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The real (and fake) sex lives of Bella Thorne

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Earlier this week, actress Bella Thorne announced that she would be working with the pornography-sharing site, Pornhub, to keep it free of “revenge porn”. This is the story behind that announcement.

Bella Thorne starts crying.

One of her dogs, Ma, an Australian Shepherd, scampers around her ankles to show her concern.

We’ve talked about slut-shaming, depression, bullying on social media, and how she has become one of the most deepfaked actresses, appearing now in thousands of faked pornographic videos.

“Just talking about the world in this way makes me so sad,” she says, “It makes me hate it.”

But none of this is what triggers her tears.

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Bella Thorne

We’re sitting on the deck of her rented waterfront home in Sudbury, Ontario. It’s a quiet, maple-leaf-strewn town on the cusp of autumn, and Thorne has been here for three months filming Girl, with Mickey Rourke, in which she plays a young woman who has returned to her sleepy home town to kill her abusive father.

It’s been a year in which the 22-year-old has bared her soul to the world.

She released her first book, The Life Of A Wannabe Mogul: Mental Disarray – a series of darkly personal poems that centre around despair, isolation and sexual assault.

She touches on the raw grief of losing her father in a motorbike accident at the age of nine and her career as a child model, growing up under a dazzling spotlight, and then being propelled into a Disney Channel sitcom (Shake It Up, where Zendaya was her co-star). And she contemplates her need for romantic attention and her much-written-about pansexual lifestyle.

“Was it because I was molested my whole life? / exposed to sex at such a young age that feels the most natural to offer the world?”

The anthology, in which she consciously leaves words misspelt, stayed on the Amazon best-seller list for weeks after publication.


100 Women

Bella Thorne is among the BBC’s most inspiring and influential women of 2019 – giving us their vision of a female-led future.


It was during the emotionally draining press tour for the book, in June of this year, that Bella received a slew of text messages from a number she didn’t recognise.

“I’m getting out of an interview and I’m already crying, talking about the book, and I look at my phone and then I just see a few nudes of me,” she recalls.

Staring at the intimate photos that she had once sent a former lover, Bella was stunned. She called her manager and agent seeking advice.

Then her phone pinged again.

More topless photos. This time of some of her famous friends.

It was early in the morning and she was in bed.

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In her book Bella had detailed the sexual abuse she had endured as a child – omitting the identity of her perpetrator – and explained how her fear of not being believed stopped her from reporting the crime. Looking at the topless pictures, a familiar feeling of violation washed over her.

“Here it is again,” she thought. “Someone else that has my life right in their hands and is able to make these decisions for me. Here it is again. Someone again forcing my hand to do something I don’t want to do when it involves sexual stuff.”

So she made a decision. Using her social media platforms – seven million followers on Twitter, 22 million on Instagram and nine million on Facebook – she released the topless pictures herself, along with screenshots of the threatening text message from the hacker, and her own message.

“I’m putting this out because it’s MY DECISION NOW U DON’T GET TO TAKE YET ANOTHER THING FROM ME.”

It was a polarising choice.

Whoopi Goldberg, who appears on American chat show The View, reprimanded Thorne, not for for releasing the pictures but taking them in the first place.

“If you’re famous, I don’t care how old you are. You don’t take nude pictures of yourself,” Goldberg said, during a panel discussion on her programme, “Once you take that picture, it goes into the cloud and it’s available to any hacker who wants it, and if you don’t know that in 2019 that this is an issue, I’m sorry.”

Thorne responded to Goldberg on Instagram, tearfully calling her comments, “sick and honestly disgusting”.

“It hurt more coming from a woman I admire,” says Thorne.

“People say, ‘No no my kids never do that. Oh no.'”

Her message for these people is this: “You never choose to really look inside your own home… Every single person shares some kind of affection online.”

She adds that publicly shaming young people for behaving in this way, when they are already feeling humiliated and vulnerable, could push them further towards a mental health crisis.

“If a photo had been released of a young girl or guy and it was going round their school, and they felt suicidal, they’d watch an interview like that and think, ‘Oh, ok, I do deserve this,'” she says.

These photographs that she released herself were the first genuine topless pictures of Bella Thorne to appear online.

However, there are many, many sexually explicit Bella Thorne videos – none of which are actually of her. They are deepfakes, made by expertly superimposing her face on to the body of an actor engaging in sex, and manipulating the image to make Thorne appear to say whatever the creators want her to.

One particular video disturbingly takes audio from a recording of Thorne crying about her dead father, whom she misses deeply, and edits her face on to a video of a woman masturbating.

“This video is going around and everyone really is thinking that it is actually me,” she tells the BBC. “And then they put the subtitles, ‘Daddy, Daddy!'”

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Media captionActress Bella Thorne opens up about her experience of deepfake abuse

Software developers have told the BBC that the technology to make deepfake videos from just a single photograph will be available to the general public in less than a year. This worries Bella.

“It’s not going to just be used on your favourite celebrity,” she says. “That is a breeding ground for underage pornography.”

She adds that such videos could be used as a form of revenge, blackmail or extortion against young women who, unlike her, do not have the digital platforms to expose them as fakes.

It’s at this point that we start talking about Thorne’s debut as a director, the award-winning adult film Him and Her – and something unexpected happens.

She says she decided to make the film because she thinks the industry needs more female directors, in order to change the type of stories told about female sexuality.

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Image caption

Bella Thorne won an award for her directorial debut, an adult movie, at the 2019 Pornhub awards

I then ask her to comment on the recent BBC investigation which found that Pornhub, the site where she released the film, has been profiting from so-called revenge porn videos.

It’s evident that this is the first Thorne has heard of the BBC story and she is visibly shaken.

“I didn’t know that,” she says, tears suddenly falling. “You attach yourself to things and you think you’re making things better. I try and help and then somewhere along the line…”

Her voice breaks off. I ask her if she wants to add anything more about Pornhub later when she’s had time to research.

“I don’t want to be fake, so I’d rather you keep my first answer.”

This interview is over.

Mindgeek, the company that owns Pornhub, told the BBC: “We seek to provide users with a safe space to share and consume content. The last thing we want is to undermine this by allowing revenge porn on our sites.”

Back at the hotel a text comes through from Thorne’s assistant inviting me to an event she is attending called Make Sure Your Friends are OK to destigmatise depression. It’s a cause that is particularly important to her, and one she wants her fans – particularly the vulnerable ones – to know about.

Three days later, I am at the event, a garden party in Beverly Hills.

“When I was first growing up there were only a few people you knew that were depressed, or like struggled with depression,” she says. “Now it’s almost every single person you know. There has to be some reasoning behind it, and my reasoning is growing up in social media.”

As I’m leaving the party, a friend of Thorne’s tells us that she got straight on the phone to Pornhub after our interview, and says we should look out for an announcement.

Later that week, Thorne picked up an award for her debut directorial adult film, Her & Him, at the Pornhub awards.

She thanked the adult film industry for embracing her creative vision for more women directors in pornography, and then added a pointed message condemning revenge porn videos.

“I am working with Pornhub to implement a change in their flagging system algorithm, to ensure safety for everyone and everyone in our community.”

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Sausage roll enthusiast LadBaby takes aim at second Christmas number one

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The star recorded his new single with his wife, Roxanne, at Abbey Road studios

YouTube star LadBaby, who scored last year’s Christmas number one with an ode to sausage rolls, is mounting a second assault on the charts.

The “dad blogger” has rewritten Joan Jett’s I Love Rock & Roll for this year’s attempt; once again extolling the virtues of pork-stuffed pastry.

I Love Sausage Rolls was recorded at Abbey Road, but LadBaby maintains he’s “no more professional” than before.

“Brace yourself, my singing voice is back,” he told the BBC.

The single won’t be released until Friday, 13 December – but it’s crammed full of meaty puns, leading to the inevitable chorus: “I love sausage rolls / So put another one in the oven, baby“.

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Ladbaby, whose real name is Mark Hoyle, said the parody was written in “about five hours” after he and his wife Roxanne chose it from a playlist of the UK’s favourite karaoke songs.

“We basically went down the Top 50 karaoke songs in the UK – because we wanted a song, like last year, where everyone knows the words and you can sing along to it and the kids can join in and have fun.”

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Proceeds from the single will support food banks, which see a surge in demand over Christmas

Last year, the YouTube star captured the public’s imagination with the comedy hit We Built This City On Sausage Rolls. The song went straight to number one, beating the likes of Ava Max and Ariana Grande, as well as seasonal favourites by Mariah Carey and The Pogues.

All of the proceeds went to The Trussell Trust, a foodbank charity, funding about 70,000 emergency food packages over the festive period.

Hoyle said he had intended to end the story there, until he saw the charity’s work first-hand.

“We basically spent a few days meeting the volunteers and understanding how the food banks work,” he said, “and while we were there, the doorbell rang once every two or three minutes with more people coming in.

“Once we saw how far the money goes, we thought, ‘Do you know what? If we can get anywhere near raising that sort of money again, then why not?'”

According to The Trussell Trust’s own research, more than 823,000 parcels were provided by food banks in the UK between April and September this year – an increase of 23% increase from the same period as last year.

“They said the Christmas period is the worst – that’s when they have the most people in,” Hoyle added. “So for us, it was a no-brainer to try to help those guys again.”

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LadBaby

Image caption

The single’s artwork parodies The Beatles’ classic Abbey Road album sleeve, starring Mark, Roxanne and their two sons

If I Love Sausage Rolls gets to number one, LadBaby will be only the third act in UK chart history to have consecutive Christmas chart-toppers.

“There’s a chance we can be in there with the Beatles and the Spice Girls,” says Hoyle. “There’s never been a novelty act with back-to-back Christmas number ones, so we could make some history.”

However, the record faces stiff competition this year, with the likes of Lewis Capaldi and Taylor Swift taking a swing at the festive chart.

Australian artist Tones & I could also cling on to the top spot – she’s currently enjoying a 10th week at number one with the quirky pop single Dance Monkey; while fans of Wham! are trying to propel Last Christmas to number one (for the first time) in honour of the song’s 35th anniversary.

LadBaby isn’t even the only charity single in the running: Broadchurch actor Shaun Dooley has teamed up with the Grimethorpe Colliery Band to cover Taylor Swift’s Never Grow Up in aid of Children In Need; while six-year-old Lyra Cole has recorded a version of When A Child is Born for Brain Tumour Research, which helped her through emergency surgery as a baby.

“It feels like there’s more competition this year,” agrees Hoyle, “so the chances of doing it again seem very slim.”

But if they reach their goal, he promises to go one better next year.

“We were joking the other day, ‘How do you get bigger than Abbey Road?'” he says. “And I think we’d have to fly to LA and do an album with Dr Dre.”

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Jacqueline Jossa wins I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!

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Former EastEnders star Jacqueline Jossa has won I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! after spending three weeks in the Australian jungle.

The actress was named queen of the jungle, following in the footsteps of previous winners like Harry Redknapp, Stacey Solomon and Kerry Katona.

Co-presenters Ant McPartlin and Declan Donnelly revealed the winner at the end of the final of the ITV reality show.

Actor Andy Whyment was the runner-up, with radio DJ Roman Kemp in third.

Jossa played Lauren Branning in BBC soap EastEnders between 2010 and 2018.

After she was named queen of the jungle, she said: “I have no words.”

This year’s series – the 19th – was the first not to have live insects eaten as part of the show’s “bushtucker trials”.

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Coronation Street actor Andy Whyment took part in a “bushtucker bonanza” before he came second

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Radio host Roman Kemp came third

Any insects consumed on the show were already dead – though live creepy-crawlies were still dumped on its celebrity contestants.

But the show was not without controversy, with former sports stars James Haskell and Ian Wright being accused of bullying their fellow campmates.

Viewers also contacted media watchdog Ofcom to complain that some of the show’s challenges were too hard and thus unfair.

There was contention before the series even aired, with former Commons Speaker John Bercow demanding a newspaper apologise for claiming he had asked for £1m to appear.

DJ Tony Blackburn was the first celebrity to be crowned King of the Jungle when the show first aired in 2002.

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Juice Wrld: US rapper dies aged 21 ‘after seizure at airport’

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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap musicImage copyright
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Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was considered to be a rising star of rap music

Juice Wrld, a US rapper who shot to fame on music streaming platforms, has died at the age of 21.

Celebrity news website TMZ said he died after suffering a seizure at Chicago’s Midway airport on Sunday morning.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office said the cause was unknown.

Juice Wrld, real name Jarad Anthony Higgins, was best-known for his viral 2018 hit Lucid Dreams. Mental health, mortality and drug use were common themes in his music.

Chicago police told the BBC a 21-year-old man suffered a medical emergency at around 02:00 local time (08:00 GMT) and was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

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Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, told the Chicago Sun Times there were “no signs of foul play” and it was unclear whether drugs played a role in his death.

Who was Juice Wrld?

Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1998, Juice Wrld started rapping in high school, using online music streaming platform SoundCloud to upload and promote his music.

He went on to release his debut full-length EP, 999, on the platform in 2017, garnering him attention from fellow Chicago-based artists such as G Herbo and Lil Bibby.

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Juice Wrld shot to fame in 2018, when hit single Lucid Dreams reached number two in the charts

The rapper rose to fame in 2018, when hit singles All Girls Are the Same and Lucid Dreams, which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, drew the attention of music fans and record labels.

More plaudits followed the release first studio album, Goodbye & Good Riddance, in 2018, cementing his himself as one of the rising stars of US rap.

In early 2018, he was signed by Interscope Records, landing a record deal reported to be worth more than $3m (£2.2m). He topped the Billboard chart this year with his second album Death Race for Love.

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Image caption

Juice Wrld celebrated his 21st birthday last week

In one of his songs, Juice Wrld rapped about the short lives of artists, saying “all the legends seem to die out”.

The song, titled Legends, was dedicated to two late rappers, 20-year-old XXXTentacion and 21-year-old Lil Peep, who died in 2018 and 2017, respectively.

In the song Juice Wrld rapped: “What’s the 27 Club? We ain’t making it past 21. I been going through paranoia.”

Juice Wrld had celebrated his 21st birthday last week. In a tweet, he said it was “one of his best” birthdays yet.

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His music has been described as emo rap, a genre that draws influences from hip hop and alternative rock.

In a four-star review of his second album, music publication NME said the rapper “makes songs that stick, his vocal dissonance capturing what it feels like to be young and in pain, and feeling a sense of indifference towards authority figures”.

In a 2018 interview with the New York Times, Juice Wrld opened up about his use of cannabis and Xanax, an anti-anxiety medication.

“I smoke weed, and every now and then I slip up and do something that’s poor judgment,” he told the paper.

Who has paid tribute?

In a tweet, British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, who collaborated with Juice Wrld on her 2019 single Hate Me, described the rapper as “such a sweet soul” who had “so much further to go”.

Chicago-based artist Chance the Rapper paid a heartfelt tribute on Instagram, writing: “Millions of people, not just in Chicago but around the world are hurting because of this and don’t know what to make of it.”

“Wow, I cannot believe this. Rip my brother juice world,” tweeted fellow rapper Lil Yachty.

US rapper Lil Nas X, also writing on Twitter, said it is “so sad how often this is happening lately to young talented rising artists”.

Hip hop artist HaHa Davis wrote on Twitter: “Heartbroken @JuiceWorlddd I love you bro.”





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