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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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Caroline Flack: Love Island pays tribute to presenter




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Media captionMonday’s Love Island began with a tribute to Caroline Flack from Iain Stirling

Love Island narrator Iain Stirling has said he is “absolutely devastated” at the death of his colleague Caroline Flack, in a tribute on the ITV2 show.

The message in Monday’s episode came after the TV host, 40, was found dead in her north London home on Saturday.

“You were a true friend to me,” Stirling said. He added that Flack’s “warmth and infectious enthusiasm” were “crucial” to the show’s success.

A lawyer for Flack’s family said she had taken her own life.

The Love Island episode was the first to air after her death. ITV had cancelled two episodes as a mark of respect for the presenter.

Flack was replaced as host of the dating show after being charged with assaulting her boyfriend last year.

‘I’m going to miss you, Caz’

Speaking at the opening of the show, Stirling said: “We are absolutely devastated by the tragic news that Caroline, a much-loved member of our Love Island family, has passed away.

“Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this dreadful time.

“Caroline and me were together from the very start of Love Island and her passion, warmth and infectious enthusiasm were a crucial part of what made the show connect with millions of viewers.”

Information and support

If you or someone you know needs support for issues about emotional distress, these organisations may be able to help.

Stirling’s message was broadcast to images of the ocean, in keeping with the usual opening shots at the beginning of each episode – but to mark the tribute there was no background music.

Stirling’s voice broke as he added: “Caroline, I want to thank you for all the fun times we had making our favourite show. You were a true friend to me. I’m going to miss you, Caz.”

The tribute ended with a photo of Flack on screen. The image was repeated at the end of the episode.

In a statement released on Monday, ITV’s director of television Kevin Lygo said staff at the TV station were “devastated” and “still trying to process this tragic news”.

He said Flack had been part of the dating show “from the very beginning”, was “very vocal” in her support of the show, and that viewers “could relate to her and she to them”.

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ITV cancelled Monday night’s episode of Love Island: Aftersun and said it would not be releasing a Love Island: The Morning After podcast on Tuesday morning.

And in place of adverts for JustEat, the programme’s sponsor, the broadcaster shared the number for Samaritans.

Following Flack’s death, a petition was launched calling for new laws to prevent sections of the media “knowingly and relentlessly bullying people, famous or not”.

The petition, calling for the introduction of “Caroline’s Law”, has had more than 500,000 signatures so far.

  • ‘Be kind,’ social-media users urge after Flack death
  • Who decides whether someone should go on trial?

Flack stood down from the show after she was charged with assaulting her boyfriend, Lewis Burton, in December.

Her management company said she had been “under huge pressure” since then and criticised the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for refusing to drop the charge, even though Mr Burton said he did not want the case to go ahead.

Flack denied the charge and was due to stand trial in March. Bail conditions had stopped Flack having any contact with Mr Burton ahead of the trial

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Mollie Grosberg

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On Instagram, Flack’s friend Mollie Grosberg shared a picture of Flack taken on Friday night, the last time she saw her

The CPS said it would not comment on the specifics of the case but in response to questions about its role, on Sunday it outlined how it reached decisions over whether or not to charge someone.

Flack’s friend Laura Whitmore – who is also Stirling’s girlfriend – had stepped in as Love Island host after the assault charge.

Following his tribute on Monday she said on Twitter: “Love you @IainDoesJokes I know that wasn’t easy”.

Love Island’s sixth season and first winter series, which is being filmed in South Africa, is due to end on Sunday.

Channel 4 has said it will not broadcast its forthcoming show The Surjury, which was to have been hosted by Flack.

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DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall dies




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The musician found fame as an acid house DJ and forged a stellar career as a producer

Andrew Weatherall, one of the UK’s most respected DJs and record producers, has died aged 56.

The musician, who was born in Windsor, rose to fame during the acid house era, and worked with the likes of New Order and Happy Mondays.

His production and remix work on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica turned it into an era-defining album, and earned the band the first Mercury Prize in 1992.

Weatherall died in hospital on Monday morning, his spokesman confirmed.

The cause of death was a pulmonary embolism.

“He was being treated in hospital but unfortunately the blood clot reached his heart. His death was swift and peaceful,” said a statement.

“His family and friends are profoundly saddened by his death and are taking time to gather their thoughts.”

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Media captionBBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt reads tributes to Andrew Weatherall and celebrates the life of a music icon

The musician started his career singing with post-punk bands at his local arts centre – but found his feet as a DJ in the late 1980s.

“I saved up all my money and went to London at the weekend to buy records,” he told the BBC in 2014. “I just got a really good record collection together to the point where people started to say ‘Why don’t you play this at our party?’, ‘Why don’t you play this at our club?'”

When the acid house scene started to develop around the Roundshaw Estate in Sutton, he discovered that club nights were playing a lot of the music he already owned.

“I knew I had records as good as that, or even better, that they might not know,” he later explained, adding: “I was kind of in the right place at the right time”.

As the scene exploded, Weatherall was invited to play at the London nightclub Shoom by DJ Danny Rampling, and helped document rave culture with the fanzine Boys Own – a name he later gave to his own record label.

His DJ career led to Weatherall remixing New Order’s Worlds in Motion and, along with Paul Oakenfold, the Happy Mondays’ Hallelujah.

As a result, he was sought out by Primal Scream, who asked him to remix their single I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have for the meagre sum of £500.

After an initial attempt on which he “basically slung a kick drum under the original”, Weatherall decided to try a much more radical approach.

The result was Loaded, which retained about seven seconds of Primal Scream’s song – the bass line and a slide guitar.

Weatherall added vocal samples from the US soul group The Emotions, a drum loop from an Italian bootleg of Edie Brickell’s song What I Am, alongside snatches of other Primal Scream songs, and frontman Bobby Gillespie singing a line from Robert Johnson’s Terraplane Blues.

Gillespie saw Loaded as being part of the Jamaican tradition of dub records, where songs are deconstructed at the mixing desk, adding new elements and desecrating existing ones.

It propelled the rock band onto the dance floor, and kick-started their career.

“I think it’s time to stop saying ‘this is a dance record’ and ‘this is a rock record,'” said Gillespie at the time. “If you can play music, you can do whatever you want. Just use your imagination.”

The success of Loaded led to Weatherall being recruited for the whole of Screamadelica, establishing him as one of the UK’s most in-demand producers.

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While remixing acts like St Etienne, Beth Orton and My Bloody Valentine, he also held down a DJ slot on London’s Kiss FM and ran two club nights in London.

However, he never became a household name like his contemporaries Paul Oakenfold and Fatboy Slim – a career move that was entirely deliberate.

“That sort of carry-on was never for me,” he told the Independent in 2016. “It’s a lot of work, once you go up that slippery showbiz pole, and it would keep me away from what I like, which is making things.”

Instead, he carved out a career on the cutting edge of techno, with projects including Sabres of Paradise and Two Lone Swordsmen.

‘Titan of music’

In 2017, he explained the lure of the dancefloor in an interview with Uncut magazine.

“It’s the enduring appeal of transcendent experience, which has been with us for 200,000 years. A room, coloured lights, smoke and music? Over to you, Roman Catholics. There are ancient Greek rituals involving herbal drugs to achieve transcendence.

“People were having transcendent experiences in 1940s dancehalls, dancing to a big band; now we do it with drum machines and electronic technology – it’s the same concept. Humanity hasn’t changed for 100,000 years, but our technology has.”

Musicians paying tribute to Weatherall included Ride guitarist and former Oasis bassist Andy Bell, who described him as “absolute titan of music”.

BBC 6 Music DJ Gilles Peterson said it was “hard to put into words” the “influence and impact he has had has had on UK culture.”

Hacienda DJ and author Dave Haslam tweeted he was “one of the greatest, sweetest, funniest guys I’ve ever met”.

And Tim Burgess from The Charlatans wrote he was “shocked and saddened to hear that cosmic traveller Andrew Weatherall has left the building”.

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, who was once described as the “poet laureate of the chemical generation”, said he was “absolutely distraught” by the news.

“Andrew was a longtime friend, collaborator and one of most talented persons I’ve known. Also one of the nicest. Genius is an overworked term but I’m struggling to think of anything else that defines him.”

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BBC licence fee: Tory MPs warn No 10 against fight




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Two senior Tory MPs have warned Downing Street not to pick a fight with the BBC amid reports it wants the broadcaster “massively pruned back”.

The Sunday Times suggested No 10 believed the current licence fee should be replaced by a subscription service and certain channels sold.

Former cabinet minister Damian Green said such a radical overhaul would amount to “cultural vandalism”.

“Destroying the BBC was not in our manifesto,” he wrote.

Huw Merriman, the MP for Bexhill and Battle who is chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on the BBC, warned No 10 “ramping up an unedifying vendetta” against the BBC, saying the corporation should “not be a target”.

“This is not a fight the BBC is picking nor a contest my party promised if we got elected,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph. “If the BBC ends up in decline, it will be the government which will be accused by the very people we will rely on for support at the next election.”

Ministers recently launched a consultation on whether non-payment of the licence fee should remain a criminal offence.

Many MPs say those who are unwilling or unable to pay the compulsory fee – which from April will rise by £3 to £157.50 a year – should not be prosecuted. The BBC has warned such a change could have a significant impact on its finances and potentially put some of its output at risk.

The Conservatives’ election victory has triggered a wider debate about how the BBC should be funded in future and whether the licence fee, which is protected in law until 2027 when the BBC’s current Royal Charter ends, is still the best model.

During the campaign Boris Johnson, who worked for the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and other titles during a 30-year career in journalism, said the licence fee looked outmoded and its abolition needed “looking at”.

The Sunday Times reported senior aides as saying the PM was “really strident” about the need for major changes at the BBC. It said there was support in No 10 for the broadcaster being downsized and to sell off the majority of its 61 national and local radio stations.

BBC chairman Sir David Clementi has warned that putting the broadcaster’s services behind a paywall would lessen its ability to “bring the country together”.

More than 100,000 people have signed a petition calling for an end to “political attacks” on the BBC and for politicians to support the role the BBC “plays in independently holding the government to account”.

But other Conservatives said the BBC must “get its house in order” if it wanted to continue in its current form.

Simon Hoare, chairman of the Northern Ireland select committee, said the broadcaster must immediately reverse its decision to remove free TV licence from millions of over-75s.

Speaking on Sunday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps insisted that no decisions had been taken about the BBC’s long-term future and people should be “cautious” about unattributed comments in newspapers.

“It is simply not the case that there is some pre-ordained decision about the future funding of the BBC out there,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge show. “There is a long way to go on this and certainly no decisions – that is the point of a consultation.”

He said, the popularity of on-demand, subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime had changed the media landscape and the BBC had to adapt.

“We all want the BBC to be a success but everybody, including the BBC, recognises that in a changing world the BBC will have to change.”

Labour’s shadow culture secretary Tracy Brabin called on new Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who was appointed in last week’s reshuffle, to “speak up for” public service broadcasting and ensure the BBC remained “fit for the future”.

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