Before their recent hiatus, One Direction were undeniably the biggest pop band on the planet. After a meteoric rise to fame as a result of the UK’s X Factor, five young men from Britain and Ireland went on to rack up five multi-platinum albums and sixteen hit singles, they broke touring records established by artists like Madonna and The Rolling Stones, collected numerous awards worldwide and gained a fanbase to envy acts with twice their seniority.
So why does it seem that we’re never talking about their music?
When people think of One Direction, they rarely think of their artistic achievements, but rather their reportedly messy love lives, supposed baby mama dramas and manufactured party boy images. They think of Zayn Malik’s apparently acrimonious split from the band, Harry Style’s inappropriately aged girlfriends, Louis Tomlinson’s explosive Twitter feuds and bizarre transition into fatherhood. Of course, after all of that, most of the general public couldn’t even name the remaining members, despite the fact that musically, Niall Horan and Liam Payne contribute just as much as their more high-profile counterparts.
Are One Direction just another example of the destructive effect of fame or is there more to the story than meets the eye? Is this a case of good boys gone bad or are theories of sabotage behind the scenes more than just fan conspiracies? And above all else, what on earth is going on with Louis Tomlinson’s baby?
One Direction, like many other celebrities, have often been accused of engaging in ‘fake’ romantic relationships in order to boost their individual profiles. As long as celebrities have existed, PR executives have capitalized on the cross brand promotion that a fling can create. By tying two public figures with different demographics to each other, you stand to increase their fan-bases - celebrity A becomes of interest to celebrity B’s fans and visa versa. It’s manipulative, but it’s a tried and tested promotional tool. It is not, however, a promotional tool which the public are blind to.
Naturally, when Harry Styles is pictured with Kendall Jenner or Taylor Swift, many fans see past the headlines and realise that their relationships are transparent. Similarly, with the release of Zayn Malik’s music video for “Pillow Talk” featuring Gigi Hadid, people are beginning to raise their eyebrows at the couple’s supposed affair, wondering if it was simply to gather attention for the visual accompaniment to Malik’s first solo single.
So fans are sceptical of the boy’s supposed relationships and they’ve become a topic of conversation across social media - discerning which romances are real and which aren’t is no trouble for One Direction fans by now, their investigative skills rivaling many major government organisations. In the last eight months, however, the narrative appears to have taken a more sinister turn.
There is a section of One Direction fans who believe that Louis Tomlinson’s child is not real - a section so large that at this stage it isn’t unreasonable to wonder if those who don’t believe in the existence of Freddie Reign Tomlinson outnumber those who do. They believe that much like the boys’ previous public relationships, the baby is a tool to garner attention for their latest record, new music video and to distract from aspects of the band which aren’t deemed appealing to the general public.
A natural reaction may be to laugh off their suspicions and, as many media outlets already have, accuse them of being unstable or deluded; the claims are so outlandish and so seemingly farfetched that it’s quite easy to ignore or dismiss them. But let’s not. Let’s indulge the conspiracy and take a cold, hard look at the facts before we make assumptions.
We begin on July 14th 2015 when People Magazine first reported that unknown stylist Briana Jungwirth had fallen pregnant by Louis Tomlinson after a one night stand less than two months previously: the first piece of evidence that many suggest is suspect. Celebrities do not traditionally announce that they are pregnant until the second trimester as up to 75% of miscarriages occurring in the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. Moreover, there was no cause to announce the pregnancy so early (or indeed at all, had the couple so wished) - Briana Jungwirth herself is not a celebrity and since Louis Tomlinson was not seen with her again until after she gave birth, there was little to no chance of her being revealed to the public against her will.
The news was confirmed by Simon Cowell in The Sun on July 19th and confirmed by Tomlinson on Good Morning America (Aug 4th) in what we can objectively consider some of the most awkward 30 seconds in television history. “Thank you,” Tomlinson says, “Obviously it’s a very exciting time and, yeah, I’m buzzing,” before the interview is quickly turned to Harry Styles who is accused of being less than enthusiastic about his band-mate’s announcement. It’s important to stop and ask why Simon Cowell appeared more excited about the baby than the father did.
This was to be one of only three occasions upon which that Louis Tomlinson would acknowledge his upcoming fatherhood before the baby's birth. In that time reports would fly that he had blacklisted all mentions of Briana Jungwirth and her child from interviews, when asked about his plans for One Direction’s hiatus he would repeatedly emphasise that he was looking forward to having “no responsibilities”, and the anomalies surrounding the situation would truly emerge.
For example, when Briana flew out to see One Direction perform in London, Tomlinson was not pictured interacting with the 24 year old purported mother-to-be, and instead went out clubbing every night that she was in town. To add insult to injury for Jungwirth, Louis appeared to quickly move on to another woman - Danielle Campbell, a young actress who’s career was in desperate need of a high-profile boost.
Up until now we’ve been faced with evidence easily explained by coincidence but this is where the coincidences end.
Briana Jungwirth’s family - including her cousin, Ashley Swartz and Grandmother, Marianna Casehave - have maintained a very active presence on social media, despite claims that she is an intensely private person and through their various accounts and many paparazzi pictures we can track the progress of Briana’s baby bump.
It’s clear to see that Jungwirth’s bump has drastically changed in size and shape numerous times over the course of her pregnancy - especially between October and November 2015, when it grew an exponential amount. It has disappeared and reappeared and, in the final photograph, appears to be of such a peculiar shape that many people have no choice but to believe that Briana was using a prosthetic bump - much like the accusations leveled at Beyoncé in 2011. Even more suspiciously, when her pregnancy was publicly called into question, her cousin went on to post a picture of Briana’s bare stomach, quite clearly heavily pregnant. Sadly, the shot did not have her face in so there was absolutely no way to verify her identity and many were left unimpressed.
Ultimately, the birth of, you know, an actual baby should have put an end to the speculation that Jungwirth wasn’t pregnant, but it is the baby’s birth which has garnered the most controversy. The initial announcement was inexplicably made by Briana’s grandmother, Marianna Casehave, on her Instagram account @cyberwomannetwork. The post has since been deleted. In the hours that followed, there was no representative statement - in fact there has been no rep statement at any point in the last nine months - but details of the birth were sporadically leaked to One Direction fan accounts on Twitter.
Later that day, rather than spending time at the hospital, Louis Tomlinson was papped going to a Sunglass Hut. He walked past a convenient line of paparazzi, made sure to flash them his handwritten hospital wrist band, entered the store for less than a minute, turned around and promptly left. Later that night, Louis Tomlinson was confirmed by several eyewitnesses to be at On the Rox club in West Hollywood. By the time he took to his Twitter to confirm that his son had indeed been born, it was 4am in California; he was spotted leaving the club at 2. It is common practice for management to have access to their client’s social media accounts - in yet another strange turn of events, the official One Direction Twitter was updated for the first time in 24 hours just minutes after Tomlinson’s online announcement. Have you had enough coincidences yet?
I'm pleased to say my baby son was born yesterday 🙂 ? He is healthy and pretty amazing 🙂 I'm very happy!!
— Louis Tomlinson (@Louis_Tomlinson) January 23, 2016
In the days that followed, not one of Louis' bandmates, friends or family members would publicly congratulate him on the birth of his first child. The case could be made that they would express their sentiments privately, but in such a public affair the absence of comment speaks volumes.
The week that followed brought more speculation from fans that not all was what it seemed. The lack of details around the baby were considered strange - in a celebrity baby announcement there are five unspoken rules: the public will receive:
1. a name,
2. the date and time of birth,
3. the baby’s weight,
4. a confirmation that both mother and baby are healthy
and 5. a request for privacy during the baby’s first weeks of life.
A name would not come until 5 days later, the date and time of birth have never been confirmed, nor has the weight or health of the baby. As for privacy? The veritable torrent of paparazzi pictures which followed would indicate that no such luxury had been afforded the new parents.
Nor indeed has any been requested, seemingly. The very many pap pics were evidently taken on private property and from several angles indicating that the paparazzi had been called to the residence by someone who knew when Louis Tomlinson, who is a b-list celebrity at best, and Briana Jungwirth, who is not a celebrity at all, would be leaving her mother’s condo with an infant's car seat covered in a blanket - likely supposed to imply that the baby was with them. The happy family would go on to be papped almost every day for a week, as Jungwirth left her house a baffling number of times for a new mother who was presumably still breastfeeding and recovering from childbirth.
Many fans and media outlets expressed shock at Briana’s post pregnancy figure and it became common speculation that her body showed no signs of having been pregnant or giving birth. Not content with hearsay, BreatheHeavy contacted an medical professional (who preferred to stay anonymous) and had this to say about Jungwirth’s appearance both during and after the pregnancy:
“Based on the legitimate pictures that were taken of her while pregnant, the shape of her abdomen is suspect. In one image she appears to be farther along in the pregnancy than she should be and in another she is significantly smaller. In the pictures released Monday, she would have been 4 days postpartum. Her body would still be swollen and most women, even with a binder, will wear loose, comfortable clothing and move with care. From the still photos we have of her, she does not seem to move that way.”
They ends by saying:
“Taking all those things into consideration, no, I do not believe that woman gave birth to a child recently.”
The final piece of the puzzle comes with Louis Tomlinson’s first picture of the child, now named Freddie Reign Tomlinson. On January 27, Tomlinson shocked fans by acknowledging the baby with a black and white photo on his Instagram page, a blow to those who believed that there was in fact no child.
It has since been claimed that this image is heavily photoshopped, suggesting that Louis has never met the child in this picture. Buzzfeed Community user SAO puts it best when she writes, “Once again, in less than 24 hours doubts were cast as professional photographers and avid photoshoppers were taking to the internet to provide their opinions on this photo and suggesting that something was amiss.”
When the contrast is altered it’s clear that the baby is not touching Tomlinson’s chest:
Many believe that the following image was the original used to create the shape of his face:
And when the two images are translucently laid across each other with image editing software:
There seems to be no doubt that this is the same photo, edited onto a picture like this to incorporate Louis’ chest. Moreover, the shape of his shoulders and appearance of his eyelashes have been branded unnatural.
The most damning evidence of all, however, comes when we examine the Error Level Analysis of the image. In an edited picture, you’ll see white pixels indicating where the image has been edited:
At this stage a simple survey of reality should tell you that this baby is not Louis Tomlinson’s and that he is not complicit in pretending that it is.
An acceptance of the fact that there are far too many coincidences, inaccuracies and out-and-out lies surrounding this baby for the public narrative to be accurate does not come easily to all fans of Louis Tomlinson and One Direction. The idea that they have been deceived is not a comfortable one and not one they are willing or able to accept - this is hardly surprising.
We live in a cult of celebrity, we idolize our favorite pop stars and musicians because, now more than ever in the digital age, we feel close to them, we feel accepted by them, we feel loved by them. To learn that someone we love has lied to us is not a comfortable feeling.
But to simply say that Louis Tomlinson has lied does not feel like the full picture. His unwillingness to go along with the stunt as presented in the press speaks of a silent rebellion. Against what? We'll discuss that in part two of 'We Need to Talk About One Direction.'