With her decision to divorce Kevin Federline, Britney Spears appears ready for her comeback.
The 24-year-old pop star filed for divorce from Federline Tuesday citing “irreconcilable differences,” which probably came as no surprise to anyone. From the moment the two were married, they were tabloid targets, their every affectionate gesture or teary-eyed fight detailed in gossip magazines and on entertainment shows.
The country was captivated — apparently with equal amounts of horror and delight — watching its pop princess pair up with a foul-mouthed, chain-smoking backup dancer from Fresno. The two even documented their domestic doings in a self-filmed reality TV show, “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic.”
The nonstop drama of their relationship derailed Spears’ once-stellar career.
“She went from being a pop icon to an emblem of white trash in a matter of two years,” said veteran publicist Michael Levine.
Spears and Federline wed in the fall of 2004 — twice. The first time, apparently, to try to divert the media’s attention from the second wedding a few weeks later, which according to the divorce papers was the real one. Federline explained then that their lawyers used the extra time to finalize a prenuptial agreement.
Federline, 28, had never been married, though he was still dating his pregnant girlfriend Shar Jackson when he met Spears. Jackson gave birth to Federline’s second child just months before he married Spears.
“It wasn’t the most auspicious of starts,” said Bonnie Fuller, editorial director of American Media, which publishes Star magazine.
But after years as a certified hitmaker, Spears was ready to take a break and start a family.
Born in Kentwood, Louisiana in 1981, Spears got her first taste of fame at age 11 when she joined “The New Mickey Mouse Club” TV show. Her fellow Mouseketeers included future pop stars Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.
Five years after leaving the show she released her debut album, “Baby One More Time.” In the video for the title track, Spears, still a teenager, dressed provocatively in a skimpy school uniform and moaned “baby, baby, baby.” Yet she proclaimed her chastity, insisting she remained a virgin throughout her four-year relationship with Timberlake.
She got even sexier in 2000, performing a pseudo strip tease on the MTV Video Music Awards. She bested that — and fully embraced her sex-charged image — three years later when she shared an open-mouthed kiss with Madonna. Also in 2003, Spears told W magazine that she had lost her virginity to Timberlake.
Her career in high gear, Spears released her fourth album in late 2003. Like her previous records, it debuted at No. 1. Meanwhile, she established other Britney-branded businesses, including an endorsement deal with Pepsi and a line of perfumes.
Federline as ‘poison pill’
Spears’ spotlight didn’t diminish after she married Federline, but her star power did, said Ryan Schinman of Platinum Rye Entertainment, an entertainment consulting company. Magazines published pictures of a newly pudgy Spears and captured her driving with her infant son on her lap and another time almost dropping him. Nearly every move she made — especially those that involved her husband or son — was ridiculed on daytime and late-night talk shows.
“It was almost like she took a poison pill,” Schinman said. “(Federline) was a weed that touched every aspect of her personal and professional life. The minute they met, she started her downfall as far as record sales, touring, TV shows and her image.”
Schinman called the divorce filing “a great jumping-off point if she wants to get back to being relevant in entertainment.”
Fuller characterized the split as a pivotal, no-nonsense move designed to get Spears’ career back on track.
“She made a very bold statement that she is ready to pick up, reconnect with her fans and go out and be a big star again,” she said. “She wants to show that the old Britney is back. She’s got her body back, she’s got her groove back, she’s got her mojo back and she’s going to be hard at work on her new album.”
Spears told People magazine she plans to release an album in 2007, her first collection of new material since 2003.
Federline, an aspiring rapper, released his debut CD, “Playing With Fire,” on Oct. 31. In an interview with The Associated Press two weeks ago, he praised Spears as a positive force in his life.
“Her influence on me has been really big,” he said. “She’s a strong woman and she knows what she wants out of life and that helps build a strong man. I look up to you baby.”
Calls placed to attorneys for Federline and Spears were not returned Tuesday.