Months before the revamped "X Factor" hits the air, we've already come to expect some serious drama from new judge Britney Spears. But in one of those only-in-reality-TV moments, Spears shed some genuine tears on Sunday during audition rounds in San Francisco when she was confronted with a voice and face from her distant past.
People magazine reported that Spears got emotional when a male contestant hit the stage at Oracle Arena, telling fellow panelists Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid and fellow newbie Demi Lovato, "I know him ... We did a duet together 10 years ago."
A source told the magazine that when the man stepped on the stage, "You could see that Britney recognized him straight away ... She got this huge smile on her face and her eyes lit up. It was so sweet."
While People did not reveal the man's identity, Spears superfan Jordan Miller of fan site Breathe Heavy confirmed that the auditioner was none other than Don Philip. The one-time aspiring new pop revolution singer performed a duet with Britney on the treacly ballad "I Will Still Love You," from her 1999 debut album, ...Baby One More Time.
A spokesperson for the show declined to comment on the singer's identity when asked for comment.
The blast from her past got more emotional when Phillip revealed to the judges and audience, "I'm gay." He continued, "At the time I didn't think I was worth ... I didn't think you thought it was OK that I am gay."
Spears was reportedly quick to voice her support for Phillip, saying, "I think it is fine you are gay."
The unnamed source told People that when Phillip started crying and said, "he thought he'd never see her again and that he'd had a lot to deal with, Britney was comforting him to calm him." Though she was compassionate and warm with Phillip, the source said that the singer was clearly a bit shaken by the unexpected run-in.
"She's been through a lot in those 10 years, too, so it must have been a shock for her to see him," the source said. "You could tell she was emotional and she really felt for him especially when he was crying, but she also stayed calm." Even with the drama, Spears reportedly gave a very straightforward critique, though it is unknown if Phillip made the cut.
Philip, a Miami, Florida, native who tried to ride the same late-'90s teen pop wave that made superstars out of Spears, Christina Aguilera, 'NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys, has spent the time since the duet grinding away at a music career that never reached the heights of his former singing partner. The one-time Jive Records star-in-the-making has sung back-up for Gloria Estefan and toured with Spears early in her career, and like "The Voice" singer Tony Lucca and Aguilera, maybe he was hoping that a reunion with his former pop pal would provide the boost he's been looking for.
Apparently, though, the "Factor" audition didn't go as Philip planned. According to a series of Facebook posts, Don was disappointed with how things went and wrote, "Tonight i might have sealed my music career fate according to a certain music mogul. I tryed to just be real and instead it totally got turned around on me," he said. "Perhaps this was not the place for me to reveal my very soul and obstacles of my past. Certainly not the place for a reunion ... I promise I only had good intentions in mind."
He said his voice "froze" when he began to sing and was never able to recover from what he felt was a "really hardcore interrogation" from what he anonymously described as "two pompous arrogant men."
He continued, "I guess I am not as tough skinned as I thought ... Wait it gets worse ... when I looked into the very eyes of my old label mate and saw she too was sad. I knew the whole situation was spinning out of control.. my heart broke."
On Monday, Philip posted another note, wondering if Cowell might give him another shot, explaining that he was "so exhausted and could not sleep [the] night before," because he was so scared to face Spears. He also referred to the "heavy burden" he was carrying, seemingly referring to his coming out, and following four hours of interviews he said his voice was just spent.