THE OTHER STUFF . . .

Meghan Markle's an expert at pushing the envelope when it comes to what's politically acceptable to the Palace, and she proved it with some covert statements on her Royal IG with Prince Harry. During her time as a Senior Royal, the Duchess of Sussex used the only social media she's allowed to have to make her political opinions known, but she did it subtly, knowing she was wading into dangerous waters with the Crown ... sources close to Meghan tell TMZ. If you don't know ... Queen Elizabeth and her family are supposed to refrain from expressing political opinions publicly, but we're told Meghan felt it was important to get out messages reflecting her beliefs and values. Our Meghan sources say she carefully crafted IG posts to avoid overtly saying what she was thinking or supporting, but the writing was on the wall ... or in the photos. For example, when her friend and women's rights activist, Loujain al-Hathloul, was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia ... Markle knew she couldn't come out and condemn a foreign government. Instead, Meghan showed subtle solidarity by sharing a photo of herself with Loujain as part of a bigger post about One Young World ... a UK-based, not-for-profit organization supporting "global youth ambassadors." That same post included a photo of Markle sitting next to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, shortly after he won re-election -- a low-key shout-out of support for her friend. Our sources say, for the most part, she knew how to walk up to the line without crossing it, which helped her dodge any issues with royal higher-ups. Call it effective self-censorship. As we reported ... Meghan and Harry no longer formally rep the Queen in the wake of Megxit, nor will they be referred to as His or Her Royal Highness. Harry broke his silence over the weekend, revealing it was a tough call to part ways with the family, but added ... "there really was no other option." Meghan making future political statements on the Sussex Royal IG account is up in the air. The Palace hasn't announced whether she and Harry will be allowed to continue using it, now that they've ditched their Senior Royal duties. TMZ is further investigating what went down leading up to Harry and Meghan's departure from the Royal Family. Watch our special, "Harry and Meghan: The Royals in Crisis" on Fox network January 29 at 8 PM. (TMZ)

Brad Pitt Took Dax Shepard On a "Spectacular" Date Straight Out of Pretty Woman. Once upon a time...in Hollywood, a beautiful bromance was born. Back in September, Ellen DeGeneres surprised Dax Shepard -- her The Ellen DeGeneres Show guest host and Brad Pitt's no. 1 admirer -- with a little message from the single star himself. "I have a little bit of a crush on Dax Shepard," Pitt admitted in the clip played. And, as to be expected from anyone in that situation, Shepard absolutely freaked out. Or rather, he's still absolutely freaking out four months later. "I'm not over it," he raved to DeGeneres on Tuesday. "First of all, dangerous move for you to just do as a surprise while I was guest hosting because, as I've learned, there's a lot of balls in the air here. OK? You're juggling really quickly. And, you get hit with something like that -- love of your life telling you it's not unrequited, in fact, he likes you back -- that's overwhelming. But I proceeded on and we finished the show." And since that momentous day, their romance has, well, escalated. "I went on a date with him," the Parenthood alum revealed. "I'm not kidding you. In Brad Pitt fashion, it was spectacular. We took a helicopter -- you think I'm lying -- we took a helicopter to a motorcycle track. We both love riding motorcycles. And just the two of us just took a jaunt up to this motorcycle track." To Shepard -- he's been married to Kristen Bell since 2013 -- their outing truly seemed like something straight out of a fairytale. (Or maybe The Bachelor.) "I felt like Pretty Woman. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman," the dad of two gushed. "I was waiting for him to set that chopper down on Rodeo and let me just go wild in one of those stores with his credit card. If it had happened, it wouldn't have surprised me. It was that incredible." "And so we went up and you know he's everything you'd hope," the 45-year-old continued. "He attacked that track like his character from Troy. He's a warrior on two wheels." Alas, Shepard does have just one regret. "You know, when you ride motorcycles, you're in head-to-toe leather," he explained to DeGeneres. "So, I wasn't seeing trapezia, no abs." There is, however, always next time. "Next date it'll hopefully be some kind of beach community where we can splash around a little bit," he added. "Brad, let's hit the beach my friend." Fingers crossed they become Instagram official soon. (Eonline)

Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel Hold Hands in New York City Following Scandal with Costar. In November, Justin Timberlake was seen holding hands and mingling closely with Alisha Wainwright, his costar on the upcoming film Palmer, in New Orleans. Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel are out and about in NYC. Two months after the singer, 38, was seen holding hands and mingling closely with Alisha Wainwright, his costar on the upcoming film Palmer, in New Orleans, the couple were photographed holding hands as they stepped out for coffee in New York City's Tribeca neighborhood (where they own an apartment) on Jan. 19. "Justin and Jessica went for a stroll around their neighborhood," a source tells PEOPLE. "It was chilly, but they looked cozy arm-in-arm. They were both in a great mood, smiling and chatting." According to the source, Biel, 37, brought their 4-year-old son, Silas, to N.Y.C. to visit Timberlake for the long holiday weekend since he had off from school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "They are all staying at their Tribeca apartment," the source says. For the first time since the scandal, Timberlake and Biel were photographed earlier this month having an intimate dinner at Los Angeles' Hotel Bel Air, where another source says they spent a four-night long staycation with Silas. Last month, Timberlake issued a public apology on his Instagram account to apologize to Biel -- whom he married in 2012 -- after news of his sighting with Wainwright, 30, made headlines. "A few weeks ago I displayed a strong lapse in judgment -- but let me be clear -- nothing happened between me and my costar. I drank way too much that night and I regret my behavior. I should have known better," he wrote in his apology. "This is not the example I want to set for my son," he added. "I apologize to my amazing wife and family for putting them through such an embarrassing situation, and I am focused on being the best husband and father I can be. This was not that." Wainwright, 30, whose representative has previously told PEOPLE that there is "no validity" to the romance rumors, returned to work on the Palmer set alongside Timberlake shortly after the scandal. "Nothing has changed or been influenced by the press reports," a source close to the set said. "The show goes on." A source previously told PEOPLE that Timberlake and Biel would find a way to "work through" the situation. "It was good that he apologized publicly but obviously the real work he is doing is in private, and hopefully this was just a bad drunken night of this type of behavior," said the insider. Another source said that Biel is likely looking to preserve her family amid the controversy and move on with their life. "Obviously Justin drank too much this time, but Jessica believes he didn't cheat on her," the source said. "What's most important to her in life is her family and being the best mom to Silas. She'll never break up her family over something like this." (People)

Friendly exes? Kendall Jenner and former boyfriend Ben Simmons were spotted together twice in two days in New York City amid speculation that they have reconciled. The pair were seen hanging out on Saturday, January 18, at Moxy East Village late into the evening, The New York Post's Page Six reported on Monday, January 20. The outlet reports that the pair arrived together at the Little Sister Lounge after Simmons' Philadelphia 76ers beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden. The model and the athlete hung out with Canadian rapper Nav before leaving together at 2 a.m. Simmons, 23, and Jenner, 24, was also spotted grabbing a bite to eat at Bubby's in Tribeca on Sunday, January 19. The Keeping Up With the Kardashians star sparked reconciliation rumors after she rang in the new year with her former flame at a party in Philadelphia on New Year's Eve. The basketball star reportedly rented out Attico's rooftop restaurant for an end of 2019 bash. The pair walked into the celebration together at about 11:30 p.m., TMZ reported at the time. A few weeks prior, the model attended one of her exes' games in Philadelphia as the team played the New Orleans Pelicans on December 13. The reality star was photographed watching the game from a box seat at the Wells Fargo Center. Us Weekly reported in May 2018 that the duo was casually dating. They called it quits after four months of dating in September 2018. Two months later, the former lovebirds rekindled their romance but parted ways once again in May 2019. A source told Us at the time that the duo's "sudden" separation came as a result of "things [winding] down" between them. "They were getting serious for a bit, but were starting to cool off recently," another insider told Us in May. "They're so busy doing their own things and realize they're young and want to have fun." Throughout their relationship, Jenner opted to keep it as quiet as possible, after seeing how her sisters' love lives were scrutinized in the past. "I got a glimpse of how my sisters dealt with [the attention] and it's cool to learn from that," the model told Vogue Australia in its June 2019 issue. "For me, a lot of things are very special and very sacred, like my friends and relationships, and I personally think that bringing things into the public makes everything so much messier." She continued, "I'm very young and right now I feel like relationships aren't always super-certain and I don't want to bring too much attention to something if you don't really know long-term [what it's going to be]. A relationship is only meant to be between two people, and the second you make it the world's business is when it starts messing with the two people mentally." (US Weekly)

Mason Disick Is Now A TikTok Star Thanks To Mom Kourtney Kardashian. Meet TikTok's newest member: Mason Disick! Over the weekend, the eldest Kardashian kid made his TikTok debut with the help of mom Kourtney Kardashian. With an impressive 68,000 followers under his belt, it's safe to say that he's already one of the app's favorite accounts. For his most recent video, the adorable kiddo can be seen busting a move as he masters the viral Global.jones Dance Challenge. As he makes his way through the choreography, Kourtney made a sweet cameo and gave the camera a quick wave. The POOSH founder isn't the only face Keeping Up With the Kardashians fans will recognize. If you look closely, you can see Mason's younger siblings Penelope Disick, 7, and Reign Disick, 5, in the background. Also in attendance are cousins North West, 6, and Saint West, 4. When he's not showing off his dancing skills, Mason loves to document his playdates with his friends on his account, which includes taking a cereal break in between making TikTok videos. And, in true Kardashian fashion, there are plenty of wardrobe changes. In one video, Mason can be seen giving his followers a look into his closet as he tries on different outfits for the camera. He also proved he knows how to flex in another video, where he put his colorful collection of Nike sneakers on display. Mason isn't the only famous youngin on TikTok these days. As the app becomes more popular, celebrity kids like Coco Arquette, Romeo Beckham and Iris Apatow have all taken up residence. And, it's not uncommon for their A-list parents to make appearances on their accounts. Earlier this month, Courteney Cox went viral with Coco when they teamed up for a mother-daughter dance routine. "Wanna see your child lose their patience?" the Friends alum wrote on Instagram, sharing the video with her followers. "Do a TikTok with them. #familyaerobics." For his part, Romeo recruited mom Victoria Beckham and, like Coco, asked the former Girls member to do a dance with him. Shortly after the mother-son duo went viral for doing the choreography to "Spice Up Your Life," the fashion designer revealed that the 17-year-old tricked her into doing it so he could rack up some followers. "He came home other day and he said, 'You know, Mum, I've just joined TikTok. Will you do a dance with me?'" she said during her visit to The Ellen DeGeneres Show in November. "And I was like, 'Yeah, what should we dance to?' And he said, 'The Spice Girls.' And then he took my phone, he posted it on my Instagram and he said, 'That'll get my numbers up.' He used me!" (Eonline)

Joaquin Phoenix passed on the SAG Awards after-parties, and instead headed to a slaughterhouse ... where he comforted trucks full of pigs headed to their final demise. Joaquin made the surprise appearance Sunday night not long after winning Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a leading role for "Joker." He made the drive from the Shrine Auditorium to the Farmer John Packing Co. ... less than 5 miles away in L.A. There, Joaquin joined dozens of protesters who congregate there twice a week. They call their demonstrations pig vigils. They've been happening every Wednesday and Sunday night since at least 2017. Reportedly, the trailers stop for 2 minutes -- with Farmer John's blessing -- so activists can comfort the pigs and give them water. More than 7,000 pigs are butchered every day inside Farmer John. Joaquin hung out with protesters and squirted water into the pigs' snouts. He told former LA TV reporter Jane Velez-Mitchell it was important to be there, saying, "Most people don't really know of the torture and murder in the meat and dairy industry." He went on to say, "We have moral obligations to talk about it and expose it for what it really is. We are so indoctrinated with these happy images of animals on farms, on the covers of meat containers, at restaurants and it's a lie." Joaquin's definitely been walking the walk. Not only did he attend this protest, he reportedly convinced the Hollywood Foreign Press to serve an all-vegan menu at the Golden Globes. Of course, 4 days after that he was with Jane Fonda in D.C. for her Fire Drill Friday climate change protest ... where cops briefly detained him. (TMZ)

LeBron James will never be in the dark again ... 'cause the LA Lakers superstar just copped a SICK new diamond pendant -- and it LIGHTS UP!!! TMZ Sports has learned ... Bron is the proud new owner of a "Lion Gatekeeper" pendant ... complete with 130 grams of 14k gold, encrusted with 35 carats of VS1 diamonds. We're told LBJ hit up celeb jeweler Iceman Nick when he was in Houston to play the Rockets ... and the dude pulled out all the stops to come up with a pendant fit for a king. Of course, LeBron's always been a fan of using lions in his brand ... and Nike once even had a "Heart of a Lion" campaign starring James. Iceman Nick has a huge list of celeb clients -- from Errol Spence to Tyler Herro to Lonzo Ball, just to name a few. Not only is it iced out, it's also fully functional -- the eyes of the lion light up and the door knocker moves too!! LeBron's a big fan of jewelry and can always be spotted with some diamonds on him ... but the light-up piece is gonna change the whole game. (TMZ)

The new Aaron Hernandez documentary is making it near impossible for the family of Odin Lloyd -- the ex-NFL star's murder victim -- to recover because they were blindsided by the film. Sources close to Lloyd's immediate fam tell TMZ ... they feel like old wounds were reopened this past week when Netflix dropped "Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez" ... which chronicled Aaron's life and murder case, starting in 2013. We're told they largely tried to move on after Aaron was convicted, but now they feel the doc is dragging them back into a dark place and forcing them to relive painful memories. Our sources say they didn't sign off on 'Killer Inside' ... nor did they want to be involved in the production. We're told the family gets approached with offers to participate in Hernandez specials all the time -- but they always decline. That being said, the Netflix doc uses enough old video of Odin's family talking, they think it looks like they actively participated. We're told the popularity of the film has sparked a new round of interest -- meaning, they're constantly getting unwanted attention again. Even worse, we're told some people have gone to horrific lengths to voice their opinion about Odin's death -- with many messaging the family to defend Aaron, and insult their deceased relative. One other thing ... our sources say the family was disheartened the doc used personal photos of Odin without their permission -- but they'd rather avoid a whole new legal battle. So, they're letting it slide. (TMZ)

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