Will.i.am doesn’t think Justin Bieber needs to be a “role model.” In fact he finds the whole idea of pop stars being role models ludicrous.
According to Music-News, The Black Eyed Peas Grammy award-winning producer and The Voice UK coach recently spoke to the UK’s The Sun’s TV Magazine and declared Bieber’s and Miley Cyrus’ much-criticized behavior should be viewed in a less judgmental light.
“It’s really not important that pop stars are role models,” will i.am explained. “There are no rules on how a pop star should act.”
The hitmaker collaborated with Justin in 2013 on the dance single “#thatPOWER” and the pair recently exchanged plans on Twitter to work again. As an artist himself, Will.i.am is no doubt aware of the pressures behind the scenes and behind the headlines, which can often make the lives of the famous from the outside look easier than it is.
Some may scoff; but if you think you could handle 24/7 paparazzi rifling through your bins, trying to hack your email, tailing every move you make and goading you into ‘reaction’ shots by insulting you, your family or friends — you’re a superhero.
Factor in typical tabloid coverage, the kind that saw Love Magazine incorrectly attribute fake quotes criticizing Beyonce to Miley Cyrus — which the magazine later had to apologize for, and the countless dubious or false rumors reported about Bieber — and life at the top of the music game begins to look a lot less enviable.
Of this, Will.i.am says former child stars Cyrus and Bieber have had to do their “growing up” in public. He added, “Those particular pop stars are just graduating into adulthood.”
He continued, “Part of the reason that I feel Justin Bieber has had a hard time growing up is because the spotlight and magnifying glass is on him.”
In our celebrity-obsessed culture it seems we have struck a Faustian pact with celebrities.
We will fete them on their rise up and swallow whatever schtick they hand us. But the minute they fall off the rails or encounter any personal problem, we will have our pint of blood and forcibly make them walk though every step of their redemptions or walks of shame with us — whether they want to or not.
The idea that pop stars should be forced into being role models because they know what to do with a microphone and a stage is likely part of the reason why Britney Spears went loco in 2006, why Bieber has been on a tear since mid-late 2012 onwards, and appears to be at the core of Cyrus’ determination to continually ‘molest’ Hannah Montana.
Sooner or later — usually as kid stars age up — all that repression and media-training to be “virgins,” good Christian boys, or inspirations kicks the pacifiers out of the proverbial pram. Our self-righteous insistence that celebrities owe us a debt of perfect behavior is particularly dangerous when it comes to these young stars, who are themselves growing up under non-ordinary contexts.
So why do we find it odd when they rebel and behave in ways we feel unable to relate to?
“Entitled,” “Arrogant,” “Diva,” “Poor example” we scream, while simultaneously telling young stars to lead kids according to unattainable expectations and refusing to accept them when they make mistakes.
For all the ragging on Bieber about his recent, harmless James Dean homage, what are the odds that if we could transplant the original rebel without a cause into a deposition we’d have seen the “Jim Stark” long stare more than once over four-and-a-half hours?
The truth is, for all the stars who successfully negotiate fame’s pitfalls while young — Taylor Swift, Gwyneth Paltrow, Beyonce, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hilary Duff, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elijah Wood, Daniel Radcliffe, Jason Bateman, Neil Patrick Harris and Johnny Galecki — there are a heck of a lot more who come close to the edge, yell “Geronimo” — and jump.
Think Amanda Bynes, Spears, Winona Ryder, River Phoenix, Edward Furlong, Macauley Culkin, Robert Downey Jr., Corey Haim, Leif Garrett, David Cassidy, Mischa Barton, Chris Brown, Lindsay Lohan and more. Happily, some of these have made it back.
Back in the day, critics came gunning for stars like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, David Bowie – his Ziggy Stardust era especially – Freddie Mercury, and even further back to the 1940’s onward and the days of big US film studios controlling the intimate lives of their contracted stars.
But those iconic rock artists refused to bow.
[1974 documentary Cracked Actor, the interviewer’s rebuke that Bowie is being “evasive” when he refuses to say what “category” he fits into is priceless.]
Sometimes, however, the iron control succeeded.
News of Rock Hudson’s hidden life as a gay man didn’t emerge until July 25, 1985, when it was announced from a Paris hospital that he was suffering from AIDS. As the life stories of the late Judy Garland, Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor and others demonstrate — there are casualties.
So here’s an idea. Lets leave child and tween/teen rearing to experts and those who choose to parent. That list includes biological and non-biological parents, guardians, older relatives, court-ordered wardens, mentors, teachers, counselors, social workers and such.
Names not included are Bieber and his tapestry of tattoos, Miley and her wandering tongue and any other baby star cum provocative almost-adult. In short: Lets bring up our own kids.
“As adults we need to take responsibility for the direct and indirect consequences if we’re going to profit from putting kids prematurely in the limelight. We need to protect them, mentor them, and above all forgive them.”
Time to rethink the role-model paradigm and let pop and all other young stars be who they are, for better or worse.
If there’s nothing to rebel against, who knows? Perhaps teen-celebrity acting out as we know it would stop.