Justin Timberlake’s polarizing reputation in the Black community may have taken another hit, thanks to new revelations from Britney Spears’ new memoir. The pop star released “The Woman in Me” this month, her book that includes an incident in which Timberlake, Spears’ now-former boyfriend, mimicked a Black accent while addressing a Black singer.
An audio version of Spears’ memoir features actress Michelle Williams reading the tome’s text. An excerpt of the audiobook leaked online, and in it, Spears explains how Timberlake’s former vocal group, *NSYNC, liked hanging out with Black artists while trying to fit in with them.
“His band *NSYNC is what people back then called ‘so pimp,’” Spears wrote, as read by Williams. “They were white boys, but they loved hip-hop.” She continued with an anecdote on how Timberlake and *NSYNC “tried too hard to fit in” with Black artists and Spears witnessing him talking to R&B singer Ginuwine with exaggerated Black slang.
“One day, J and I were in New York, going to parts of town I’d never been to before,” Williams reads. “Walking our way was a guy with a huge blinged-out medallion. He was flanked by two giant security guards. J got all excited and said, so loud, ‘Ah, yeah! Fo’ shiz, fo’ shiz! Ginuwine! What’s up, homie?’”
The excerpt of Williams’ voicing of Spears impersonating the multiple award-winning singer-actor has gone viral on social media, only fueling Timberlake’s detractors, who have long accused him of cultural appropriation, decrying how he used to wear Black hairstyles during *NSYNC’s heyday, like an Afro or cornrows.
He showed off these hairstyles during a 2000 HBO concert of *NSYNC during their “No Strings Attached” Tour. Timberlake beatboxed on stage, mimicking a scratching turntable in a solo drum battle.
Other revelations in Spears’ memoir — including a passage about him getting her pregnant and her subsequent abortion — have shined a harsh light on Timberlake. The “SexyBack” singer recently turned off the comments on his Instagram page amid the backlash, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Timberlake’s polarizing place in the Black community stems from his 2004 Super Bowl halftime show with Janet Jackson. After he exposed her breast during their performance together in a wardrobe malfunction, Jackson’s career suffered while Timberlake’s continued to flourish.
Fans demanded a public apology from Timberlake for over a decade. Still, Timberlake glossed over the Jackson controversy, including in a 2006 interview with MTV and a 2008 Apple Music conversation with Zane Lowe. However, after a 2021 Spears documentary on Hulu, “Framing Britney Spears,” shared damning information about Timberlake, he finally posted a formal apology to both Jackson and Spears for his questionable behavior over the years.
“I specifically want to apologize to Britney Spears and Janet Jackson both individually, because I care for and respect these women, and I know I failed,” Timberlake stated, The New York Times reported. “Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognize it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life, but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again.”
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