly long period of underwear aversion.

February 2007: Britney shaves her head and attacks a paparazzi car with an umbrella. The next day, she checks into rehab.

March 2007: She checks out. All better?

September 2007: Clearly not prepared to get back into the spotlight, she opens the MTV VMAs with a trainwreck performance of "Gimme More."

Jan. 3, 2008: A low point. Britney locks herself in her bathroom with son Jayden James. Police, ambulances and helicopters swarm the property and she's removed via gurney and taken to a hospital, where she forcibly returns under a 5150 hold and is ultimately stripped of her custody. Her parents blame Sam Lutfi, her self-styled manager, for drugging and confusing the star.

Feb. 1, 2008: Jamie Spears is granted a temporary conservatorship over his daughter and her affairs, which lasts to this day.

March 2008: Comeback time! Britney pops up in a guest-starring role as a receptionist on How I Met Your Mother.

July 16, 2008: Federline is awarded full custody of their two sons, with visitation rights only given to Spears.

September 2008: Britney's comeback album, Circus, is released. She spends much of the next year on a world tour.

May 2010: Spears confirms that she's coupled up with her former agent Jason Trawick by taking him as her date to the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards.

Sept. 28, 2010: Britney guest stars on Glee.

March 29, 2011: Britney's seventh studio album, Femme Fatale, is released and becomes her sixth No. 1 album.

Fame Pictures

September 2011: Armed and scandalous! Britney and Trawick costar in Spears' "Criminal" music video, which causes controversy in London for depicting the duo ransacking a local store in the wake of the British riots.

August 2011: Britney's career is back in fine form as she accepts multiple awards at the Video Music Awards and even gamely appears onstage alongside Lady Gaga's alter ego Jo Calderrone.

Fall 2011: Rumors reach a fever pitch that Trawick is planning on becoming the third Mr. Spears and gearing up to pop the question to his longtime girlfriend. Both sides deny it. For now.

Dec. 2, 2011: Britney turns 30! Here's to another newsworthy decade.