Picture the scene. It's you and your husband's third wedding anniversary, which just so happens to clash with a big, glitzy party you're both invited to. Not wanting to miss out on the fun, you forgo a more intimate celebration, get all dressed up and head out together, hand-in-hand.
But disaster strikes as you turn up at the venue. You hear the people around you shouting something, and soon recognise what it is: it's the first name of your husband's childhood sweetheart. Selena.
It sounds like a literal nightmare scenario, doesn't it? Yet for Hailey Bieber, it was a reality this September, as crowds chanted "Selena" at her and Justin Bieber as they walked the red carpet at the 2021 Met Gala. It was a reference, of course, to Selena Gomez – whom Justin dated on and off for almost eight years, before they finally split for good at the beginning of 2018.
The Met Gala moment was captured on video: the footage shows a tearful Hailey being comforted by her husband, who mouths "I love you" at his understandably upset wife.
No matter how solid your relationship, one would imagine that hearing your husband's ex's name shouted at you by dozens of people would feel crushing. So it's no surprise that Hailey reacted as she did. What is perplexing is that fans still feel entitled to weigh in on Justin's relationship choices, when it's been almost four years since the couple split for good.
This isn't an isolated incident, either. In December last year, Justin was forced to publicly defend Hailey after an internet troll encouraged fans to "go after" her during an Instagram Live she had planned. Justin wrote in his Stories: "This sad excuse of a human just encouraged people on video to literally go after my wife telling people to say that my previous relationship was better so on and so [forth.]... I just wanted to share this so people get an idea of what we face on a day to day." Social media is still consistently awash with comments comparing the two women.
So why do fans feel so entitled to pit Justin's two partners – past and present – against one another? Particularly when Justin and Selena's relationship is so firmly ensconced in the past.
Some might say it's misplaced romanticism. Selena and Justin dated for the best part of a decade, and their romance kicked off from when they were baby-faced teenagers (18 and 16 years old, respectively). While it's no excuse for cruel behaviour, perhaps some fans are projecting their ideals of young love onto the couple. And maybe it doesn't help, for the imaginations of some, that Selena has been single for the past three years – leaving a still-lingering flame in some fans' imaginations.
Let's get real, though: how many of us are still in the same relationships we got into in our late teens, or think it would be a good idea to have stayed? Exactly.
Then there's the sense of ownership that fans, or followers, seem to have developed over their icons – encouraged by the blurred, private/public nature of social media, which can often give the illusion of an intimate connection with someone you follow as you receive insights into their everyday life – even though you've never even met them.