IT should have signalled the start of an exciting new chapter in Britney Spears’ life.
Freed from the shackles of her 13-year legal conservatorship, she topped charts across the globe this week with the release of Elton John duet Hold Me Closer.
But instead of celebrating her happy ever after, the singer is trapped in a bitter war of words with her family.
In a Sun on Sunday interview last month with Kevin Federline — the father of her two sons, Preston, 16, and Jayden, 15 — he revealed they’d stopped seeing Britney after becoming increasingly uncomfortable on their visits.
The bombshell claims led the superstar to accuse her boys of being “hateful” in an anguished social media post.
And now, in a fresh interview, Britney’s son Jayden has revealed a lot more.
He explained that he and his brother missed their mum’s June wedding because they were not comfortable going if the rest of the family weren’t invited too.
Over the years Britney has spoken out at length against her father Jamie, 70, who controlled her finances and aspects of her personal life for so long through her disputed conservatorship.
She has also hit out at her mother Lynne, sister Jamie Lynn and brother Bryan.
So it’s probably no surprise that they didn’t make the invite list.
Jayden, though, has said that he struggles with Britney’s scathing social media posts about their family and talks about his love for her estranged relatives.
He speaks of his “love” for Jamie, but currently can’t see him because of a restraining order his father took out against him in 2019.
In the same year, Jayden described his grandfather as a “d***” on social media. It’s really quite hard to keep up with this saga. In a since-deleted Instagram post, Britney accused her sons of “abandoning her” and being “hateful”, before begging them to love her again.
It’s all very sad. Love is not an emotion that can be turned on and off like a tap.
Kevin then posted videos allegedly showing Britney “screaming” at her sons when they were younger — in a bid to reveal, I suppose, why her kids are not keen to see her.
In many ways, this is just another family drama.
We all have them, but thankfully for most of us they are not played out in front of the whole world.
The truth is that there are two — or more when it’s a family — sides to every story. Outsiders will only ever hear fragments. Watching isolated footage of Britney shouting at her kids (and on that front, let she who is without sin cast the first stone) or a post from Britney talking about being abandoned might make us feel certain that we know the truth, but we never will.
This family has obviously had more than its fair share of drama.
But none of us really knows what is going on now, what went on during their childhood, the kind of pressures that Britney was under as a young mother in the public eye, or how she reacted to those pressures.
So while it is tempting to take sides, form a view and demonise either Britney herself, her father — or her ex and her children — we really shouldn’t.
And if I could offer some unsolicited advice to this particular family, it would be to take some time to heal, but I doubt they’d listen.
Because this sorry tale is really just a reminder of the associated agonies that often go hand in hand with life in the very public eye.
And also of how fame, no matter the associated trimmings like untold wealth, is just as much a curse as it is a blessing.
Romance has gon wrong
IT’S all over for presenter Melanie Sykes and her toyboy gondolier lover Riccardo Simionato.
The couple first fell for one another in October 2020 after she paid £72 for a ride on his gondola in Venice.
But sadly Mel, 52, and Riccardo, 25, split earlier this year because “travelling back and forth wasn’t sustainable”.
It’s always a shame when relationships break down. But at least they took a punt on love.
FALLING FOR IT?
ANOTHER day, another mysterious death of an oligarch in Russia.
The latest to meet a grim fate is Ravil Maganov, 67, chairman of Russia’s Lukoil energy giant.
Tass news agency quoted sources saying he had fallen out of a sixth-floor window of a hospital in Moscow early on Thursday morning, adding later that he had taken his own life.
But given that the Lukoil board called for the conflict in Ukraine to end as soon as possible, and expressed its sympathy to victims of “this tragedy”, it is hard to take that assessment at face value.
I guess this is just a normal day in Russia for an opponent of the regime. If I was living in Russia, I’d make sure I was living in a bungalow.
Meghan’s caught out
IT was the ultimate endorsement for any socially aware celebrity.
In a breathless interview the Duchess of Sussex insisted that her marriage to Prince Harry had been greeted with as much joy on the streets of South Africa as the freeing of anti-apartheid warrior Nelson Mandela.
Yes, that Mandela – caged for 27 years in hellhole prisons for battling the white supremacist creed.
A little different then, from a TV actress marrying a playboy prince in a fancy castle.
Yet, Meghan was adamant – she had been told so when she met a South African actor at the London premiere of the Lion King’s live- action remake in 2019.
But the only South African cast member in the film claimed he was left “baffled” by her comments, because he had never met the Duchess.
Worse still, Dr John Kani, an acclaimed actor and friend of the late Mandela, said that her marriage to Prince Harry was “no big deal” in South Africa.
Oops. Poor Meghan.
It’s terrible when you get caught out, isn’t it?
‘EMPTY NEST’ IS CUCKOO
IT’S a cliché that some mothers simply cannot believe any girl is good enough for their son.
But Pauline Randles really took that old adage to the extreme.
The jealous mum embarked on an extreme campaign of harassment after becoming jealous of her son’s new girlfriend.
Over a six-week period she sent abusive texts to her son Simon, a newly qualified British Transport Police constable in his thirties, saying: “I wish you were aborted, I wish you were sacked from your job.”
She even punched her boy in the face and kicked him in the leg after accusing his partner, Lauren Stocker, of “taking him away from her”.
The explanation? Apparently it was “empty nest syndrome”.
Most of us want nothing more for our kids than for them to lead independent lives.
It’s exciting when they move on, meet people and start their own journey.
And for most of us empty nest syndrome does not result in us being banned from contacting our children for 18 months, as Pauline now has.
What a sorry tale this is.
Mel of a girl, grey or not
WHAT’S with all the grey shaming?
Melinda Messenger has been inundated with horrible messages on social media for simply embracing her natural hair colour.
After posting a picture of her new silver do on Instagram, users thought it appropriate to respond by telling the 51-year-old: “It adds years to you.”
How rude and unnecessary. As Melinda herself says, ageing is such a natural thing, and, God willing, something we all experience.
But I was struck by the fact she saw letting her trademark blonde locks turn their natural grey as an act of self-love.
She confessed: “I used to feel that I had to look a certain way, that I needed make-up and nice hair, especially if I was going to be seen out in public.
“It’s taken me 51 years to see that I was always good enough (we all are) so I don’t want to spend the next years of life feeling I have to be anything other than just myself. I have finally given myself permission to just be.”
With that in mind, it’s even more annoying that some people have got a problem with her.
Women are under so much pressure at every age to be a certain weight and to look a certain way.
She has a right to do whatever she wants, but it seems that people don’t want her to.
All that said, I cannot imagine succumbing to going grey, which means getting my roots done every four weeks as my hair grows like weed.
In between I have to use root sprays and even occasionally, when I have run out of that, I’ll reach for the brown eyeshadow.
But I will defend to the end Melinda’s right to do whatever the hell she wants.
She’ll always be a bombshell – blonde or not.
ROD IS A TRUE HAIR-O
THERE are many reasons to love Sir Rod Stewart.
But perhaps his best trait is how he never seems to take himself too seriously.
He recently re-posted a photo of a Second World War-era bunker covered in long grass, right, which really does bear an uncanny resemblance to his iconic head of hair.
The Tweet was captioned “Rod Stewart is looking well” and received almost 80,000 likes online.
Sir Rod then re-tweeted it to his 500,000 followers.
What a good sport!