As Britney Spears faces mounting troubles stemming from her child-custody battle and other personal problems, she can’t escape the glare of the spotlight for a second. It’s hard to imagine the time when her every move wasn’t a national headline.
Even back in 1999, when MTV News’ John Norris visited her hometown of Kentwood, Louisiana, for the first time, Britney’s friends and family were already used to her fame. But this was a time when the future was bright. A look back at the special report reminds us of a more innocent era in the pop star’s life, when … Baby One More Time was about to debut at #1 on the Billboard albums chart, and she was still just the opening act for ’NSYNC.
“Honestly, at 3 years old she was dancing and leading the pack in the dance revues,” Britney’s mom, Lynne Spears, told Norris of her daughter’s start in show business.
After winning “Star Search” in 1992 and joining the cast of “The New Mickey Mouse Club” in 1993, Britney had to learn how to balance fame with everyday life. “Even when we were in junior high and we played basketball and we would go to away games, there would always be a group of little girls that would come up and be like, ’Oh, you’re Britney Spears! … Can we have your autograph?’ ” recalled Spears’ friend Casey. “And she would always get so embarrassed. She hated it.”
But the residents of Kentwood clearly loved her. During this first visit, MTV News joined 643 residents of the small town as they drove 80 miles to see their “hometown girl” perform with ’NSYNC in Baton Rouge. Before the show, the bespectacled, quietly confident 17-year-old told Norris what her plans were for the performance: “I’m just gonna talk to the crowd a lot, ’cause my family’s out there and all my friends. They’ll be screaming for me!”
The only person not screaming about Britney’s success seemed to be her older brother, Bryan, who was 22 at the time. “You wonder what the big deal is,” he shrugged. “She’s just my little sister, I guess.”