I interviewed Justin Bieber for GQ—Bieber had just turned 18, so they sent me to Los Angeles to try to make a man out of him—and one of the strange things about his life is that he seems to be surrounded by adults at all times. He arrived at the studio surrounded by adults. His two closest friends are much older than him. This is not normal for an 18-year-old. When you're 18, you're usually hanging out with your peers, either at school or smoking weed in the alley behind the Red Lobster. The adults you encounter are usually authority figures: parents, teachers, your boss at Dick's Sporting Goods, etc. And most of them are assholes to you.
But Bieber's life is nothing like that. He hasn't been inside a school in five years (he told me he didn't miss school and that he got too easily distracted in class). The adults around him treat him like a peer, or often a superior. They wait around for him. They try and get an audience with him. As it stands now, Bieber is a perfectly nice guy. Sure, he's flaky, and brash, and a touch vacant. Still, I don't think most people would fault an 18-year-old for acting like an 18-year-old. But I don't know if he has the right system around him to move PAST that. He's not gonna go to college (would you?). He's not gonna have to get an entry-level job and eat shit for a few years. And he lives in a celebrity culture that amounts to a nonstop circle jerk. This happens to a lot of young stars, be it musicians, actors, or sports figures (hi, LeBron!). They become so successful so young that they skip the stage where you become a fully functional adult. And I don't know if you can recover from that.
But hey, the kid's got plenty of money and pussy, so more power to him. There was plenty of good stuff from my time with Bieber that we couldn't fit into the article, so we'll be posting a bunch of outtakes tomorrow at GQ.com. Here's an early look at a few of them:
• This was the first time I've ever profiled a celebrity for a big magazine, so I made sure to follow journalistic protocol and use a voice recorder to accurately capture everything said by Bieber and his friends. I had the voice recorder in my shirt pocket and, despite the fact that everyone at the recording studio knew I was a reporter, I still felt like an FBI informant walking around wearing a wire. I felt so, so dangerous. I desperately wanted Bieber to forget I was there and begin negotiating the sale of 30,000 kilos of heroin. Instead, I'm the one who forgot I was mic'd up for the entire four hours at the studio, so I left the recorder on when I went to go take a piss. GQ's fact checker, who had to listen to the entire audio, was not happy about me pulling a Frank Drebin into the mic. I'm real sorry about that, Rafi. But we both know it could have been worse.
• At one point while we were in the studio, Bieber played for me a two-minute rap by Jaden Smith, who is a friend of his. (Of course they're friends.) I wrote in the article that Bieber is a lousy rapper, but Jaden Smith is a hundred times worse. He's fucking AWFUL. It was torture. Longest two minutes of my life. And the guys from West Coast Customs loved it. I think they're so good at pretending to like shit that they've crossed over into genuinely liking it.
• At the end of the night, I was still trying to get as much out of Bieber as possible. So when he was leaving the studio, I decided to try and tag along to his car, just to observe the Biebs in his natural element one last time. That's when this exchange occurred:
ME: Hey Bieber, you mind if I walk you?
BIEBER: What do you mean, walk me?
ME: I just want to walk you.
BIEBER: It's kind of weird, bro.
Can't blame him there. It was SO weird. His PR lady stepped in and told me my time was up.
Man Up, Bieber [GQ; photo by Peggy Sirota]