The 19-year-old pop star is one of many celebrities who’ve grown up under the proverbial microscope, where the simplest rites of passage — like grabbing your girlfriend’s backside during a passionate make-out session — are headline fodder.
It’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Stars like Christina Aguilera and Shia LaBeouf would likely agree that the transition from teen sensation to adult icon is seldom seamless.
For whatever reason, Bieber might have considered himself to be an exception.
“I think I’ll make a smooth transition from a teen star to an adult star,” he told USA Today in 2011. “I don’t want to grow up too quickly and do anything that’s not smart.”
Two years later, 2013 is already shaping up to be that fateful time in Canadian-born star’s career.
In January he was seen holding what sites identified as marijuana in one photograph, while another showed him getting handsy with a female fan. Earlier this month, Bieber had his “worst birthday,” and angered fans when he was late to the stage for a sold-out show at London’s O2 Arena.
The most recent Bieber news isn’t any more flattering. According to authorities, the singer’s neighbor is accusing him of “battery and threats” after a confrontation took place outside his California home on Tuesday.
As The New York Times pointed out after the “Girlfriend” singer’s 18th birthday last year, “Mr. Bieber can be his own man, sure, so long as he continues to belong to everyone else too.”
Despite rejecting comparisons to Justin Timberlake, Bieber would be lucky to moonwalk into adulthood the way the “Suit & Tie” singer has. Of course, Timberlake had the support of his boy band ‘N Sync behind him when he made the leap. It also helped that there were other male stars around, like the Backstreet Boys, helping to dim the harsh limelight.
Bieber doesn’t exactly have a counterpart today. While “Twilight” stars Taylor Lautner and Robert Pattinson, or “Hunger Games” stars Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson, have distracted the media — and countless tween fans — Bieber remains in a league of his own.
Miley Cyrus can likely relate. Every step of her own maturation — from the time she danced with a pole at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, to her drastic haircut in 2012 — has made headlines.
The “Can’t Be Tamed” singer and “Last Song” actress issued a public apology after a video surfaced of her smoking salvia (an herb sold legally in many health food stores) in 2010.
“But do you really think it was a mistake?” Marie Claire’s Kimberly Cutter asked Cyrus in a 2011 interview. “Obviously college kids your age all over America are smoking bongs with a lot more than salvia in them.”
“But they’re not Miley Cyrus,” she said. “They’re not role models. So for me it was a bad decision, because of my fans and because of what I stand for.”
Cyrus is getting older, but she’s not in and out of court (no offense, Lindsay), or getting into car wreck after car wreck (no offense, Amanda), so isn’t the “good girl gone bad” label pushing it?
Another former Disney princess who’s growing up in the public eye is Bieber’s former girlfriend, Selena Gomez. The singer-actress is attempting to shed her Disney image (without muddying her squeaky-clean off-screen persona) by co-starring in the raucous crime dramedy “Spring Breakers.”
Gomez hasn’t taken nearly as much heat as Cyrus, though she has shown a fair amount of side boob with her red carpet choices of late.
Despite the age-old idea that each generation is more reckless than the last, Bieber and his famous peers don’t appear to be rebelling so much as they’re just getting older.
Jada Pinkett Smith, whose son Jaden is friends with Bieber, recently took to her Facebook page to express her frustrations with the way young stars are treated:
“Is it okay to continually attack and criticize (Bieber) a famous 19 year old who is simply trying to build a life, exercise his talents while figuring out what manhood and fame is all about as he carries the weight of supporting his family as well as providing the paychecks to others who depend on him to work so they can feed their families as well?” She wrote. “Does that render being called a c— by an adult male photographer as you try to return to your hotel after leaving the (sic) hospital?”
Sure, Bieber has consciously snapped a few pictures of his bare abs, and strolled through the airport topless, but the singer hasn’t even been present for some of the events that produced the most scandalous and tragic headlines of all.
In 2011, a California woman alleged in a paternity lawsuit that Bieber fathered her 3-month-old baby boy.
And in January, a photographer was killed by oncoming traffic after he thought he saw Bieber sitting in his white Ferrari in Los Angeles.
“While I was not present nor directly involved with this tragic accident, my thoughts and prayers are with the family of the victim,” Bieber said in a statement.
“There’s a lot of pressure on this kid to do bigger, better things,” Jennifer Chancellor wrote on TulsaWorld.com January. “The adoration could be crushing. Bieber, so far, has mastered it by being himself. That means being human. He threw up on stage once; he’s raced cars; he’s partied … some.”
Maybe we should all take a page out of Internet sensation and Britney Spears’ advocate Chris Crocker’s book and just leave Bieber alone?
By CNN’s Stephanie Goldberg