The year was 2001. It was the year that brought us the movie version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Janet Jackson's accidental breast exposure at the Super Bowl, and Destiny's Child's feminist anthem that we all needed (but did not deserve) Independent Woman Part 1. But, most importantly, it was the year Britney Spears graced the VMA stage singing the iconic hit "I'm A Slave 4 U."
And with that extremely remarkable performance was an unsung hero – Banana the Burmese python. The seven-foot snake draped around Spears catapulted the pop princess to sexy superstardom, and the performance was one of the most memorable pop culture moments in the aughts. But what happened to Banana? She, too, was just beginning her journey.
In 2001, Britney Spears had fallen on some tough times. She and her love Justin Timberlake had broken up, and the popstar was trying to shed her "good girl" image to create more mature music. Her song "I'm A Slave 4 U" did just that. And when she came out at the 2001 MTV VMA's with a huge albino Burmese python, she turned heads. In 2012, she revealed to her fans the star snake was named Banana.
The moment was one that shifted Spears's popularity, but it also created an increase in snake interest across the US. Rob Carmichael, a herpetologist and curator for the Wildlife Discovery Center in Lake Forest, IL, told MTV News after her VMA performance, people came in specifically to see a snake like Banana. It raised awareness about the snake, and made them "less scary." However, some in the reptile industry thought all the exposure wasn't necessarily an awesome thing.
One MTV News reporter went on a quest to find Banana. And what she found was pretty interesting. There are plenty of snakes that have stepped in for Banana in subsequent Britney Spears-related stunts (including an entire Glee episode dedicated to her), but none actually were Banana. The snakes posing as Banana, though, have some pretty impressive resumes.
One snake trainer named Jules Sylvester told MTV News he has several snakes that look just like Banana, and some that have stepped in for her, one of which is also named Banana. That Banana was featured in From Dusk Till Dawn and Glee, and it was also on Lip Sync Battle as part of a homage to Spears herself.
The real Banana, though, is still alive. He's owned by snake trainer Michael Hano of New York City. And, sadly, Banana's name is not actually Banana. Hano suspects someone gave the snake that nickname during the VMAs and it stuck – and Spears used it when updating her fans about the status of the snake.
As of 2016, Banana had gone from a "small" six feet and 25 pounds to a staggering 15 feet and 100 pounds. Banana is still in showbiz, though she hasn't had the major roles her fakers have. Hano said he was hired to do the VMAs by an agency, and had no idea it was going to be the hit it was. And despite the fact Spears was deathly afraid of snakes, Hano said she was a total professional.
"She seemed like she was a really hard worker and very determined," he told MTV News.