officially fell from her throne as a pop princess when she married bad boy backing dancer Kevin Federline
. Aged just 22 when she said 'I do' for the second time, Britney was seen in public make-up-less, greasy haired, scruffily dressed, smacking gum, gobbling junk food and making out with her bling-adorned husband. The polished pop star was soon being branded white trash and when she fell pregnant just months after marrying, she was forced to take time off from making music.
But in November last year, after two-and-a-half years of marriage and having just given birth to her second son, Britney filed for divorce. As K-Fed became Fed-X it was hoped Britney would get her life back on track and re-launch her career with a new album that reminded us all why she had once dominated the charts.
During their marriage Kevin - who frittered Britney's money away on fast cars and gold medallions and distracted the once wholesome singer from her career and family values - was widely blamed for her fall from grace. But since becoming single Britney has indulged in wild partying, flashed her vagina at the paparazzi on several occasions and reportedly failed to turn up for recording sessions for her new album.
Her record label Jive are even rumored to be considering dropping her and her reputation has gone from white-trash to just plain trashy. Britney has now apologized for her post-Kevin behavior and has promised fans she will produce a brilliant new album for 2007. But can the girl who launched her career as an innocent, but sexy schoolgirl, and pledged to keep her virginity until her wedding night, win back her fans after her recent headline-grabbing antics?
While Kevin was considered a bad influence on Britney, her clean-living Christian image was starting to show cracks before he arrived on the scene. The 'Toxic' singer began to cause a stir when she became increasingly sexualized. In 1999, aged just 17, Britney posed for the cover of Rolling Stone
magazine wearing girlie lingerie and lying suggestively on pink satin sheets and clutching a Teletubby
toy. The Lolita-like theme of the photograph attracted criticism, but at the same time boosted her publicity. Britney did not lose fans, but wowed them with her raunchy look, while at the same time appealing to a fresh demographic.
In August 2003, in an interview with W magazine accompanied by a dominatrix-style photo shoot, Britney admitted to losing her virginity two years into her relationship with Justin Timberlake
, who she dated for four years from the age of 15. She also confessed to smoking and indulging in a meaningless fling with bad boy Irish actor Colin Farrell
. In the same month the singer performed at the MTV music video awards with her idol Madonna
and her pop-rival Christina Aguilera
. Wearing a torn off wedding dress Britney shared a lingering lesbian kiss with Madonna on stage - a moment that shocked the world.
Shortly afterwards Britney and Madonna released a single together, 'Me Against the Music', with an accompanying video that featured less-than-subtle lesbian undertones. The wholesome image had most definitely been shed, but Britney was sexy, hard working and churning out hit records. And 'that' Madonna kiss was seen as a symbolic gesture - the Queen of pop was handing down her crown to the pop princess.
Then on January 3, 2004, the 'Oops... I Did It Again' singer married her childhood friend Jason Alexander at a wedding chapel in Las Vegas during a drunken night out. Britney wore jeans and a baseball cap and was walked up the aisle by a bellboy. The marriage was annulled 55 hours later but the golden girl had fallen from grace. In September that year Britney walked up the aisle again, but this time to wed Kevin Federline.
Her last single 'Toxic' had been released that year and her worldwide 'Onyx Hotel Tour' was completed. Britney's greatest hits were released featuring three new songs including a cover of Bobby Brown's
'My Prerogative', but she was focusing her time on being a wife. She and Kevin even signed up to make their own reality MTV show called Britney and Kevin: Chaotic
- a title which summed up their life together perfectly.
Britney went from sex bomb to shambolic mess almost overnight.
Still a tabloid darling and aware she was in the public eye, the fallen star continued to go out unwashed and unmade up, wearing scruffy, dirty clothes. The singer only seemed to have eyes for her new husband and didn't care what anyone else thought of her. Meanwhile, bad boy Kevin partied hard and quickly became used to the lavish life-style that came with being Mr Britney Spears. Rumors that he was only after Britney's money quickly surfaced.
But despite speculation about Kevin's motives, the couple went on to have two sons in quick succession. Sean Preston was born in September 2005 and almost exactly a year later Britney gave birth to Jayden James. As a mother Britney continued to be criticized. She was photographed driving with the young Sean Preston perched precariously on her lap, not in a baby seat.
Not long afterwards he was rushed to hospital after he fell from his highchair and hurt his head, prompting a call from social services. As Britney became a mother for the second time Kevin was preparing to follow in his wife's footsteps and attempt to launch a music career. He released his debut album as a rap artist on Halloween 2006. It flopped.
A week later, on November 7, Britney filed for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences and seeking sole custody of her two sons. That night she made a surprise appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman
, showing off an amazing new toned figure and a sleek blonde bob. Britney was back. She had shed the shackles of her bad boy husband and the promise of a career re-launch seemed imminent.
But the 'I'm a Slave 4 U' singer's new found freedom seems to have gone straight to her head. Britney has hit the Los Angeles party circuit with a bang. She has repeatedly been seen stumbling out of clubs in the early hours, drunk and wearing skimpy outfits. For a few weeks following her split she teamed up with socialite Paris Hilton
. The pair partied constantly and it is rumored to be the hotel heiress who encouraged Britney to leave her underwear at home - resulting in some embarrassing flashing incidents.
At the same time stories about Britney's lack of commitment to her work began to appear. Her wild partying was said to be stopping the singer from turning up to pre-booked recording studios and meetings with important producers. Realizing her behavior was not helping her reputation Britney posted a message of apology on her official website. She said: "It's been so long since I've been out on the town with friends. It's been two years since I've even celebrated my birthday. Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected. I probably did take my new found freedom a little too far. Anyway, thank God for Victoria's Secrets new underwear line!"
But even though her knickers were back on, the partying continued and at a New Year's Eve party at Los Angeles' PURE nightclub, which she was being paid to host, Britney collapsed. In another posting on her website the star reached out to her fans to forgive her. She wrote: "The last couple of years have been quite a ride for me, the media has criticized my every move and printed a skewed perception of who I really am as a human being. Behind every decision I have made in my public life there always seems to be an apparent contradiction.
"The last couple of years have been very enlightening for me and now that I've had the time to be 'me', I've been able to sit down and think about where I want to go with myself as an entertainer with absolutely no strings attached. I've been working so hard on this new album and I can't wait for you all to hear it and to go on tour again! I would like to exclusively tell you that I am working hard to release the new album sometime later this year, but the date is of course not certain yet. I look forward to coming back this year bigger and better than ever, and to also reaching out to my fans on a more personal level."
Kevin, meanwhile, has cleaned up his act and is using his estranged wife's run of bad behavior to fuel his legal battle for custody of the children. Thankfully, Britney now seems determined to keep the wild partying to a minimum and is back in the recording studio working with top R 'n' B producer Lukasz Gottwald, who has previously collaborated with Mos Def
, Missy Elliot
A source revealed: "Britney is really pulling out the big guns on this album. She's been partying a lot lately but she's been working in studios in Miami and Los Angeles too. She's rehearsing material, working hard and having fun all at the same time." A collaboration with the Pet Shop Boys
- who recently worked with her hero Madonna - is also on the cards. There is no reason why the 'Baby One More Time' can't regain her crown as the princess of pop and retain a bit of that edgy bad girl reputation she has embraced over the years. But, if the 'Toxic' singer wants to top the charts again, she needs to remember that the image which helped her achieve global stardom was sexy, not slutty.
By Albertina Lloyd