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Celebrity columnist Perez Hilton was visibly incensed as he spoke to Sky News today on the “exploitation” of Britney Spears.

He also apologised for the abuse he had given her over the years on his blog, saying he felt “deep shame and regret” for his part in fuelling the media circus that brought Britney to her knees in the noughties.

Justin Timberlake was also quick to tweet support for Britney following her court appearance in which she is trying to overthrow the controversial conservatorship in place since she had a breakdown in 2008.

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake at the 2002 NBA All-Star game at the Philadelphia Convention Center
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Justin Timberlake’s support for his ex-girlfriend sits awkwardly

Timberlake’s words of support sit awkwardly next to the apology he issued to his ex-girlfriend after seemingly realising his own contribution to the damage done to the singer over the last 25 years. (He used his music video to brand Spears a cheat, and told the world he took her virginity.)

Britney’s father, Jamie Spears, via his lawyer, said he was sorry his daughter is suffering.

Entertainment journalist Ashley Pearson says the case has confirmed fans’ worst fears – that Spears has been living like a prisoner, but questions whether the conservatorship was needed in the first place and who ultimately is to blame?

“This is not just an overcontrolling dad,” says Pearson.

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“He couldn’t do this on his own. There were judges, doctors and experts along the way who agreed to this. Why? What do they know that we don’t?”

Could this episode even trigger a reckoning in the music industry on a similar scale to that of Hollywood and MeToo?

Britney Spears
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Spears’s life change forever in 1998 when Baby One More Time became a worldwide hit

In the noughties – not unlike Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse – Britney Spears was tabloid fodder, judged not on her talent, but her private life and subsequent collapse of her marriage to Kevin Federline, the father of her two children.

After her breakdown in 2008 she was placed under the conservatorship, with her father assigned her legal guardian – the measures she is currently trying to have lifted.

It seems then Britney did need ‘saving’. Saving from the pressures of fame, the paparazzi, addiction, the people who might exploit, steal from her, use and abuse her.

Music manager Jonathan Shalit understands the harm that can be done when the entertainment industry and media are reckless. He managed Charlotte Church and Tulisa among others.

Shalit finds the Britney case deeply uncomfortable.

A portrait of Britney Spears looms over supporters and media members outside a court hearing concerning the pop singer's conservatorship in Los Angeles. Pic: AP
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The case has put the singer firmly back into the media spotlight. Pic: AP


“In 1998 the world embraced Britney in a manner which would now be regarded as entirely inappropriate. Britney was globally sexualised with endorsement of even her own parents at the age of 17.

“As to whether Britney’s affairs need controlling for reasons alleged they do, the courts need to decide.

“But what I find immensely concerning is that all these years later, it is her father who continues to be the one in control, with so many issues of seemingly legitimate concern about his suitability,” Shalit told Sky News.

If the overriding concern aside from her mental health was that she would end up losing her money, so what?

She wouldn’t be the first star to go broke or file for bankruptcy, Michael Jackson, 50 Cent and MC Hammer have all been there.

Could it be that they were saved from having their assets and finances taken over by a conservatorship because they are men?

A conservatorship is usually reserved for people with dementia and at serious risk of making damaging decisions.

We can only assume the judge who granted this conservatorship had the singer’s best interests in mind, and that most likely her dad did too. But the conservatorship has lasted 13 years, and many question why Spears has only now been permitted to speak publicly about it.

With so many people around her, where was the duty of care? Rock and roll might revel in a reputation for chaos, but the well-oiled machine driving it is anything but chaotic.

Jamie Spears, pictured in 2012, says he saved his daughter from financial ruin. Pic: AP
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Jamie Spears, pictured in 2012, says he saved his daughter from financial ruin. Pic: AP

The priority is understandably ensuring the ‘talent’ is protected so they can continue to be profitable. So you might assume their best interests are guaranteed.

But as this case proves, that’s a dangerous assumption.

And while the world of red carpets, private jets and decadence might seem a long way from most people’s reality, Britney’s story resonates.

By comparing her situation to being “sex trafficked” says it all.

Spears says contraceptives and lithium have been forced on her. That she is a slave. And that her father should be in jail.

Britney Spears accepts the Vanguard Award at the 29th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills in 2018
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The singer’s case is an ’emblem’ for the toxicity of fame, says one PR agent

Having just had her backstory packaged by the revealing New York Times documentary Framing Britney, we were prepared to be shocked by this court appearance, but still this is truly shocking.

It says so much about the controlling nature of the music industry and misogyny in entertainment.

Mark Borkowski, a PR agent and author who worked with Michael Jackson among others, concedes we’d be foolish to write off the case as an isolated or unique situation.

He describes it as a “cypher” and “emblem” for the toxicity of fame.

“There is a dark side of fame… There is currently a state of unhinged acceleration towards a… culture of hyper-egocentrism. These conditions have a profound effect on mental wellbeing. For many, the residue of fame in the 21st century is a pressurised life defined by the crowd,” says Borkowski.

So who next should apologise to Britney? Will all be revealed in the end on Oprah? Will any lessons be learnt about treating women in the spotlight with basic respect and human decency? Watch this space.

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Harry and Meghan’s documentary series trailer released by Netflix

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Harry and Meghan's documentary series trailer released by Netflix

The trailer for Harry and Meghan’s new documentary series has been released.

The one-minute preview, released by Netflix, features previously unseen black and white photographs of the couple set to music.

They are heard being asked “Why did you want to make this documentary?” to which Harry replies: “No one sees what’s happening behind closed doors.”

He adds: “I had to do everything I could to protect my family” before Meghan is seen wiping away tears.

The trailer ends with Meghan saying: “When the stakes are this high, doesn’t it make more sense to hear our story from us?”

Images of William and Kate with Harry and Meghan at the Commonwealth Day service in 2020, the Sussexes’ final public appearance as senior working royals, feature among the images.

There are also joyful pictures of the couple kissing while Meghan sits on a kitchen counter, as newlyweds dancing at their wedding, cuddling in a photobooth, and Meghan cradling her baby bump.

But the duchess is also pictured in sadder moments, wiping away tears and sitting with her hands covering her face.

Meghan and Harry. Pic: Netflix
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Meghan and Harry. Pic: Netflix

Netflix describes the documentary, titled Harry & Meghan, as a “global event” and says it is “coming soon” – reports say it will land on 8 December.

It says the show “explores the clandestine days of their early courtship and the challenges that led to them feeling forced to step back from their full-time roles in the institution”.

It features commentary from friends, family and royal historians.

It adds: “The series does more than illuminate one couple’s love story, it paints a picture of our world and how we treat each other.”

The director, Liz Garbus, is a two-time Academy Award-nominated and Emmy-winning director.

Harry and Meghan signed lucrative deals – thought to be worth well over £100m- with Netflix and Spotify after quitting the monarchy and moving to the US.

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Squid Game actor O Yeong-su to stand trial on indecent assault charges in South Korea

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Squid Game actor O Yeong-su to stand trial on indecent assault charges in South Korea

The Squid Game actor O Yeong-su will stand trial on charges of indecent assault after a woman accused him of inappropriately touching her.

The trial of the Golden Globe winner, 78, was set for February at the district court in the South Korean city of Seongnam last week.

Specific details about the case could not be confirmed at this stage, Kim Myeong-un, an official in the district prosecutors’ office, said.

O Yeong-su (left) with other Squid Game actors in the Netflix series. Pic: AP
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O Yeong-su, left, in Squid Game. Pic: AP

O allegedly made unwanted physical contact with the woman, who has not been identified, at a meeting five years ago.

He denies any wrongdoing and has claimed he only held the woman’s hands to “show her the way” as they walked around a lake, according to a local television channel.

O said he had offered the woman an apology, not because he accepted the accusations against him were valid, but because the woman allegedly told him she “wouldn’t raise an issue” about the incident if he did, according to JTBC.

O became the first South Korean actor to win a Golden Globe in January after he was named the best supporting actor for his role in Squid Game.

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The violent Netflix drama follows a group of severely indebted adults competing in a series of deadly children’s games for a share of a cash prize.

O was also nominated for an Emmy for his performance as Oh Il-nam, a mysterious elderly contestant who joined the games after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

O has not yet commented publicly on the allegations.

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Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married

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Jake Flint: US country star, 37, dies just hours after getting married

US country music star Jake Flint has died unexpectedly at the age of 37, just hours after getting married.

The Oklahoma-based singer/songwriter died in his sleep after he tied the knot with wife Brenda on Saturday.

His heartbroken bride posted on Facebook: “We should be going through wedding photos but instead, I have to pick out clothes to bury my husband in.

“People aren’t meant to feel this much pain.

“My heart is gone and I just really need him to come back.

“I can’t take much more. I need him here.”

She also shared a picture of the couple dancing after their nuptials on Facebook, writing “I don’t understand.”

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Mr Flint’s publicist, Clif Doyal, said the musician died in his sleep in the early hours of the morning on Sunday, 27 November.

“Flint had exchanged wedding vows with Brenda Wilson on Saturday. He was 37.

“No official cause of death has been determined.”

In a statement shared by Mr Doyal, Mr Flint’s family said they were “broken” over the “tragic loss” of their beloved son, brother, uncle and partner, known to them as Jacob.

“He valued his family, friendships and living life to the fullest, which was evident in his songwriting.

“Every person who knew him has a story of his wit, charm, talent and compassion.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and the many beautiful tributes that have been shared about the impact Jacob had on many lives.

“While we grieve what we know could have been, we are grateful that his talent and love live on in his songs.”

A service for Mr Flint will take place on Monday at Cedar Point Church in Claremore, Oklahoma.

Instead of flowers, the family have requested donations to the Red Dirt Relief Fund, an organisation which provides emergency assistance funding grants to musicians in need.

A fundraising campaign has also been launched to raise money for the family of Mr Flint, described as a “great man in our music community.”

The musician was in the middle of a multi-state tour and had been scheduled to perform in Claremore on Friday.

His former manager, Brenda Cline, said she “loved him much like a son”, hailing him as the “funniest, most hilarious, hardest working, dedicated artist I have ever worked with in my career.”

“Jake has a million friends and I’m not sure how everyone will cope with this tragic loss,” she wrote on Facebook.

“This is going to be incredibly difficult for so many. We love you Jake and in our hearts forever.”

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