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How Did Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s Split Get So Nasty?

“Cry Me a River,” Justified‘s second single a track largely assumed to be an autobiographical take on their split likely would have eclipsed its predecessor “Like I Love You,” with its lyrics alone: “You don’t have to say what you did / I already know, I found out from him.”

But when the video dropped, featuring 18-year-old blonde model-actress Lauren Hastings, a Spears doppelgänger down to the newsboy hat, well, it seemed awfully deliberate. Suddenly Timberlake had a runaway hit and Spears had some ‘splaining to do. 

Timberlake had reached out to inform her that he’d cast a lookalike to appear opposite him, but it was still tough to process. Seeing the video while on vacation, “I was kind of in denial, like, I went into this whole denial phase or whatever,” she explained to Sawyer. “I don’t want to judge him or anything like that, because that’s the way he had to deal with what happened. And that’s fine.”

Still, she continued, “I know if I was in a relationship and something happened, I just, I couldn’t really go there.” Sure, her single “Everytime” in which she sang “My weakness caused you pain / And this song’s my sorry” seemed to be about Timberlake. But, as she stammered to Sawyer, “I’ll let the song just speak for itself.” 

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