Earlier this week Justin Bieber announced on Instagram that he'd no longer be hosting fan meet and greets after his concerts. Referring the to pricey brushes with fame that routinely cost up to £2k, Bieber confessed they left him "feeling so drained and filled with so much of other people's spiritual energy that I end up so drained and unhappy". He continued, "I want to make people smile and happy but not at my expense. I always leave feeling mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression".
The news came as a surprise, not only because of how bankable those meet ups are, but because of Justin's famously close relationship with his audience. Beliebers are widely considered some of the most dedicated fans in the game. They lifted him out of YouTube obscurity, made him a star and supporting him through his very public stumbles and recent redemption.
In response to Justin's announcement, many fans were quick to lambast him for removing the glimmer of hope they held for one day meeting their idol. Others added that these interactions were a small price to pay for the lifestyle supporters had funded, adding that the "draining" experience was just part of the job. Some were more forgiving, congratulating him for speaking out about his mental health struggles and encouraging him to look after himself.
As fans debated the validity of Justin's choice, the wider media came down hard. Headlines like "Justin Bieber won't meet paying fans as they make him depressed" ran, ignoring the reality that the star genuinely could find the experiences intense and overwhelming. Remember, this is a fanbase that has previously threatened to maim themselves if Justin doesn't respond to them on Twitter. Rather than respecting Justin's mental health, the deluge of articles pointed to the price of his concert tickets, and called him spoilt and obnoxious.
The coverage is disappointing, but hardly surprising. It's easy to take aim at someone with such a troubled past.Despite the star speaking at length about regretting previous behaviour, and opening up about his struggles with growing up in the public eye, people are slow to switch up their narrative. It leads one to ask: do we expect Justin to crack before we cut him a break? As one fan on Instagram pointed out, "He's not a robot".
Text Wendy Syfret
Photography Alasdair McLellan [The Here and Now Issue, no.340, 2015]
Grooming Florido Basallo at 901 Salon using Tarte Cosmetics
Photography assistance Lex Kembery, Matthew Healy, Simon Mackinlay
Production Nina Qayyum at Art Partner