Justin Bieber has been the subject of adoration and ridicule for nearly a decade. The Canadian pop singer first hit the scene at 13-years-old, when he instantly shot to stardom after being “discovered” by hip-hop artist and producer Usher.
Like many celebrities who become very popular very quickly, Bieber didn’t have to wait long before the public soured on his overexposure. Bieber fatigue led to a lot of late night jokes, ribbings about sending him back to Canada in some kind of trade, and plenty of snarky commentary over his “boy band” looks.
I must fully disclose here that I was one of those people who constantly criticized Bieber, not thinking about what he might be seeing or feeling.
The thing is, child stardom isn’t a privilege. It is a burden. The money is great but the price is high. Bieber has clearly paid the price in recent years, struggling with public meltdowns, addiction and depression. It may have seemed strange to the world when he announced his sudden marriage to Baldwin offspring Hailey Baldwin, but Baldwin comes from a nuclear family that is very active in the Christian faith (father Stephen Baldwin had a very public conversion years ago and now makes his living as a teaching pastor and Trump surrogate). Bieber was clearly looking for some stability, and he may have actually found it.
The young couple have become increasingly involved in their celebrity-friendly church in Los Angeles, with the pop star even stepping in to lead a worship service recently.
In an emotional Instagram post over the weekend, Bieber opened up about his struggles with fame, depression and addiction. He spoke about the emotional weight of having so much attention so young in life, and how it distorts one’s view of their own ego and their place in the world.
You see I have a lot of money, clothes, cars, accolades, achievements, awards and I was still unfulfilled. Have u noticed the statistics of child stars and the outcome of their life? there is an insane pressure and responsibility put on a child who’s brain, emotions, frontal lobes (decision making) aren’t developed yet. No rationality, defiant, rebellious, things all of us have to go through. But when you add the pressure of stardom it does something to you that is quite unexplainable.
The singer went on to explain how disorienting it was at 13 to go from being a small town kid to being praised and adored all over the world.
I don’t know about you, but humility comes with age. You hear these things enough as a young boy and you actually start believing it. Rationality comes with age and so does your decision making process (one of the reasons you can’t drink until you’re 21)…everyone did everything for me so I never even learned the fundamentals of responsibility. So by this point I was 18 with no skills in the real world, with millions of dollars and access to whatever I wanted. This is a scary concept for anyone.
The singer continued on, discussing how troubling it was as a young boy to go from the most loved and adored person in the world to one of the most hated.
Bieber admitted that he started heavy drug use by the age of 19 and by 20 he’d managed to alienate most of the people who cared about him. He suspects a great deal of his addiction issues stemmed from the false “high” of being on stage.
Being on stage according to studies is a bigger dopamine rush than almost any other activity…so these massive ups and downs on their own are very hard to manage. You notice a lot of touring bands and people end up having a phase of drug abuse, and I believe its due to not being able to manage the huge ups and downs that come with being an entertainer.
He ended his post by expressing gratefulness for the people who stood by him during his worst times, and for his marriage, which Bieber credits as something that is teaching him how to be a “good man”.
In the end, Bieber invited his fans to look to God for help and comfort.
It is our instinct as entertainment consumers is to look at celebrities as special, perfect and always comfortable in their luxurious lifestyles. Over the years I have reported extensively on child abuse in the entertainment industry and it has truly changed my outlook on kids like Bieber. There was a time when I also ridiculed him. For that, I am sorry. I couldn’t have imagined some of the fright and horrors he was experiencing as a young boy alone in a grown up world where anything goes and everyone keeps their secrets.
So for that, Justin…I apologize. You never deserved my wrath. I would never be okay with someone ridiculing my 12-year-old daughter, even if she was being annoying for whatever reason. It would crush me. I don’t know why I ever thought it was okay to do that to you.
I hope Justin has found some lasting peace, and that he and his wife have found a community that will love them for just being human and will hold them accountable to their marriage and their responsibilities. As Justin has discovered, money can’t buy you peace. Peace is priceless.