The first time I met Justin Bieber was in the summer of 2010. He was 16, and his long blond bangs were a latter-day moptop rage. We ate fried chicken and talked about video games.
Bieber seemed less a pop star and more a kid from the Canadian suburbs who loved hockey and pranks. But fame had him squarely in its sights. He seemed like he knew it, and was desperately trying to keep the monster at bay.
“I’m still young,” he told me. “I’m still trying to figure out who I am, and I’m just trying to have fun.”
Too much fun, as it turned out. Over the ensuing five years, Bieber made millions touring the world and starring in top-grossing music-mentaries, dated Disney starSelena Gomez and grew his Twitter army to 62 million strong.
But he also seemed to change. Our interviews grew less frequent, and when they did happen, Bieber seemed distracted. Gone was the teen heartthrob. Tattoos spread across his expanding frame. He was living life large, and it was starting to swallow him up.
In 2014 alone, Bieber was arrested in Miami for driving with an expired license, ordered to do community service and pay restitution after egging a neighbor’s house inCalabasas, Calif., and arrested for dangerous driving near Stratford-on-Avon, his hometown near Toronto.