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Britney Spears said she 'broke out in hives everywhere' while rehearsing her iconic 2001 VMAs performance, according to the snake-handler

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Britney Spears 2001 vma
Britney Spears performs at the 2001 MTV Video Music Awards. Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images
  • It's been 20 years since Britney Spears performed with a snake on the VMAs.

  • Yahoo spoke to the snake-wrangler, Mike Hano, who oversaw the performance.

  • Hano said working with a python is "really risky."

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Want to feel old? It's been 20 years since Britney Spears walked onto the MTV Video Music Awards stage to perform her new single "I'm a Slave 4 U" with a 7-foot albino Burmese python draped across her shoulders.

It has since become one of the most memorable moments in VMA history. But it turns out leading up to the performance, Spears was nervous about working with the snake that she later named "Banana."

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the performance, Yahoo talked to the snake-wrangler for that performance, Mike Hano, who admits Spears had reason to be concerned.

"Britney Spears is pretty small - and she was going to be dancing with [the python]," Hano said. "She had to position the snake on her shoulders by herself and dance around, and then she had to hand it off to a third person."

"It's easy to screw up that kind of thing," he continued. "You know, it gets wrapped around your arm and doesn't want to let go. It could have been really risky, because that was a live performance, one take."

Hano learned that Spears was reluctant to rehearse with the snake, and the wrangler admits looking back that it didn't help that her entourage was swarming her.

britney spears slave 4 u
Spears in the "I'm a Slave 4 U" music video. Britney Spears/YouTube

"They didn't even let me speak to her before," Hano said. "This is my first time face to face with her - and I'm holding this python! And all of a sudden, she's not ready to do that. I could see that she was uncomfortable."

Finally, Hano was allowed to be one-on-one with Spears and the snake. But the pop star was still uncomfortable, and Hano was told the next day she wanted to rehearse with the snake again.

Spears "said something to me about how she 'broke out in hives' everywhere that the snake had touched her during the rehearsal - which is just really not possible," Hano recalled about the second day of rehearsal, laughing.

But by then he said she was more relaxed and "very professional" and worked tirelessly to pull it off.

The performance by Spears would become a landmark moment not just for the VMAs but in Spears' career and led to numerous artists over the years paying homage to it by doing their own version. Kaley Cuoco even did it during an episode of "Lip Sync Battle."

So where is the snake now? Hano said that as of last year, it was still alive and living "somewhere in upstate New York."

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