Why Did Britney Spears Get Emotional at 'X Factor' Auditions?

A witness says the singer/judge was "visibly shaken" when someone she knew from her past turned up to audition on Sunday

X Factor auditions are getting personal for judge Britney Spears. On Sunday, the pop singer had an emotional encounter with an old friend who showed up to audition -- and to tell Spears that he's gay.

According to a witness at the San Francisco auditions, Spears, 30, recognized her old pal right away.

"She got this huge smile on her face and her eyes lit up. It was so sweet," the source told People.

"I know him," Spears explained to fellow judges Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reid. "We did a duet together 10 years ago."

In response, the man began to cry and tell his story. Explaining that he never thought he'd see Britney again, he revealed his sexuality to her for the first time.

"At the time I didn't think I was worthy. I didn't think you thought it was okay that I am gay," said the X Factor hopeful.

"I think it is fine you are gay," Britney replied.

Although Spears was comforting and supportive, she also appeared rattled by the encounter with her past.

"She's been through a lot in those 10 years, too, so it must have been a shock for her to see him," said People's source. "You could tell she was emotional and she really felt for him especially when he was crying, but she also stayed calm."

The source did not reveal whether the man's audition made the cut, but did say that Britney -- who is earning a reputation as a tough judge -- gave him a fair and objective critique.

"It was probably the most personal and emotional situation for her that's happened so far on X Factor," added the source, "and she took it totally in stride in front of a live audience of thousands."

Spears began filming X Factor's second season last month, when she made headlines for allegedly walking off the set after a contestant butchered her song "Hold It Against Me." The singer has denied any on-set drama, and has tweeted enthusiastic reviews of every city so far.

"Another fun day of judging w/ @SimonCowell @ddlovato @LA_Reid. The audience was so sweet!" Spears wrote Sunday night. "I hope tmrw's talent is ready to wow us all...."

The new season of The X Factor premieres Wednesday, Sept. 12, on FOX.

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