Britney Spears’ Former Duet Partner Speaks Out About Emotional ‘X Factor’ Reunion: ‘She Protected Me’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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Britney Spears was confronted with a familiar face/voice at the San Francisco, Calif. auditions of The X Factor over the weekend: The man whom the pop star performed a duet with more than a decade ago on the song “I Will Still Love You” from her Baby One More Time album.

Don Philip, who was featured on the singer’s debut 1999 album, fought back tears as he used the opportunity to come out as a gay man.

“To be honest with you, when I saw Britney I cried a little,” he told Celebuzz in an exclusive interview. “I never thought I would see her again. I didn’t know I would even come back as a singer, because I was so consumed in myself and figuring out my life and my sexuality.”

During his audition, Spears’ fellow judges Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid pressed him about his sexuality, he said — a move he added made him feel “scarred.”

But Philip said that Spears “protected me” and “stood up” for him, even when Reid was cutting off the “Toxic” singer’s critique.

“I know Britney didn’t know I was coming, because she had this look on her face like, ‘Holy sh-t,'” he said.

“I know him,” Spears, 30, told the other judges when Philip walked up on to stage, after waiting nine hours for his chance to perform.

“We did a duet together 10 years ago.” You can watch that video, below.

When the singer began to tear up and confess to the judges “I’m gay,” Spears turned into a supportive force for her former tourmate.

“I think it is fine you are gay,” the mother-of-two said.

“She’s the best, just the sweetest girl,” Philip told Celebuzz, adding: “She’ll be around for a long time. She told me it’s OK to be who I am.”

He also spoke about the memories he shared with Spears when the pair recorded the tune “I Will Still Love You.”

“When Britney and I did the duet, we were signed to the same label at the same time. They thought we’d be good together. We recorded two songs together, two duets. We recorded them in a little room together. She was really great in the studio; she knew what she wanted to do. She has really, really great vocals.”

He also recounted one particular incident when they flew to Nashville as young performers.

“There were some problems with the plane, so we had to turn around. Britney and I held each others hands and prayed,” Philip remembered.

In a sign that he did not pass through to the next round of the hit Fox show, Spears reportedly delivered a blunt assessment of his vocal skills.

She reportedly said, “Through the years, maybe you’ve gone through a lot of hardships and battles and I think you’ve gone through that more than training on your voice, because your voice really isn’t up to the bar of the standards of The X Factor and what we want.”

Though disappointed, Philip took to his Facebook page to suggest the reunion cleared up “a lot of past issues for me and gives me joy to know Brit 100% accepted me and does now.”