MANILA, Philippines – No matter how rich, powerful, or popular you are, the fact remains that no one is above the law. This was definitely made clear in 2021, after quite a few celebrities, local and international, underwent tedious, often troubling, legal battles.
As a sobering reminder that life as a famous person isn’t all glitz and glam, here are some of the most striking – and messiest – cases that stars had to deal with this year:
The end of Britney Spears’ conservatorship
Let’s start off with some good news.
In November, pop star Britney Spears finally regained control of her personal life and her money when a judge ended a 13-year conservatorship under her father Jamie. Jamie had set it up in 2008 to oversee his daughter’s personal affairs and roughly $60-million estate after she had a mental health breakdown.
The “Stronger” singer had said that the arrangement was abusive and humiliating. Under the conservatorship, a security firm hired by Jamie even monitored the pop singer’s phone calls and text messages.
After the ruling, Britney showed much gratitude for her fans, who had conducted a long campaign dubbed the #FreeBritney Movement, to end her conservatorship.
“I love my fans so much it’s crazy!!! I think I’m gonna cry the rest of the day !!!! Best day ever,” she tweeted after the ruling.
Nadine Lustre’s contract battle with Viva
Award-winning actress and singer Nadine Lustre first entered into a contract with Viva Artists Agency in 2009, and renewed the contract twice, with the end date set for 2029.
However, she announced in January 2020 that she would be “terminating” her contract with Viva and would be “self-managed.” She then turned her attention on her music career, releasing her album Wildest Dreams under the label Careless in October 2020.
On December 10, the longstanding legal battle came to an end, after the two parties reached a settlement.
Alec Baldwin’s deadly ‘prank’ on set
Actor Alec Baldwin was holding a prop gun on a movie set in New Mexico on October when it went off, killing cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounding director Joel Souza. He had earlier been told that the gun was safe.
“Well, the trigger wasn’t pulled. I didn’t pull the trigger,” the actor told ABC television journalist George Stephanopoulos in a December interview.
Two crew members have filed civil lawsuits accusing Baldwin, the producers, and others on the production of negligence and lax safety protocols. The producers have said they are conducting their own internal investigation.
No criminal charges have been filed. Investigators have been focusing their efforts on how live bullets, rather than dummies, got onto the set.
Kakai Bautista vs. Mario Maurer
In March, actress and comedian Kakai Bautista was told to refrain from using Thai actor Mario Maurer’s name publicly, in a demand letter supposedly sent to her management by the Thai actor’s legal team.
Kakai had previously spoken about her ties to Mario, whom she worked with on the 2012 film Suddenly It’s Magic. In a 2013 interview, Kakai got emotional when she spoke about her friendship with Mario, and how she never expected that he would be so nice to her.
She later said in a 2019 interview with Boy Abunda that while she and Mario didn’t have a relationship, she “fell for his realness” and that they had exchanged “I love yous” as friends. In the same interview, she clarified that they suddenly stopped communicating, and hadn’t been in touch for seven years.
In the alleged demand letter, Mario’s camp denied Kakai’s statements on her closeness to the actor, saying they were “false and untrue.”
Kakai’s lawyer Jude Marfil then questioned the validity of the letter supposedly from Mario’s camp as it was only “forwarded through email, does not bear any letterhead, mailing address, and contact number.”
Deaths at Travis Scott concert
10 people died in a stampede at rapper Travis Scott’s concert at the Astroworld Festival in Houston in November.
The victims, aged 9 to 27 years old, died of compression asphyxia, the examiner’s report concluded, essentially crushed to death in the crowd surrounding the stage. Another 300 people were injured among the audience of 50,000 people. Victims were trapped and hemmed in by barricades on three sides, unable to escape as thousands of fans rushed toward the stage while Scott performed. Eyewitnesses said spectators fell to the ground and some were trampled by the crowd. The medical examiner ruled out homicide, or death caused by another person, in all 10 cases.
The medical examiner’s finding could shape the direction of a police criminal investigation into the tragedy, which has shaken Houston and raised issues about crowd control and security at entertainment mega-events.
There have been no charges filed by police but at least 200 lawsuits, including several by family members of the deceased, have been filed against 29-year-old Scott, festival promoter Live Nation Entertainment, the NRG Park concert venue, and others involved in the event.
Zayn Malik faces harassment charges
Zayn Malik pleaded no contest in October to harassment charges filed against him after an alleged physical altercation with Yolanda Hadid, the mother of ex-girlfriend Gigi Hadid.
The police report said that Zayn was “acting with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” Yolanda and Gigi by “communicating lewd, lascivious, threatening, or obscene words.” The incident happened on September 29 at the Pennsylvania home he shares with Gigi, the mother of his one-year-old daughter Khai.
Malik also allegedly attempted to “physically engage in a fight” with Yolanda’s security guard John McMahon, cursing him and telling him to get out of his house.
Malik’s no contest plea includes 90 days of probation for each count (360 days in total), parole supervision, mandatory completion of an anger management class, and a no-contact rule with Yolanda and her security guard. He must also be screened for a domestic violence supervision program.
Malik also explained why he agreed to a no contest plea, saying that it was done to protect daughter Khai. Malik and supermodel Hadid reportedly broke up after a rocky on-and-off relationship since 2015.
Lil Nas X’s ‘Satan Shoes’
A federal judge on April 1 sided with Nike Inc. in ordering a Brooklyn company to temporarily stop further sales of “Satan Shoes” it produced in collaboration with the rapper Lil Nas X.
Nike sued MSCHF Product Studio Inc, claiming that the black-and-red, devil-themed sneakers, which carry the Nike “swoosh” logo, infringed its trademarks.
The sneakers are customized versions of the Nike Air Max 97 sneakers that purport to contain one drop of human blood in the midsoles, and are printed with “Luke 10:18,” a biblical passage referring to Satan’s fall from heaven.
Only 666 pairs, costing $1,018 each, were made. Lil Nas X, known for the song “Old Town Road,” was planning to select who gets the 666th pair, but that plan was shelved following Nike’s lawsuit. He is not a defendant in the case.
MSCHF’s lawyers had argued that Satan Shoes were “not typical sneakers, but rather individually-numbered works of art,” following on the company’s “Jesus Shoes” based on the same Nike model in 2019.
Kendall Jenner ‘breaches’ modeling contract?
US top model Kendall Jenner was sued in August by Italian fashion brand Liu Jo for allegedly breaching the terms of a modeling contract requiring her to appear for two photoshoots.
The complaint stated that Jenner only took part in the first of two planned photoshoots but never turned up for the second one, which had originally been due to take place in March 2020 but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Liu Jo is seeking at least $1.8 million in damages, according to the complaint.
Jenner’s representative responded that the complaint was “without merit.”
The model has “continually offered Liu Jo alternative dates and locations to fulfill an agreement that was forced to be delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic,” a spokesperson from The Society Management, Jenner’s agent, said in an emailed statement.
“Jenner has willingly offered to complete services honoring her commitments,” the statement added. – with reports from Reuters/Rappler.com