Britney Spears’ performance at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards is one of the most iconic moments in 21st Century pop culture. The image of Spears performing “I’m a Slave 4 U” while holding a seven-foot albino Burmese python around her neck is one of the pop singer’s most definitive looks, and it turns out that 2001 VMA moment has a surprise connection to Netflix’s 2020 docuseries sensation “Tiger King.” Spears’ performance also featured a tiger that was handled by none other than Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, one of the most memorable “Tiger King” subjects. Writer and podcast host Evan Ross Katz discovered the connection between Spears and Doc Antle and shared a photo on social media of the two together right before the VMA performance.
“Tiger King” viewers already know Doc Antle has a deep connection to Hollywood, as the Netflix series makes mention of the animal trainer’s work on major studio productions such as “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Mighty Joe Young,” and “Dr. Dolittle.” A 2016 MTV News article about the snake used in Spears’ VMA performance confirms Doc Antle was the handler for the tiger that appeared on stage with the pop singer. Doc Antle confirmed at the time the golden tabby tiger had since passed away. The seven-foot snake is so iconic that not everyone remembers there was also a tiger featured in the performance.
As the connection between Britney Spears and Doc Antle went viral on social media, another photo resurfaced from the 2002 Video Music Awards allegedly showing the pop singer sitting next to Carole Baskin, the owner of Big Cat Rescue. Carole’s rivalry with fellow wildlife conservationist Joe Exotic makes up the bulk of “Tiger King.” While the photograph features a woman who resembles Baskin, it’s not yet confirmed if this is a second connection between Spears and the Netflix series.
The seven-episode “Tiger King” debuted March 20 on Netflix and has become a breakout hit for the streaming giant, recently topping the weekly list of Netflix’s most-streamed series. The show makes no mention of Doc Antle’s work on Spears’ VMA performance. Online reactions to the discovery from “Tiger King” fans have ranged from total shock to disbelief. All episodes of “Tiger King” are now streaming.
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Call the police. pic.twitter.com/RYjUl8layu
— Ξvan Ross Katz (@evanrosskatz) March 30, 2020
— NICKY PARIS (@NickyParisBitch) March 30, 2020
The tiger in the Slave 4 U perfromance was Doc Antles! pic.twitter.com/5k5VuBPg8H
— Samantha Bush (@samanthaabushh) March 30, 2020