The double life of Britney Spears

With an impressive career spanning more than two decades and more than 140 million records sold internationally, Britney Spears is the undeniable reigning princess of pop. Since her very public breakdown in 2007, the troubled superstar has rebuilt her personal life and career. The "Baby One More Time" hit-maker is now nearly unrecognizable from her infamous head-shaving days. Take a look.

She was a wild party girl

In the mid-2000s, Spears was notorious for partying hard with her then-BFFs, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. The "Circus" singer's wild days came to a head in December 2006, when she infamously flashed her, um, lack of underwear, in front of paparazzi while climbing out of a vehicle in a mini-skirt on her 25th birthday.  

The image caused a media frenzy, prompting the pop princess to vow to clean up her act. "Every move I make at this point has been magnified more than I expected," she wrote on her website (via MTV News). "And I probably did take my newfound freedom a little too far." Spears had recently filed for divorce from Kevin Federline. "It's been so long since I've been out on the town with friends," she said. "It's also been two years since I've even celebrated my birthday. I'm looking forward to a new year, new music and a new me." 

But the partying continued over the holidays, prompting another apologetic blog post in January 2007. "Trust me, I get it," Spears wrote to her fans. "I know I've been far from perfect and the media has had a lot of fun exaggerating my every move." She continued, "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 am now more mature and feel like I am finally 'free.'" 

She's now a total square

Long gone are Spears' hardcore partying days. The pop star is now more of a homebody than the life of the party, and she is often flanked by her sons, Sean Preston and Jayden James.  

According to Us Weekly, the "Piece of Me" singer participated in a Tumblr Q&A session in July 2016 and revealed that when she's not working, she spends quality time with her boys and enjoys seemingly normal hobbies. "I love to read [during my spare time]," she said, recommending "anything Danielle Steel." She also likes to bake. Britney's go-to treat? "Fudge!"

The differences between Spears' perfectly tame 35th birthday in December 2016 and her out-of-control 25th bash are staggering. According to People, she celebrated her 35th with a performance at the Jingle Ball in Los Angeles. Host Ryan Seacrest even surprised her with a cake and got the massive crowd to join in on a "Happy Birthday" singalong. Spears later tweeted, "Thank you for the sweet birthday wishes! Had an amazing day. Love you all."

She lost custody of her kids

Spears shares her two boys with her backup dancer ex-husband, Kevin Federline, but her transition into motherhood was rough and coincided with her breakdown. 

One of her lowest points as a new mom: driving with Sean, then 1, in her lap as paparazzi snapped photos in February 2006. She was subsequently questioned by the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services. According to MTV News, Spears attempted to defend her parenting techniques to Matt Lauer on Dateline that June. "I did it with my dad. I'd sit on his lap and I drive," she said. "We're country."

Around that time, Spears' marriage of three years also began to crumble. In November 2006, she filed for divorce, which led to a nasty custody battle. She and Federline finally agreed to joint custody, split 50/50, in March 2007, but that arrangement was short-lived. In light of Spears' increasingly erratic and destructive behavior, a Los Angeles judge temporarily granted Federline full custody in October 2007.

She now makes motherhood a priority

Spears now amicably co-parents with Federline, working hard to balance her busy work life with quality time spent with her preteen boys: Sean celebrated his 12th birthday and Jayden turned 11 in 2017.  

"Today I'm at a better place in my life," she told Yediot Ahronot (via Cosmopolitan UK). "My kids shaped my personality and filled me. They made me not worry about what was happening to me." 

As a single mom, "the balance between work and my personal life can be a challenge," she admitted to People in 2017. "[But] I always do my best to plan my schedule around my family whenever possible." She added, "My kids come first, always. There is nothing more rewarding than being a mom and watching my sons grow into young men. I am so lucky that I get to experience all of life's adventures with them. I love watching them play sports and just running around with them. We have a lot of fun together." 

The "Sometimes" singer often takes to her Instagram to share their adventures. In May 2017, she posted a sweet snapshot of the trio, captioned "My lovies." Aww!

She played the blame game

The Britney Spears of 2007 rarely took responsibility for her increasingly controversial actions and self-destructive behavior. According to MTV News, her scandals were typically followed up with a swift pointing of the finger: at the paparazzi, her management, her bodyguard, her publicist, Federline, you name it. 

In February 2007, Spears sought help, but after checking into the Crossroads Centre, a rehab facility on the Caribbean island of Antigua, she reportedly left the following day—incidentally, this was the same week as her head-shaving episode. Later that week, Spears checked into Promises Malibu Alcohol and Drug Rehab Treatment Facility, only to walk out again in less than 24 hours. Finally, on her third attempt to seek treatment, the pop star stuck it out. 

Even after completing the 30-day program at Promises in March 2007, Spears failed to truly change her tune. "Recently, I was sent to a very humbling place called rehab," she wrote in a letter to her fans that May (via MTV News). "I truly hit rock bottom. Till this day I don't think it was alcohol or depression. I was like a bad kid running around with ADD. I had a manager from a long time ago try to come in and direct me and my life after I got my divorce… I think it is actually normal for a young girl to go out after a huge divorce." 

She's now accepting responsibility

Over the last decade, Spears has learned to manage her struggle with mental illness, including social anxiety and bipolar disorder, which led to her be hospitalized on an involuntary psychiatric hold in 2008. "I think I had to give myself more breaks through my career and take responsibility for my mental health," she told Yediot Ahronot (via Cosmopolitan UK). While the pop star doesn't necessarily think she was in crisis at that time in her life—"Crisis is a strong word," Spears said—she said that she's learned to "enjoy the moment."   

"Each and every one of us that starts at a young age needs to take into account that you've gotta be balanced in order to stay in this industry and to manage your personal life," she told the publication. "Sometimes that's very challenging. I think I was very different back then, younger, not always knowing what's good or bad, very instinctive."

"I was so under scrutiny. If a hair was out of place, I'd be so anxious. I would get very anxious about so many things," Spears told Marie Claire UK in 2016, adding that motherhood helped ease her worrying. "Becoming a mother and being with my boys has made me so much more accepting of myself. I'm their mom, whatever. That has been a really big thing for me over these last few years."

She was unlucky in love

Spears is a "hopeless romantic" who has had a lot of bad luck when it comes to her love life. "I've been through horrible relationships, but unfortunately I still believe in love," she told the Rove & Sam Radio Show in 2016. 

As Nicki Swift previously reported, those "horrible relationships" included her high-profile romance with Justin Timberlake, failed marriage to Federline, her ex-husband of 55 hours Jason Alexander, former fiancé  Jason Trawick, alleged cheater David Lucado, and old boyfriend Charlie Ebersol

Sadly, dating never seems to get easier for the "Radar" singer. "I had a really bad date," she told Marie Claire UK in 2016. "I mean, it was really bad. I've been single for ages and had a date with a guy I liked. I was getting anxious, worrying he wouldn't like me… We went to the movies, but I could tell right away it wasn't working. It was sort of awkward… I liked him. He knew that. But he definitely didn't feel the same. It happens to everybody. Being famous doesn't make you any different."

Eventually, Spears swore off love altogether. "I think I may never do the whole 'men' thing again… I'm done with men," she told The Late Late Show host James Corden during her "Carpool Karaoke" segment. "I don't believe in marriage anymore."

She's learning to love again

Luckily, Spears didn't give up on love and seems to have finally found her match. At the time of this writing, the pop star is dating Persian model and dancer Sam Asghari, whom she met in December 2016 on the set of her "Slumber Party" music video.  

In January 2017, Spears broke her silence about their budding romance and how it all began. "It wasn't even a serious thing," she told CBS Radio's Fast in the Morning with Nathan Fast, recalling how they met. "It was one of those things that we were having a conversation to get through the experience [of shooting the music video], you know? I kept his number, and it was so weird—it was like five months later, and I found his number in my bag. I was like, 'He is really cute. This guy is really cute.' So then I called him, and ever since then, he is just a really fun, funny person."

Spears even began using the L-word when talking about Asghari. Later that month, the 35-year-old star shared a snapshot of her 23-year-old beau, writing, "Mad love for this one," in the caption. Seriously, how sweet are these two?

She's been accused of lip-syncing

Lip-syncing has been a term synonymous with Spears for most of her career. Low-lights include her cringe-worthy "comeback" performance of "Gimme More" at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards. During her Vegas residency, a music critic for called her a "renowned mime artist." Ouch.

Spears has tried to defend herself. "A lot of people think that I don't sing live," she told an Israeli TV show in June 2017 (via E! News). "I usually, because I'm dancing so much, I do have a little bit of playback but there's a mixture of my voice and the playback." She added, "It really pisses me off, because I am busting my *ss out there and singing at the same time and nobody ever really gives me credit for it, you know?" 

But even some of Spears' own fans have poked holes in her case. One follower tweeted, "'I do have a LITTLE BIT of playback there to make sure of my voice…'. I love u Britney, but C'mon," with a crying-laughing emoji.

But she can really sing

Spears' tour manager, Adam Leber, addressed lip-syncing accusations head-on when Spears' Piece of Me residency in Las Vegas launched in 2014. "To put on the show that she puts on, it's virtually impossible to sing the entire time and do what she does," he told Medium. "She's singing on every song, basically, when she has the ability to sing. There's no way you can dance for 90 minutes straight and sing the entire time."

As if to prove her naysayers wrong, Spears unleashed a live rendition of "Happy Birthday" for one of her backup dancers during a show in Singapore in June 2017. The video went viral, and well…her fans lost it, with one tweeting: "I JUST WITNESSED BRITNEY SPEARS SINGING LIVE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MANY YEARS IN SINGAPORE."

She hated her twenties

"My twenties were horrible!" Spears told British TV program Lorraine in September 2016. It's no mystery as to why. The tumultuous decade leading up to her 2007 breakdown and highly publicized recovery became so infamous, it created viral Internet memes, ranging from the "Leave Britney Alone" vlog to the inspirational phrase, "If Britney can survive 2007, you can make it through this day."

In May 2007, the "Gimme More" singer attempted to take control of her spiraling life—and bad press. Spears laid it all out on the table when she posted a letter to her fans on her website, candidly explaining her fall from grace by the age of 26. "I was so overwhelmed I think that I was in a little shock too," she wrote (via MTV News). "I didn't know who to go to. I realized how much energy and love I had put into my past relationship when it was gone because I genuinely did not know what to do with myself, and it made me so sad. I confess, I was so lost." 

She's loving her thirties

Spears feels like she's finally in the prime of her personal life and career. "I like my thirties way more than my twenties," she told Lorraine. "[Being] in my teens was fun, but…my thirties are great." She added, "You know who you really are… I'm in a really good place right now. I'm loving myself every day and learning who I am. It's awakening. It's cool."

"I'm very, very blessed," she told People in 2015. "I have a great show, and I'm able to be off every six weeks and I get to indulge in my kids. I get summers off, so we can do fun things like have barbecues. The boys are in such a good stage in their lives. They're able to think for themselves and are becoming little people." When asked if she ever thought she'd be this happy, Spears responded, "No, never. Not in my wildest dreams."

She was overprotected

Spears had little control over her career early on. She became child star on the Mickey Mouse Club and transformed into of the biggest pop acts in music history by 16. 

"There were many decisions that were made for me and that I didn't make myself," she told Yediot Ahronot in 2017 (via Cosmopolitan UK). Did Britney sometimes feel "Overprotected?" "Something like that," she admitted. "My life was controlled by too many people and that doesn't really let you be yourself. In that situation, when you're not in control, you become less excited, and there's less passion when it comes to music." 

"I wrote back then, that I was lost and didn't know what to do with myself," she recalled. "I was trying to please everyone around me because [that's] who I am deep inside. There are moments where I look back and think: 'What the hell was I thinking?'" 

Remember that shocking snake stunt during "I'm a Slave 4 U" at the 2001 MTV VMAs? Spears now describes that performance as "scary" and "stupid."

Can she regain control?

This is one critical area where it's hard to measure Spears' growth. Though her personal and professional life appear stable, she has not legally been in control of her own affairs since 2008. Following an emergency psychiatric evaluation at the height of her breakdown, a court determined that the pop star was unable to take care of herself—both personally and financially. Amid concerns for the welfare of her young children, Spears agreed to a conservatorship

Under the arrangement, Spears is unable to make important decisions without the approval of her conservators: her father, Jamie, who looks after her physical and mental well-being, and her lawyer, Andrew M. Wallet, who controls her finances. She was initially frustrated by the situation. "I think it's too in control. If I wasn't under the restraints I'm under, I'd feel so liberated," she told MTV in 2008 (via The New York Times). "There's no excitement, there's no passion. Even when you go to jail, you know there's the time when you're going to get out. But in this situation, it's never-ending."

The pop star has been back at the top of her game for years now, but the conservatorship is surprisingly still in place. While it's seemingly become a way of life for Britney, it's left fans and the media alike questioning whether she will ever be truly in control of her own life.

Though the The New York Times published a detailed piece about her conservatorship in 2016, Spears did not (or was not allowed to) agree to be interviewed, so it's unclear how she feels about her situation. In 2015, she did tell People, "I'm the happiest I've ever been. My priorities are straight: making family No. 1 and being consistent with that and having God in my life."