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Justin Timberlake's Past Is Coming Back To Haunt Him — But What He Does Next Matters Most

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Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears

Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake were once considered the "it couple" of the late 90s and early 2000s, and their highly publicized romance dominated both headlines and red carpets.

Spears and Timberlake dated from 1999 to 2002 after initially meeting in 1992 as kids on the set of "The Mickey Mouse Club." Now, over 20 years later, Spears, in her upcoming memoir titled "The Woman in Me," has opened up with new details about a tumultuous time in her and Timberlake's relationship that has reignited the widespread criticism of Timberlake's behavior following his breakup with the "Circus" singer.

Britney Spears admitted that she had an abortion while dating Justin Timberlake.

The revelation came from an excerpt of the pop star's memoir, which was obtained by PEOPLE. In it, the "Everytime" singer recalled finding out she was pregnant with Timberlake's baby at some point during their relationship.

"It was a surprise, but for me, it wasn’t a tragedy. I loved Justin so much. I always expected us to have a family together one day. This would just be much earlier than I’d anticipated,” Spears wrote. "But Justin definitely wasn’t happy about the pregnancy. He said we weren’t ready to have a baby in our lives, that we were way too young."



Spears continued, revealing that it had been up to her and that if she were alone in the decision, she would've kept the baby. At the time of their relationship, Spears was 17 and Timberlake was 18. Due to their age, Timberlake told Spears that he wasn't ready to be a father.

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"To this day, it’s one of the most agonizing things I have ever experienced in my life."

Since the news of Spears' abortion, the online reaction has not been in Timberlake's favor, with many people bringing up not only the mistreatment of Spears' in the media following their breakup, but how Timberlake stoked the flames and used it to launch his solo career. 

Spears once implied that Timberlake had been 'using' her for 'fame and attention.'

In March 2022, Spears called out multiple people in her life in a since-deleted Instagram post, including Timberlake, her mother, Lynne Spears, and her sister, Jamie Lynn Spears.

“Dear child … your mom had a serving with her book at the exact time when you needed her most …all for WHAT ??? FAME and ATTENTION !!!! Your ex did the same thing … he served with his first album using your name claiming you did him dirty !!!! Then your blood, one of the hardest times in your life guess what your sister does … a book too … all for what ????” Spears wrote in the post.

The "Toxic" singer had been referring to a book her mother had written in 2008, "Through the Storm: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World," following Spears' public breakdown after her split from ex-husband Kevin Federline. 

While Spears didn't mention Timberlake by name, much of the singer's past music including his debut solo album, "Justified," had been about his relationship with Spears as well as their extremely public breakup. In both the lyrics for his song "Cry Me a River" and the music video, Timberlake seemed to insinuate that Spears had cheated on him and broken his heart.

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Spears even previously admitted to being "hurt" by Timberlake's song and felt the music video, which featured a blonde look-alike cheating on Timberlake, was "unfair." Spears was dragged through the mud by both fans and the media, and Timberlake simply used it to benefit his emerging career.

The "My Love" singer even used the promotional tour for his first album to speak about Spears and their three-year romance, including their sex life and taking her virginity, which Spears was relentlessly questioned about in interviews for some time after. 

While speaking to Rolling Stone, Spears implied that she felt betrayed by the "Cry Me a River" video, telling the publication, "I think I was in shock, to be honest. I didn't know what to say, what to do. That was the last thing I ever thought somebody might do. I was really shocked. But you live and you learn..."

Timberlake previously issued an apology for his role in the mistreatment of Spears.

In February 2021, the New York Times released a documentary about Spears, titled "Framing Britney Spears," which revealed a portrait of the pop singer's intense conservatorship battle, as well as her rise to fame. In the documentary, her relationship with Timberlake was also touched upon, which initiated a wave of backlash Timberlake's way.

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The criticism was not only for how he treated Spears, but also for how Timberlake seemed to benefit from the infamous 2004 Super Bowl halftime scandal with Janet Jackson after he appeared as a guest onstage during her performance and ripped off a piece of Jackson's costume, briefly exposing one of her breasts.

Following that incident, Jackson was villainized and shamed in the media, while Timberlake went on to win a Grammy and have a lucrative career, paying a much smaller price for the scandal than Jackson did.

In an apology posted to Instagram following the resurfaced backlash in 2021, Timberlake expressed remorse for having "benefited from a system that condones misogyny and racism."

"I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women and I know I failed," Timberlake wrote. His apology was only met with further criticism that it had come 20 years too late.

Two things can exist at the same time. Timberlake failed to stand behind Jackson, and he also willingly exploited Spears and how she was treated in the media for his own personal gain.

It's especially disheartening because Spears trusted and loved Timberlake, and just like many other people in her life, he used the weight of public judgment to elevate himself, and it wasn't until he started getting called out two decades later that he felt it was necessary to speak up.

There needs to be accountability on Timberlake's side for the role he played and how he weaponized the world turning on Spears to create a name for himself outside of the boy band image during the early 2000s. 

However, Timberlake is now 40 years old, and it should be possible to allow him to evolve, learn, and grow from his past actions, especially since he and Spears were barely in their 20s when confronted with the vicious reality of the entertainment industry. People deserve second chances and empathy, especially in the ever-evolving narrative of fame.

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Nia Tipton is a Chicago-based entertainment, news, and lifestyle writer whose work delves into modern-day issues and experiences.