NEW YORK –– Those familiar with the ancient Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus know that flying too close to the sun can be perilous.
The story serves as a useful, cautionary allegory for our media-saturated age, in which young stars, elevated on wings of fame and fortune, often crash and burn, scorched by the spotlight of celebrity.
Few child stars’ ascents have been quite as meteoric as that of the YouTube curiosity turned global pop sensation Justin Bieber, who, in a little more than a year, went from playing guitar on street corners in his small Canadian hometown of Stratford, Ontario, to filling arenas and performing for President Barack Obama.
In that short time, he has sold more than 9 million albums and triggered a pandemic of “Bieber Fever.”
One wonders what effect this sudden success has had on the young mind beneath what are, currently, the world’s most famous bangs? It also prompts one to ask: What are the chances of the 16-year-old going down the same self-destructive path as Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and other teen stars who have ended up in rehab, prison or, tragically, an early grave.
It is a question that worries Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette. As a woman of faith, she has turned to God and fellow believers, surrounding her son with people who will be a positive moral influence, and trusting in prayer – lots of it.
“I’m very careful about who I allow into his life,” said Mallette, who attends a nondenominational Christian church, as does her son.
“I’m aware of the dangers,” she explained, having herself used drugs as a teenager and attempted suicide at age 17 before she turned her life around. “Justin’s faith is strong, but he is young and hasn’t come completely into himself yet. So what I can do is pray and continue surrounding him with strong Christian influences.”
To that end, she has carefully chosen an inner circle of people who share her values, including a “travel pastor” and a manager, Scooter Braun, an observant Jew, who help “provide a great moral base” and keep Bieber grounded – making sure “Bieber mania” doesn’t go to his head.
Their family like relationship is captured in “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” a new 3-D film that chronicles the North American leg of the singer’s first world concert tour and shows “Team Bieber” gathering in prayer before taking the stage each night.
Having raised Justin as a single mom, Mallette said she never prayed for Justin’s success, but prays that God will protect her son from the temptations and traps that often accompany fame.
And she’s not stopping there. She is asking that others pray for him, as well – believers and “beliebers,” as fans of the pop star are dubbed.
“He is on a wonderful journey and I love him and I am asking for people’s prayer support,” Mallette said.
One organization, the Hollywood Prayer Network, has responded. Founded in 2001 by Karen Covell, the nondenominational Christian group’s stated mission is to pray for members of the entertainment industry, including a monthly calendar of prayer intentions for specific young performers. The network’s website has a special appeal to pray for Bieber.
The power of prayer is not lost on the teen idol. In fact he’s written a song about it, appropriately entitled “Pray,” inspired by Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror,” that includes footage of Haiti and Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, and petitions for “the life not started” and “all the souls in need.”
Mature for his age, Bieber remains sober-eyed about the hazards of being young and famous, as the lyrics of his song “Up” admit, “It’s a big world. It’s easy to get lost in it.”
Will he get lost? He openly acknowledges in a recent Vanity Fair interview that there are “people just waiting for me to personally mess up” and become fodder for tabloids. But, hopefully, Bieber’s story, which is just beginning, has a happy ending.