August 22, 2001 01:00 AM

Pop singer Willa Ford, 20, and her 21-year-old ex-boyfriend, Nick Carter of Backstreet Boys, who broke up last October after three years of dating, are still friends, she’s told the Associated Press. After all, they share five dogs, with custody divided as follows: Ford has the teacup Pomeranian, a miniature Maltese and a pug, and Carter has another pug and a boxer. “We learned a lot together,” Ford said of her relationship with Carter. “We went through so much at such a young age. We were put in front of all these people so quickly and were so ridiculed.” While dating Carter, Ford was subjected to massive adolescent hatred. (Once in 1999, while opening for the Boys, Ford encountered signs in the mostly young-female crowd that read, “Die Willa.”) “I think at the end of the day, he knows that I caught the brunt of it. Like, I really got the bad part because I wasn’t the boy band celebrity at the time,” she said. “I think he feels bad that it happened.” Meanwhile, reports the Hollywood Reporter, Backstreet Boys member Brian Littrell and his wife, Leighanne, have launched their own music label and TV and film production company, Brileigh Prods. “Our main focus is to have fun with it,” Leighanne Littrell said. The Backstreeters resumed their tour on Friday. The boy pop band took a touring break to accommodate group member A.J. McLean’s 30-day rehab treatment.

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