As most 18-year-olds are preparing to head off to college, Justin Bieber is raking in $55 million a year, collects seriously fancy cars and just bought his first multimillion dollar home in Calabasas, Calif. For all intents and purposes Bieber lives a very adult life, but 18-year-old boys are not known for their maturity.
For months the singer has been talking about growing with his fans, creating good music and becoming a "mature" artist, but as GQ recently found out, Bieber behaves just like most kids his age, he's just not allowed to show it.
So when GQ set out to make a man out of Bieber, proposing a number of "insane ideas" that might make for a good profile, his people preemptively shot down their prime directive, which was to get the kid good and drunk.
Neither Bieber nor his handlers were interested in GQ's "manly ideas" and later when they finally were able to get face time with the pop star (in what apparently was the first time that Bieber had ever been left alone with a reporter), he said he really wasn't a fan of alcohol.
"For me, it's just like, I like to be in control of myself. I mean, I've had a beer, like, before.... But I never get out of control," he told GQ.
Wanting to be in control makes sense, since Bieber has a lot of trust issues.
"I mean, I keep my guard up a lot, because you know, you can't trust anyone in this business," Bieber said. "That's what's sad. You can't trust anybody. I learned the hard way."
No one can dispute that Bieber's image is carefully controlled -- he's charming, a prankster, charitable and most of all a nonthreatening personality who makes mothers happy that their teenage daughters are crushing on him. It's hard to get a sense of who Justin Bieber really is. But then, as GQ describes, his brand-new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van, tricked out by West Coast Customs arrives and the first peek of Bieber emerges.
Gathering around his new toy, Bieber seems "euphoric" and so excited that he pledges his loyalty to West Coast Customs and dismisses its rival, Platinum Motorsport. "F*** Platinum," he said. "Platinum can suck a dick, man. West Coast all day."
Bieber really is all about loyalty. When he overhears one of his business advisers trashing his pal Kim Kardashian, Bieber pipes up. "You guys are so mean, bro ... People say she doesn't do anything; she actually does do stuff ... she works hard," he says defending Kardashian, with whom he tweets and has collaborated on a photo shoot.
It's fascinating to think about the position Bieber is in at the moment. As peers like Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus or even his longtime girlfriend, Selena Gomez, worry about growing up too quickly -- projecting a too-sexy image that could alienate younger fans -- it's Bieber's natural inclination toward immaturity that could hurt him.
"I'm a swaggy adult," he says, most convincingly.
It's pranks like tweeting a mocking video to the 20-year-old who falsely accused him of getting her pregnant, or tweeting out a stranger's phone number claiming it was his own, that show a youthful restlessness and impulsivity that his handlers seem desperate to keep at bay.
With all the press surrounding Bieber's new maturity, it's as if Bieber's management is pushing for him to grow up as fast as possible, perhaps to sidestep the exploration and push for the independence and mistakes that come with young adulthood.
As GQ explains it:
The label's mission is to make a man out of Bieber. The only person who isn't ready to make a man out of Bieber is Bieber. He wants to be 18. He wants to be a swaggy bro—he seems incapable of being anything else—and that's as it should be. Manhood can wait.
For more on Justin Bieber, click over to GQ.