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.
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.
“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?
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Taylor Swift’s dad accused of punching photographer in face after Sydney show
An Australian photographer claims he was punched by Taylor Swift’s dad in Sydney following the singer’s concert.
Ben McDonald said he told police the incident happened at Neutral Bay Wharf, where Swift and her dad had just come ashore from a yacht hours after the singer’s final show in the city.
While officers did not release names, police said they are investigating an alleged assault by a 71-year-old man on a 51-year-old man at 2.30am local time.
Swift’s representatives have not responded to a request for comment, but a spokesperson told Rolling Stone magazine two people were “aggressively pushing” to get to Swift.
They added that the people grabbed security and threatened a member of the singer’s staff.
Mr McDonald said media had been waiting to picture the star as she walked towards two cars.
“There were about four or five security there and at one point, one of the American security started shoving his umbrella into me and my camera and then Taylor got in her car,” he said.
“Someone else came running at me and punched me in the left side of my face.
“Initially, I thought it was an Australian security that was trying to be the hero of the moment in the front of the Americans, but as it turned out it was her father.”
Mr McDonald said he recognised Swift’s father, Scott Swift, from a picture online – adding that he doesn’t have any bruising and didn’t need any treatment.
“In 23 years, I haven’t been assaulted and punched in the chops, particularly by the talent’s dad,” he said.
“We didn’t go rushing down the jetty. We didn’t go rushing to the back of the boat. We waited for her to come up. Kept it very civil.
“But no, they… put the umbrellas up and umbrellas over her and then shove the umbrellas into our faces and then make out that we’re the ones making contact with them.”
Swift left the country on Tuesday after more than 600,000 fans saw her Eras Tour performance across seven concerts.
Matthew Perry’s X account ‘hacked by fraudsters’ urging donation to fake foundation
The X account of Matthew Perry has been targeted by hackers, according to reports.
A foundation set up in honour of the Friends star, who died last October, appeared to be the target of a link in a pinned post at the top of his profile urging people to donate.
However, the post actually linked to duplicate site.
An Instagram post from the Matthew Perry Foundation said: “We have received reports that Matthew’s official X page has been hacked and is directing users to a fraudulent site soliciting donations via cryptocurrency.
“Please do not donate to this site or share the fraudulent posts on social media.
“MatthewPerryFoundation.org is the only website associated with the Foundation, and we are only accepting donations through this site.”
A caption added: “This is the only official Matthew Perry Foundation Instagram account, and we will only ever post official Foundation communications.
“Please report imposter accounts, and do not submit donations through any channel other than MatthewPerryFoundation.org. #MatthewPerry.”
The post was also flagged by X’s community notes feature saying that the account had been hacked and the link was fake.
Perry’s death was ruled an accident from the “acute effects of ketamine”. The actor, was found “unresponsive in the pool at his residence” on 28 October last year.
Most famous for playing Chandler Bing in hit US sitcom, Perry was open about his battle with addiction, setting up a sober living facility for men who were also struggling.
Following his death, the foundation was created in his name to help those struggling with addiction.
Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel Green in Friends, was among those who urged support of the foundation.
The actor was recently honoured during the in memoriam segment at the SAG Awards, after there was controversy at the BAFTAs following his omission from their remembrance roll call.
Producer accuses Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of forcing him to have sex with prostitutes
A music producer has accused Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs of sexually assaulting him and forcing him to have sex with prostitutes.
The suit, filed in New York, accuses the music mogul of repeated instances of unwanted groping and sexual touching.
It also says the music producer was forced to work in a bathroom while Combs showered and wandered around in the nude.
Combs’ lawyer, Shawn Holley, labelled the events described in the lawsuit “pure fiction”.
“We have overwhelming, indisputable proof that his claims are complete lies,” he said.
“We will address these outlandish allegations in court and take all appropriate action against those who make them.”
In the lawsuit, the producer claims Combs made him solicit sex workers and pressured him to sleep with them.
It also described a time when the producer suspected he had been drugged after waking up in a bed with a pair of prostitutes.
The claim is one of several sexual assault lawsuits filed against Combs in recent months, including a lawsuit from the R&B singer Cassie that was settled last year.
Another of Combs’ accusers is a woman who claims he raped her two decades ago when she was 17-years-old.
Combs has denied all the allegations.
In a statement in December, he described the claims as “sickening” and his accusers of “looking for a quick payday”.
“Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth,” he said.
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