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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

39

The Best Time Justin Bieber Made Me Cry

I knew that teen culture had fully dovetailed with mainstream culture when my ex-boyfriend approached me at a bar to say that he'd heard that I met Justin Bieber and could I tell him about it, please?

I was so surprised that my ex knew who the Biebz was that I forgot to be surprised that he wanted to talk to me in the first place. I'd been pretty sure that only 12-year-olds were interested in the "celebrities" I interviewed. It was 2009: the Glee pilot was just about to air, that YouTube video of the wedding party dancing to "Forever" was the hottest thing on the internet, Obama had just been inaugurated, and Justin Bieber was not yet a given.

At the time, I was 22 and blogging for Seventeen, my first job out of college. I interviewed minor characters from CW and Disney shows (my favorite was the 30-year-old man who played Hannah Montana’s brother, simply because it was so nice to talk to an adult), and I wrote quizzes ("Which Twilight Guy/Harry Potter Hottie/Gossip Girl Guy Should You Date?"), a task I took very seriously, remembering how seriously I had once taken them.

Generally, I was living my 8th grade fantasy life, down to living in “an apartment just like the one on Friends” (in that it had brick walls) with my coolest friend from middle school, a girl who talked like Daria but looked like Jane. In the interest of re-entering the teen mind space, I wore my old too-short Forever 21 dresses with neon tights, listened to Taylor Swift’s Fearless on repeat, read all the Twilight books, convinced myself that Miley’s music was good, and wiki-ed the shit out of every low-level celebrity on my schedule.

On the early September day that I met Justin Bieber, I'd been doing this for a year, living off of free shampoo and cupcakes, and he was just another random singer being promoted by a major label. I didn’t even bother looking him up; I had a ton to do, and was covering the press event as my boss's favor to a publicist. I took the train down to the Nintendo store at Rockefeller Center. When I got close, I saw police tape and a crowd of anxious girls. I entered the horde and started pushing my way toward the door.

I only made it about two feet before being stopped by an NYPD cop, who was not happy about spending his afternoon corralling parentless tweens. Our exchange went a little something like this:

Me: I’m on the press list.
Cop: Where’s your NYPD press pass?
Me: Um, I work at Seventeen.
Cop: You can’t get past without a press pass.
Me: I work at Seventeen! We’re not usually covering, like, crime scenes.

He took a look at me—my bangs, my little dress—and determined I was a wily 15-year-old trying to con my way to Bieber. “Get back!” he shouted. I got a little shaky. I hate being yelled at, especially for things that aren’t my fault. My little sisters used to make themselves cry and then accuse me of hitting them. My biggest fear, after untimely death, is getting in trouble for something I didn’t do.

So I re-entered the throng of girls, all of us waiting for a glimpse of that floppy hair—only the first 100 or so people had gotten in—and tried to calm myself down as I figured out what to do. The chatter around me went like this:

Every adult walking by: “What’s going on here? Who is this for?” “Damned if I know.”
Every girl in the crowd: “Oh my god, don’t they KNOW??? It’s Justin Bieber!!!!”

I desperately wanted to get this event over with and go back to work. I called my editor, who called the publicist, and the publicist called me. I told her that the police wouldn't let me in. I saw her at the door of the building, and I tried to head over, but got stopped and berated by the police again. I was on the verge of tears when the publicist called a cop over to her, pointed me out, and got him to escort me safely through.

But it was already one of those days where everything adds up—the donut shop is out of donuts, your work email password expired and you can’t figure out how to change it, you realize that in New York you are defined by your job and your job is to pretend to be an adult while inhabiting the space of babies—and little by little you reach a critical mass. I could feel the floodgates about to open, and knew that anything could push me over the edge.

That thing, it turned out, was the relief of finally making it inside. As soon as I got inside the building I started uncontrollably crying. Baffled, the publicist led me up the stairs, where Justin was signing autographs over to the left. Someone asked me if I needed a glass of water. I nodded through my tears, realizing that no one really knows what to do with a hysterically crying adult.

They brought me the water and I gulped it down, still crying. I knew everyone was embarrassed by me and for me, so I tried to stop, but I couldn't. I sort of hiccupped back at the staff's kind questions and tried to explain: police, bad day, busy. The publicist brought over Justin’s manager to say hi, and he told me, “I can’t wait to tell Justin that he made Seventeen Magazine cry.”

When Justin was finished signing autographs, his manager brought him over to meet me. He was about four feet tall, wearing his soon-to-be iconic purple hoodie, and had more swagger than he’d yet earned. “Justin, you made Seventeen cry.” He shook my hand with his tiny child hand. “Um, nice to meet you," I said, sniffling. "I’m, uh, just stressed out.” Justin Bieber couldn’t have cared less. He gave me a little nod and then wandered over to play the video games set up on display.

As I calmed down, I found out that the staff were all equally astonished by the whole day: the cops, the screaming girls outside. They had thought maybe 100 people would show up, but there were over 1,000. No one at Seventeen had even heard of him until that week.

After that, you know what happened. It took just little while for him to surpass the preteen demographic and move on into pop super-stardom. In that brief window of time, I interviewed Usher. I wasn’t allowed to ask any personal questions (he had just gotten divorced amid reports of infidelity), but no one was ever scared to be interviewed by Seventeen. As my hard-hitting interview was wrapping up, I mentioned that I had just met his protégé, Justin Beiber, and said, “Hey, I think that kid’s going to be huge.” Usher just nodded and smiled.

By then, I had vowed to leave Seventeen. The third Twilight movie was about to come out. The teen zeitgeist was changing. Miley wasn’t cool anymore. Gossip Girl was getting bad, and I was too tired to learn a whole new batch of kids.

My last week at work, I sat in on a meet & greet with an upcoming artist who had the same publicist as the Biebz. On first glance, I didn’t remember the publicist, but she remembered me, the mess from Seventeen who had an uncontrollable meltdown in front of one of her now biggest clients. As she got up to leave, she said, “You need to watch Jimmy Kimmel tonight.”

I didn’t watch. I couldn’t. I was too afraid he was going to talk about me on TV. But I also had to know. The next day, I watched online and saw, instead, another little girl whose claim to late-night notoriety was that she too had cried hysterically over Justin Bieber. When she met him, even the three-year-old held it together better than I did.

Molly Finkelstein lives in Portland, Maine and still overanalyzes every new Taylor Swift video.

39 Comments / Post A Comment

paper bag princess

This is an amazing story! I also had fervent dreams of working for a teen magazine, and now I am very glad I didn't. I am a bit of a stress-crier myself, I can only imagine what teen idols I would have embarrassed myself in front of.

frigwiggin

Aw, Molly!

I try not to mentally dehumanize big-name stars too much because, hey, they're people too, but--I mean, every time I see a picture of Bieber his eyes look so dead. Is there a person in there?

mwittier

@frigwiggin Some are people, but some went right from fetus to swagger, and avoided the whole personhood thing entirely. I'll pity them just as soon as THEY GO AWAY.

itiresias

@frigwiggin Drew Magary did a piece on him last year that provides a good answer to this, in my opinion. GQ sent him to interview Biebs "as a man", and he started off taking it seriously ended up humbled that he was, indeed, talking to and about a human being.

frigwiggin

@itiresias Reading it now!

No one can be normal living under the circumstances that constitute daily life for Justin Bieber.

That's a very fair point.

BuffyBot

@frigwiggin my friend's niece who has leukemia met him for her make a wish. The picture is just hilariously bad. You couldn't smile when making a sick 5 year old's dream come true?

Now I've seen the rest of the comments and feel like a dick. I feel for him. But still a 5 year old with cancer's life is slightly worse if not equally as bad as Justin Beiber's.

frigwiggin

@frigwiggin

It's almost midnight, and Bieber is going home now. But before he leaves, he pokes his head into the break room to yell, "GOOD NIGHT, BITCHES!" Melissa, the PR lady, winces. But she shouldn't. That, right there, is a proper 18-year-old, someone who probably knows how to draw an excellent dick on a grease board. To be a real man, you gotta be a real boy first.

I think this whole paragraph is bullshit, though. And the part ragging on Kim Kardashian for no reason. Really, guy?

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@frigwiggin Boys will be boys, frigwiggin, and don't you forget it.

LacunaKale

Other things the Beibz has made cry;
Monkeys
His neighbors
A arrow twirling guy in Santa Ynez
Jesus (probably)

milenakent

completely agreed@n

Ragged But Right

Can I HIGHLY RECOMMEND The Love Song of Johnny Valentine to read, in regards to the Beiberish phenomenon, if you're into that sort of thing? It's a really good novel! And also, The Cultural Significance of the Child Star, if you are wildly unemployed and pop-culture nerdy?

joyballz

@Ragged But Right LOVED Jonny Valentine. His voice started grating on me bc it was so childish which I guess is the point, but I also think I would have likened him to Biebz more last year before all this douchery became so public.

Gulfie

Tagssss.

martinipie

@Gulf of Finland And alt-text!

j-i-a

@martinipie hhahahaha tags and alt text is the best part of this job BY FAR

mwittier

"My little sisters used to make themselves cry and then accuse me of hitting them."

You are me, or my childhood was yours.
My parents would leave us home, alone, for four hours or more and my sister and I would inevitably have a fight during the first half hour. It would fizzle out quickly; we'd patch things up, make a meal, eat it, hang out, watch tv, laugh; then three and a half hours later when my parent's car rolled into the driveway, she'd break out into hysterical sobbing over the argument we'd had right after they left, claiming I'd hit her.
The first couple of times I was so astonished, and even impressed, that I just accepted it. Later, I took to shrieking my defense the moment they arrived and the Shock and Awe won out, and they didn't listen to either of us. It was like the freakin' U.N., in Monticello, Indiana.

paper bag princess

@mwittier I tried that a couple of times with my older sister, until she reasoned that if she was going to get in trouble for hitting me even if she hadn't done it, she might as well ACTUALLY hit me. I switched tactics shortly thereafter.

martinipie

This is perfect, and I too am totally a crier when bureaucracy gets in the way of stuff, which is kind of the worst crier to be. Scary dude threatens me? Fine! Sad news (to a certain degree)? Fine! My flight is cancelled and I want to get home but it's not like, crucial or anything? WEEPING MESS.

TheBelleWitch

@martinipie What is with this, because I'm the same. Something actually bad happens - OK, I can cope! Minor inconvenience? World ending! I think I'm just a frustration-crier. I also share Molly's hatred of being in trouble for something that isn't my fault. I blame group punishments in elementary school.

meetapossum

@TheBelleWitch Ugh, group punishments were the worst. Why did they do that? I can't remember anyone being guilted by the shame.

itiresias

@martinipie I cry when I'm directly yelled at. It's so embarassing. It happened at work once this year when a coworker got too defensive about something I said and meant to be totally objective. I felt like such a child.

City_Dater

@martinipie

Rage crier here. I'll go through just about any mess without losing it, but get me angry or frustrated and I will out-Ugly Cry Claire Danes.

This is an excellent work story -- but technically the Bieber didn't make Molly cry, the cranky rent-a-cop did it!

Khrushchev

I took the Harry Potter boyfriend quiz just now and got Ron Weasley, which is sooooo true for me. Thanks Molly!

Lu2
Lu2

@Khrushchev OMG, I got Draco Malfoy. I think I need to watch some more Potter movies, because I can't quite believe this result. There must be some reason why.

...Unless Molly Finkelstein is a complete CHARLATAN, of course.

P.S. Oh, but wait, it then has a paragraph about Ron Weasely:
"You Should Date: Draco Malfoy
"Your perfect "HP" guy is the cute, loyal, and funny redhead that everyone knows and loves — Ron Weasley! Even if he's a little messy and gets himself into trouble sometimes, he's an awesome Quidditch player and an even better friend. You definitely need to learn to deal with his crazy family — let's be honest, five older brothers and a younger sister can get pretty hectic! On the plus side, you'll totally feel secure with him — he's always acting brave to protect the people he loves. Not to mention you can always count on him to make you laugh! But beware, it might take a little time for him to make the first move — after all, he didn't even ask Hermione to the Yule Ball! To find your real-life Ron, look past the most popular guy in school and check out his loyal best friend! Yeah, that guy who was with the class hottie through thick and thin — and even before he was hot! A guy that loyal will be the perfect match for you!"

Lu2
Lu2

@Lu2 I misspelled Weasley. :( It was a typo; I do know better.

Jinxie
Hot Doom

@Jinxie Ugh he's such a slug.

honey cowl

THIS IS PERFECT AND WONDERFUL. It is in the top 10 hairpin Things ever. It is so evocative of that particular year which just makes my heart ACHE. And the crying. And the Usher. And the quizzes-taken-oh-so-seriously. Oh my god I am dying. Molly. You're my hero.

honey cowl

@honey cowl "Who is Justin Bieber in a real sense" "Who is Justin Bieber in an existential sense" THIS IS THE BEST

jenjenboben

I had to go Google the brother from Hanana Montana because I could not believe he was that old. He's 36 now! Whoa. He doesn't look a day over 19 even now.

karenb

@jenjenboben that part reminded me of seeing trace cyrus play a concert once, and just watching his band, who were all legit adults just doing a job, and wondering what it was like in their heads. what a weird life.

Killerpants

Good story. Also, oooohh, the east coast Portland representing. Nice.

ChloeCatastrophe

"He shook my hand with his tiny child hand."

You are mortal magic.

christopher hart

I christopher hart from USA, I Found a good story on here, Its Really quite interseting

sarahmsk

i loved every second of this. also, Portland, Maine! let's hang out!

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