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How did Angelina keep her op secret?

As one of the most photographed women in the world, how did actress Angelina Jolie keep her double mastectomy news out of the press? Columnist Andrew Hornery explains.

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Angelina Jolie managed to stun the world with her announcement about undergoing a double mastectomy, effectively saddling and taming the unruly beast that is today's celebrity-obsessed global media machine.

That the woman dubbed 'St Angelina' in the showbiz press managed to keep it a secret, in the era of the 24-hour, all-consuming news cycle, is verging on the miraculous.

So furtive was she about the procedures that her own father, Jon Voight did not know until yesterday.

Double mastectomy:  Angelina Jolie.

Double mastectomy: Angelina Jolie. Photo: Getty Images

Despite having dinner with the actress and her fiance, Brad Pitt only days ago, Voight found out about her mastectomy with the rest of the world; when an op-ed she penned for the New York Times was published yesterday.

“I was as surprised as anyone," Voight told New York Daily News. “She’s a very extraordinary person, the way she examined it and what she shared.”

He also said he respected her decision to remain private. “I completely understand. I want the focus to be on the inspiration.”

Jolie made the revelation on her terms, in her words and in a respected publication she trusted three months after undergoing the procedure.

''Well, it's not like she was going to a high-profile restaurant in Hollywood to undergo a medical procedure. The circumstances around this are a little different to how we would normally track a celebrity,'' says Sydney paparazzo Jamie Fawcett.

Jolie publicly endorsed the Pink Lotus Breast Center in her New York Times piece and is now the face of the medical centre's website, which may explain how she was able to keep the procedure a secret.

Unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, who had news of her pregnancy leaked to the London tabloids after she was hospitalised for acute morning sickness.

That Jolie maintained her usual schedule and was photographed taking the kids to the museum and generally carrying on as normal, meant the small army of photographers and reporters who follow her every move had no clue as to what she was going through.

But it's not just the professionals who earn their money from photographing and documenting celebrity movements who are keeping tabs on the stars.

The lure of lucrative payment for such photos, extends also to waiters, bodyguards, shop assistants, gardeners and housekeepers who can pocket $500 in return for information which might lead to an exclusive photo and ultimately sell for fifty times more.

And in an era where people download apps called Celebrity Tracker on their smartphones, enabling them to monitor the whereabouts of their favourite celebrity, the odds have become increasingly stacked against a famous face going unnoticed.

Today there are websites devoted to the houses in which celebrities live, marking their whereabouts on highly detailed maps complete with satellite images, courtesy of Google Earth.

There's even a website dedicated to the movements of superyachts around the world, with updates on their celebrity cargo.

Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are filled with updates on the whereabouts of celebrities. From where they dined to where they shopped, we are kept up to date by members of the general public who are infatuated by fame.

The rich and famous deploy various strategies to try and maintain their privacy, including forcing staff and associates to sign strict confidentiality agreements, as the Packer family does.

''Any tradesman, gardener or pool boy with a camera phone can pose a threat... a non-disclosure contract is a way of negating that,'' explained a city lawyer who specialises in the needs of the city's wealthiest and most powerful citizens.

Even Oprah Winfrey's personal trainer had to sign a water-tight legal document promising not to reveal the workout routine of his billionaire client.

Nicole Kidman has used decoy cars to thwart the paparazzo who follow her around Sydney whenever she comes home, but with mixed results.

Flying in private jets means Gina Rinehart can avoid customs queues and being noticed at an airport. She can be processed by customs on the tarmac before slipping into a city behind tinted windows.

And while stars like Britney Spears reportedly check in at hotels across the US under pseudonyms (Alotta Warmheart is Britney's) to avoid their fans, it's nothing new.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were doing it decades ago as they attempted, unsuccessfully, to keep their torrid affair secret.