by Phil Boatwright
With a Beatles haircut and a voice that lulls the birds, 16-year-old Justin Bieber has taken the music community by storm (not to mention many teen and preteen girls). So much so, Paramount Studios has given young Bieber his own movie, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”
The concert bio opened in theaters Feb. 11, giving viewers a rare inside look at the rise of Bieber from street performer in the small town of Stratford, Ontario, to internet phenomenon to global superstar culminating with a sold-out show in 3-D at Madison Square Garden.
I recently spoke with Bieber’s mother, Pattie Mallette, who is, like her son, a professing Christian.
Pattie’s own witness is touching. She had experienced sexual abuse as a little girl and found herself in a broken, tense home. To deal with her bottled-up pain, she turned to alcohol and drug abuse at the age of 14 and left home at 15, entering into emotionally unhealthy relationships. Finally, she attempted suicide, but was spared and ended up in a mental hospital.
A man from a youth center was one of her few visitors. His name is John and he visited her often, and each time they talked about God and life, and he relayed God’s love and concern for her. At first, Mallette resisted a spiritual awakening, but finally opened her heart to Christ. She spoke to Jesus, asking that if He was real, He would forgive her and come into her heart.
This opened our conversation.
BOATWRIGHT: Where is home?
MALLETTE: Our family and friends are in Canada and our stuff is in Atlanta. Right now, we pretty much live on the road.
BOATWRIGHT: When did Justin make his decision of faith?
MALLETTE: He was really young, around 5 or 6 . . . I told him it was his decision. He couldn’t make it because of Mommy. It has to be because of your own heart. And he kept telling me that he understood. And when he was 8 or 9, he wanted to be baptized. So, I let him.
BOATWRIGHT: I assume it’s difficult to attend church on a regular basis with your schedule.
MALLETTE: It’s impossible. We do have a church in Atlanta and . . . when we can, we go on Sunday mornings wherever we are. And there are some churches that have live streaming webcasts that we watch and pray through.
BOATWRIGHT: What’s the most difficult aspect of this new celebrity?
MALLETTE: The pressure—for both of us. Justin is under a tremendous amount of pressure as a role model to an entire generation. So many kids are looking to him. As teenagers, we all make mistakes. Fortunately and unfortunately, he’s in the public eye.
BOATWRIGHT: And the best part?
MALLETTE: Favor with people. Freedom to be able to travel. We feel like we’re on this incredible journey. We’re so incredibly blessed.
BOATWRIGHT: You’re a single mom.
MALLETTE: I was never married. I came to the Lord when I was 17, but shortly after accepting Christ, I went back to making my own decisions and got pregnant. Realizing what I had done, I came back to God wholeheartedly, begging Him to forgive me. It’s really an incredible testimony of God’s mercy and grace. And the genuine love of people at the church who encouraged me.
BOATWRIGHT: Does Justin have a father figure in his life?
MALLETTE: (Quick to respond) Oh, his dad is a part of his life. He doesn’t travel with us and he’s not with us all the time, but his dad’s in his life. They talk on a regular basis and he visits when he can.
BOATWRIGHT: How do you keep your son grounded?
MALLETTE: Through prayer. By surrounding him with good people, people who will hold him accountable, and by constantly reminding him that he’s here for a reason. “To whom much is given, much is required.” So, we just have to keep him lifted up in prayer.
BOATWRIGHT: I understand that there are prayer groups who pray for him, daily.
MALLETTE: As a mother, that is so good to hear, because prayer is so powerful.
MALLETTE: Do other celebrities give you or Justin advice concerning the pitfalls of fame?
MALLETTE: It’s a small community. There aren’t many people who go through what celebrities go through. We find many of them have made themselves available and accommodating, as we do now for others.
BOATWRIGHT: Speaking of others in the media spotlight, there are some, like Miley Cyrus, who, while having professed a relationship with Christ, seem to have been seduced by the trappings of their pop fame.
MALLETTE: I absolutely love Miley Cyrus. And I think that, unfortunately, as Christians, we sometimes kick our brothers and sisters when they are down. We need, in this time more than ever, to lift them up in prayer. They are a mouthpiece for a generation. Let’s pray for them, let’s encourage them. Let’s spur them on to the Lord. Let’s stop judging them and casting them out. You know, God has a plan, but so does Satan and he wants to take us out. It says that he comes to kill and destroy. So it’s important for us to be protective of our own. We need to pray for Christians and non-Christians in the spotlight.
Phil Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad, available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org and