EXCLUSIVE: Justin Bieber Tells (Almost) All
Justin Bieber’s fresh face and trademark sweep of hair are inescapable, plastered on magazine covers and billboards all over the world. So it’s hard to imagine that just three years ago the 16-year-old was recording video clips of himself singing in his bedroom in the tiny town of Stratford, Canada.
However, proving just how fast the modern media industry moves, he has shot from second place in a ‘Stratford Idol’ talent contest to being mentored by singing superstar Usher, selling out stadiums and being greeted everywhere he goes by thousands of screaming teenage girls – or Beliebers, as they are known. Sometimes verging on riotous, Bieber Fever is on a scale not seen in decades, reminiscent of Beatlemania in the ’60s or Michael Jackson in the ’80s.
Although Justin may appear to have become a global superstar overnight, his path to fame began when he was just eight years old, when his talent as a drummer led to his playing with a local jazz band. At 12 he had graduated to busking on the streets of his home town with a guitar.
As recently as 2009, even though his YouTube videos had been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, Justin was playing shows to just 30 people and relentlessly touring the US radio station circuit, trying to get his music played. Being surrounded by adults all the time and feeling lonely, Justin started using Twitter to invite people to watch when he performed at radio stations. At first a handful of girls showed up to meet him but, as the word spread through the Internet, the tens quickly became hundreds, then thousands and now millions. On his first large-scale tour last summer (2010), with just two records released – My World and My World 2.0 – Justin sold out New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden.
As the first real superstar of the internet age, Justin’s story has been turned into a film, Never Say Never 3D, which invites the viewer into his world to see his home life, humble beginnings and family – as well as how he has dealt with his transition to stardom before even hitting adulthood.
At the movie’s European premiere in London earlier this year (February 2011) we caught up with Justin to find out more.
What was your reaction when you first saw your face on the cinema screen?
It was kind of weird… and it made me feel a little self conscious, because it's, like, you're face is soooo big when you see it!
How did you react when making Never Say Never 3D, and being followed by cameras the whole time?
At first I didn’t really know what was going on! My manager, Scooter, had a plan to do a concert film and I was like, ‘Cool, we can do that,’ then all of a sudden this guy, the director, John Chu, turns up with a camera and starts filming me. I was like, ‘who’s this random guy?’ he’s like, ‘I’m making your movie’ and I’m like, ‘Oh, um, cool?’
Bieber Fever has gone around the world – do you worry about so many girls now going crazy for you?
Why would I worry about making more fans? They may be crazy but they’re the ones that help me to be here... BTW there is no cure for Bieber Fever.
There aren’t many boys in the crowd – would you like more to come to your shows?
Well, I guess boys don‘t find it cool, but really there are so many girls there. And honestly? Maybe boys are a bit jealous of me, too!
What’s the weirdest thing fans have done to meet you?
One mum has a tattoo of a radio DJ on her back! The radio station had a contest and said if anyone got the guy from the radio station’s face tattooed on their back, they could meet me and she did it, so her daughter could meet me. It was pretty weird!
How do you manage to write so many love songs despite being only 16 years old?
Have you ever had a dog? Did you love him? Every kid loves their parents. Then when you get to like 11 or 12 you start seeing girls. And you're like oh, 'I want to see this person because she's cute.’ You don't know the real meaning of love but you think you do. By the time you’re 15 or 16 you have a little bit more knowledge because you've had one or two girlfriends. But I think love is a learning process throughout your life; you learn how to be better at it. I wasn’t supposed to date until I was 16, but hormones kicked in and, y’know! I think, with girls, I'm still learning. I'm still trying to figure out girls and, to be absolutely honest, I don't think I will ever fully figure them out.
What kind of girls are you attracted to?
Being honest, I like all girls, every type of girl. But humour is important and so is having a nice personality. I like nice eyes and girls that are close to my age. I also like lots of different foreign accents because they are so (cute)!
Do you worry about going off the rails as you make the transition between childhood and adulthood?
I have a great team that keeps me grounded – you’ve really got to surround yourself with the right people, not with yes-men like Michael Jackson did. My mother is always with me and makes sure that I don‘t get too big for my boots. And Usher – he’s been there so he knows – he helps keep me sane.
And its’ not like one day I’m a kid, the next day I’m an adult; it’s an ongoing process.
You’re very close to your mum?
My parents split when I was a baby (and) my mom raised me by herself and knows what‘s good for me. She travels with me a lot… but, hey, sometimes I need a break from her because I’m with her 24/7.
I go, ‘Hey mum, I love you! I want to send you to this massage place’ or something like that, just to get her out the way for a little!
How do you handle the huge wealth you now have?
Well, the money is all being invested. I only have a credit card, which has a monthly limit on it – my mom controls it. If I get to the limit after the first week, I won‘t be able to buy any more stuff until the month is over. But it‘s not about the money, that’s not why I do this...
Who is your biggest role model?
Job is my greatest role model. Do you know who Job is? He’s a biblical figure who got tortured. His family was killed and everything was taken away from him: his work, his cattle, everything. He didn’t know why it happened but he kept his faith in God. Everything happens for a reason, and that’s why.
Do you think you’d have made it this far in the pre-YouTube age?
I know that without the internet, YouTube and stuff I'd never be as big as I am and also I wouldn’t be here without my fans supporting me. My fans and I have a special connection, because we're able to talk on Twitter and Facebook, and we really have that one-on-one connection.
How nervous do you get before going on stage?
Really, I don‘t know what stage fright is. In school I always wanted to be the centre of attention. Performing is just natural to me – it’s just like walking or breathing; it just flows.
Are you worried that one day you could wake up and all that you have worked for has gone?
Music is my passion, so I feel like I’ll be doing this for a long time – and God forbid if anything bad should happen, but I would still write music.
Do you worry about your voice changing as you grow up?
Well, everybody’s voice changes, so it’s not like it’s abnormal. A lot of singers have gone through vocal change. Take Usher, Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson… In the film you can see that my voice is changing; it’s getting deeper.
In the film you’re surrounded by people almost all the time; when was the last time you felt lonely?
I’m a very independent person so I don’t really get lonely. I’m just fine with being by myself. I don’t really get much ‘me time’ as I work so much, but at night time, that’s basically my downtime when I get to just lie in bed, play on my computer, check Twitter and all that. I never get to feel anonymous any more, not really. But I don’t go out in a disguise… or anything like that.
Will the film covert some non-Beliebers into new fans, do you think?
I hope people go to the movie whether they are fans or not, just to see the experience that I’m going through. Some people may not like my style of music… but if you see the movie, it’s made for everybody. In the film you get to just see me in my regular life, you go back to my home town and you get to meet my grandparents, so it’s really cool.
What reactions to the film have you seen so far?
I was on the internet and saw these videos of these guys like, reviewing the film; it said 'Justin Bieber movie review' and I was thinking, 'Right, this guy is just going to be hating on me, saying that I am ugly, I look like a girl and my voice hasn't dropped and all this stuff'. So I went to the video and this guy said, 'OK, I'm not going to lie, I hated Justin Bieber and now, after watching this movie, it got me to really respect him'. That was really, really cool.
How long does it take to do your hair?
It takes me just five minutes. Less. I’ve rolled out of bed just now! My only tip is: use hotel shampoos. They’re actually really good.
Which three things would you like to take with you to a desert island?
I’d take food, so if I get hungry I can eat; I’d take water so I could drink and I’d take a car door, so if it gets too hot I could wind down the window!
Do you have a special message for your fans?
Thanks to my fans for camping outside my shows, for being so supportive and just for being so cool. What comes out of the movie is that if you want to be a doctor or an actor or a singer or a police officer or whatever – any goal you have, you just have to do it and never give up and always follow your dreams.