Justin Bieber – All band?
Fiona Graham explores the impact of the celebrity spotlight on singer Justin Bieber
Imagine what is it like to grow up in the spotlight.
Everything you say, do and wear is scrutinised and ridiculed by the intrusive paparazzi as well as millions on social media. This nightmare has been the reality for Justin Bieber since he shot to fame in the late 2000s.
Bieber grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada, but has lived in the public eye since the age of 13 when the talented young singer was spotted by an agent who saw videos of his cover songs on YouTube.
At 16 years old, Bieber released his debut album which contained the hit single ‘Baby’ and he quickly established himself as one of the most popular and well-known artists on the planet, with a devoted teenage fanbase sometimes referred to as ‘Beliebers’.
The pop star has gone on to have an incredibly successful career. With sales of over 150 million records, Bieber is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. He has received numerous accolades such as MTV awards, Brits and a Grammy. Time magazine named Bieber one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011, and he was included on Forbes’ list of the world’s top ten most powerful celebrities in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Troubles and challenges
This rapid rise to stardom inevitably came with many challenges. Like many other child stars, Bieber has had troubles. Perhaps the same can be said of most people to some extent, but when you consider the pressure, scrutiny and the potentially damaging influences that they face, it’s no wonder that so many child stars struggle as they grow up. For a child prodigy, the challenges faced by typical teenagers are amplified, and there are additional issues which most of us never have to tackle.
Much has been written in tabloids about how Bieber went ‘off the rails’, but this stage of his life is perhaps best explained in his own words, ‘By 20, I made every bad decision you could have thought of and went from one of the most loved and adored people in the world to the most ridiculed, judged, and hated person in the world.’
Publicly he was seen to be rebelling and had high profile misdemeanours including drugs and drink-driving offences. But in private he was struggling with depression; the effects of his rapid rise to fame were clearly taking their toll on his mental health.
He has spoken more in recent years about those difficult times. ‘I got really depressed on tour,’ Bieber says. ‘I haven’t talked about this, and I’m still processing so much stuff that I haven’t talked about. I was lonely. I needed some time.’
He has also been open about his struggles with drug use. Battling with the relentless ups and downs of life on tour, Bieber said he started ‘doing pretty heavy drugs at 19’.
As well as the challenges of fame and touring, he has been upfront about feeling overwhelmed by different aspects of life at times, a feeling many people can relate to. ‘It’s hard to get out of bed in the morning with the right attitude when you are overwhelmed with your life, your past, job, responsibilities, emotions, your family, your finances, relationships…’ he says.
But since then, his transformation has been remarkable and he says that it is his faith in God which has changed his life: ‘He found me in my dirt and pulled me out,’ Bieber says.
In 2014 he met with a pastor in New York and, after opening up about the issues he was struggling with, he asked this church leader to baptise him. And so, that very night, he was baptised in the bathtub of basketball player Tyson Chandler, who happened to be friends with the pastor.
Since his baptism, Bieber has been keen to share his faith with the world. ‘My faith has gotten me to where I am. My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith.’
Bieber has spoken about how faith has been key in his relationship with his wife, Hailey, who he married in 2018. ‘I want to give up my selfish desires daily so I can be a good husband and future dad!’ he said. The couple were also baptised together in the summer of 2020, an occasion which Bieber described as ‘one of the most special moments of my life’.
He has been outspoken about the role of faith in his life and how God is at the centre. ‘I want to walk in the plans God has for me and not try to do it on my own!’ He has also said: ‘I’m not trying to earn God’s love by doing good things…God has already loved me for who I am before I did anything to earn or deserve it.’
In December 2020, he teamed up with an NHS choir to perform his hit single ‘Holy’. The song was released in a bid to raise money for NHS Charities Together, which represents more than 230 NHS charities. The song, which also features Christian hip hop artist, Chance The Rapper, has over 100 million views on YouTube, and includes the faith-inspired lyrics: ‘I know we believe in God and I know God believes in us’.
Justin Bieber remains one of the most famous and influential celebrities in the world, with more than 150 million people following him on Instagram. He regularly uses the platform to express his new-found Christian faith and he share it with others. He has said ‘I never want to be someone that’s trying to persuade anyone to believe in what I believe. I think God persuades people…But I definitely want to tell my story so that if that resonates with anybody they can hopefully learn from it.’
Cynics suggest Bieber’s Christian faith is a gimmick. His own words suggest that anyone can explore faith and, even when you might feel you are all bad, God is waiting to welcome everyone with open arms.
What is baptism?
Baptism in water imitates Jesus Christ being baptised in the Jordan River about 2,000 years ago. Just as Jesus died, was buried and rose again, baptism symbolises being buried – leaving our old life behind – and rising again to start a new life. Billions of people around the world and throughout history have been baptised: some in a river, like Jesus; others in a bath, the sea, or a purpose-built baptistry. People of all ages are baptised, to mark the start of their lives as Christians.