By Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
1981: On Dec. 2, Britney Jean Spears is born in the small town of Kentwood, La., to a former schoolteacher mom and a building contractor dad.
1993: Young Brit, already an accomplished gymnast, joins the cast of “The New Mickey Mouse Club” on Disney along with Justin Timberlake, Keri Russell, Christina Aguilera and Ryan Gosling. (Disney Channel)
1996: At 15, Spears moves to New York and begins auditioning for pop bands and recording demo tapes, which eventually lands her a deal with Jive Records. 1998 : Spears’ first single "...Baby One More Time” is released accompanied by the iconic video featuring the singer in braids, a short schoolgirl kilt and a midriff-baring shirt dancing suggestively in a school hallway. The song (and video) become an international sensation. She begins dating ‘NSYNC dreamboat Justin Timberlake. (Larry Busacca)
1999: Spears, 17, releases her first album and it debuts at No. 1. In the spring of that year, she is featured on the cover of Rolling Stone and the busty photo launches rumors that the singer had breast implants. A few months later, she kicks off her first headlining tour. She wins four Billboard Music Awards that year but loses the Grammy for best new artist in February of 2000 to teen rival Christina Aguilera. (Lori Shepler / LAT)
2000: Spears releases her second album, "Oops’ I Did It Again." The album sells more than 1 million units in the first week. At the MTV music awards that year, she makes headlines by donning a nude-colored, crystal-adorned outfit.
2001: Spears ups the spectacle ante at the MTV music awards by performing I'm a Slave 4 U with an albino python. (PETA is predictably outraged.) She also releases her third album, “Britney" which debuts at No. 1 but does not sell as well as her first two albums. (Suzanne Plunkett / AP)
2002: Spears stars in her first feature film, “Crossroads” and breaks up with Timberlake. (Richard Foreman)
2003: After a year of lying low, Spears creates a sensation at the MTV music awards (yet again) by sharing the stage and an open-mouthed kiss with Madonna. Her fourth album, “In the Zone,” is released along with singles such as “Toxic.” (Scott Gries / Getty Images)
2004: The first hint of an unruly Spears emerges when the star marries her childhood friend Jason Allen Alexander in a joke wedding in Las Vegas. The marriage is promptly annulled after less than three days. Later that year, her fourth world tour is canceled midway through when the singer injures her knee. The injury does not stop the singer, now 22 years old, from marrying Kevin Federline. At the time, Federline’s former girlfriend was pregnant with their second child. (Eric Jamison / Associated Press)
2005: UPN airs “Britney and Kevin: Chaotic,” a poorly made reality show consisting mostly of home videos of the singer and her new hubby acting dumb. The critics hate it and the ratings are not as high as expected. That same year she gives birth to Sean Preston Federline. (UPN)
2006: Britneys ability as a mother is questioned when she is photographed driving with baby Sean on her lap. She also almost drops the baby while on a trip to New York. A plump, pregnant Spears discusses the hardship of being in the public eye during a teary interview with Matt Lauer. The interview is panned. (NBC News)
Nov. 6, 2006: Britney files for divorce from Kevin Federline. Hopeful Spears fans claim this is Step 1 in the singers comeback.
December 2006: Now free of Federline, Britney is frequently photographed hitting the town with Paris Hilton, and gossip monger Perez Hilton insinuates the two superstars may be lovers. But the pop star cant handle the heiress’ pace: She collapses on New Years Eve. (Jason Szenes / EPA)
February 2007: After a month of manic partying dancing on tables, getting dirty with pole dancers, allowing her lady parts to be photographed by the paparazzi and going in and out of rehab, Britney shocks the world by shaving her head at a salon in Tarzana because, she claimed at the time, her extensions were giving her a headache. The general public grows concerned for her welfare, and she finally enters, and stays, in rehab.
March 2007: Britney is released from rehab and her managers say she is fully recovered. (AFP / Getty Images)
August 2007: Following her stints in rehab and her head-shaving incident, Britney attempted to get back on stage and move ahead, but her lead-off performance at the MTV Video Music Awards did more to hurt her career. Looking out of it and barely lip-synching to the music, Britney shuffled through her moves looking out of shape and wearing a blonde wig. Speculation ran rampant that Spears’ career may be over. (KEVIN WINTER, AFP/Getty Images)
January 2008: Britney refuses to relinquish custody of her two children to ex-husband Kevin Federline’s representatives. The children are taken from her and she is briefly hospitalized. She loses custody of the children to Federline.
February 2008: After a stint in the psych ward at UCLA Medical Center, Spears is released and makes a guest appearance on the CBS sitcom, “How I Met Your Mother.”
July 2008: Britney regains some visitation rights with her children. (E! Entertainment Television)
January 2009: Spears and her manager father obtain a restraining order against her former manager, Sam Lufti, ex-boyfriend Adnan Ghalib and attorney Jon Eardley, all of whom are accused of attempting to gain control of Spears’ business affairs.
March 2009: Britney embarks on a tour in support of “Circus,” her sixth studio album. The tour will go on to be the fifth highest-grossing tour of the year. (Matt Sayles / Associated Press)
September 2010: Spears is the subject of an entire episode of the hit Fox series “Glee.” Spears music and parodies of her videos are worked into the plot line, which even featured a cameo from Spears herself. (Adam Rose / FOX)
March 2011: Spears releases her seventh studio album, “Femme Fatale.” The album becomes a No. 1 chart hit.
October 2011: The singer draws controversy by filming the video for her song, “Criminal” in a section of England hard-hit by recent riots. Government officials object to Spears’ use of fake guns during the shoot. The video pushes the sex and violence angle hard. It becomes a No. 1 iTunes hit the day it’s released. (Associated Press)