The Rogue Paparazzo Who Made Britney Spears’ Life a Living Hell
The ex-paparazzo who dated Britney Spears at the height of the tabloid frenzy (and was allegedly shopping a sex tape) won’t take responsibility for his own role in the chaos.
The New York Times’ documentary Framing Britney Spears has been out for a week now, leading to renewed calls for her controversial conservatorship to be scrapped and fresh speculation about her cryptic Instagram posts.
But the lingering conversation has been on how the people around Spears, even from when she was little, diminished, mistreated, and even possibly exploited her.
There is Star Search host Ed McMahon who, following a spirited musical performance, pestered a 10-year-old Spears about her “adorable, pretty eyes” and whether she has a boyfriend. Or Justin Timberlake’s decision to paint himself as the victim following their very public breakup, all while crudely bro-ing out with hosts who asked if they had slept together and famously using a Spears lookalike in his music video for “Cry Me a River.” (After much online backlash, Timberlake delivered a halfhearted apology to Spears and Janet Jackson on Friday.)
Another odious character in the Spears saga is her former associate Sam Lutfi, who had a habit of “attaching himself to celebrities, often at vulnerable moments,” the documentary claims. He entered Spears’ world in October of 2007, a few months after the singer shaved her head and took an umbrella to a paparazzo’s truck. Spears’ mother accused Lutfi of moving into her daughter’s home and taking “control of her life, home and finances,” in a 2008 motion that sought a restraining order against him.
Then there’s Spears’ father Jamie, whose motives for refusing to relinquish control of his daughter’s conservatorship (even as she is fighting him in court) are questioned throughout the documentary. When asked to talk about Daddy Spears, the pop star’s former manager Kim Kaiman said he only had one thing on his mind when she signed her deal: “My daughter is going to be so rich, she’s going to buy me a boat.”
“That’s all I’m going to say about Jamie,” Kaiman added.
Of course, there’s the outsized role the media, tabloids, and paparazzi played throughout the rise and fall of Spears. TV hosts felt entitled to ask about her breasts, openly mock her, and question if she was a fit mother. Paparazzi tailed her constantly, even when she had her baby kids in tow. Photographer Daniel Ramos admitted it was like getting caught up in a spiderweb, explaining they didn’t “really see what the celebrity is going through.”
But there’s a notable figure missing from the documentary.
Adnan Ghalib was one of the paparazzi members who hounded Spears’ every move—that is, until he ended up on the opposite end of the lens when they bizarrely began dating shortly before her conservatorship was put in place.
When contacted by The Daily Beast to get his take on the documentary, Ghalib claimed that he hadn’t seen it and had no plans to. He blasted the media’s “well-being stories,” saying everyone was “complicit” in what had happened, adding concern for Spears is “a tad bit late.”
But it seems Ghalib had forgotten his own role in Spears’ story.
The two began a relationship in December 2007 just after her split from husband Kevin Federline, much to the dismay of those closest to Spears. Her cousin and former assistant Alli Sims told US Weekly she disapproved of British-born Ghalib.
“I don’t know him,” she reportedly told the outlet in January of 2008. “I only know who he is through him following us for the last eight months. I do not think Adnan is a good person; I think he only has bad intentions. He has always given me a weird feeling and creeped me out. I wish he would just go away.”
The new couple was spotted all over Los Angeles, often with Ghalib leading a disheveled-looking Spears in oversized sunglasses through a throng of paparazzi, which a few months beforehand he would have been in the thick of.
But Spears was placed under a psychiatric hold at a California hospital twice during the month of January 2008 alone, the first time after she’d had a face-off with police over a custody issue involving her two young sons.
It was reported Ghalib was there during the second incident that led to an ambulance taking Spears to the hospital. He was driving in a car with Spears’ mother shortly after she was taken away.
It would take until the end of the year for the conservatorship to be made permanent, but it seemed Ghalib was largely out of Spears’ life by the summer.
In September, he reportedly began shopping around a sex tape of the singer, who was allegedly only wearing a pink wig during a vacation in Mexico in early 2008.
“There is such a tape, but I won’t discuss prices for hypothetical enquiries,” he reportedly told Heat magazine. “Unless there is a locked-in deal, I will go no further.”
At the time, Spears was poised for a comeback with the release of her new single “Womanizer,” had scooped up three MTV Video Music Awards, and her sixth album Circus was set to come out in December, complete with a nationwide tour.
A few days later, Ghalib attempted to walk back his statement, saying the quotes were made up and that there was no such video.
But the damage was done, and in January 2009, Jamie Spears filed for a restraining order against Ghalib, Spears associate Lutfi, and lawyer Jon Eardley.
Ghalib had been tipping off paparazzi about Spears’ whereabouts, according to court documents that stated Spears “innocently informs Mr. Ghalib of her destinations and that he then arranges for paparazzi to meet and film her to his financial benefit.”
The three men were accused of trying to meddle with Spears’ conservatorship, and Jamie Spears’ restraining order was granted.
He secured another court victory when a judge implemented a second restraining order that March, which ordered Ghalib to stay away from Spears and her family for three years.
He was also facing three criminal charges after allegedly ramming his car into a process server who was trying to deliver him court papers pertaining to the restraining order that February.
Ghalib popped up again in October 2012 when he was subpoenaed in Lutfi’s civil case against the Spears family. He testified that Spears’ mother Lynne had tried to get him to pin the blame of the singer’s erratic behavior in 2007 on Lutfi. However, he did admit Lutfi requested for him to smuggle Spears a disposable phone a few months into 2008.
After going under the radar for years, Ghalib began talking openly about his relationship with Spears in 2014, telling British tabloid The Sun how she smoked 14 cigarettes a day, made claims about her prescription drug use, and about their trip to Mexico at the start of 2008.
“She told me, ‘I am in love with you’ and said ‘I think I’m pregnant,’” he claimed. “She seemed very excited and I knew she’d want to keep the child. We rushed to buy a test kit, but it proved negative. I could see her heart sink.”
Ghalib, whose testimony should be taken with a massive grain of salt, also claimed he was responsible for getting Spears to speak with her father again so she could see her sons more often.
“When Britney and I first met she vowed to never speak to Jamie again,” he said. “But after I said it could only help with her kids, she agreed. When I phoned Jamie to say I was trying to reunite them he burst into tears and blubbed, ‘Thank you, thank you. You can have all the money in my bank account. She won’t let me see her.’”
These days, 48-year-old Ghalib is still living in the Los Angeles area. His Instagram includes various snapshots of him working out, smoking cigars, and hanging with friends.
It would be hard to guess he had dated Spears at the height of the tabloid frenzy around her, save for two tagged photos that show his paparazzi shots of her.
The Daily Beast approached Ghalib for comment about the documentary and the conversations around the #FreeBritney movement. He admitted he had not watched it and had no plans to because he’d lived through it.
But Ghalib said it was a “pity it took a decade-plus before anyone really questioned it or spoke up.”
“[It] kinda makes everyone complicit, including the media who are late to the race with their well-being stories and concerns over the real agenda while journalism took a back seat,” he wrote.
But during a phone call, Ghalib became defensive and refused to answer if he also considered himself complicit. When I pointed out his quote about shopping around a sex tape of Spears, he said it wasn’t his job to clarify rumors.
When pushed on the matter, he said the magazine made it all up. “I never did that. They made up that quote 100%,” he insisted before hanging up.
While Ghalib wasn’t willing to discuss what happened during Spears’ most tumultuous years, he did seem to hint that he disagrees with her conservatorship, saying no coverage of it would ever be accurate.
He cryptically said of the issue: “It’s above your pay grade. It’s bigger than you.”