"Around the house we always had music," Justin Bieber's mother, author Pattie Mallette told us in a back room at Books and Books in Coral Gables. She'd just arrived from the Women of Faith event in Fort Lauderdale. "I would sing and play the guitar and have people over. And he would join up and bring the djembe and start playing along with us."
Mallette, who sang in the choir, danced, and acted growing up, says her and her superstar son share the arts in common. But most recently, she's entered the spotlight as an author of a mémoire Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber's Mom. A single mom who'd had a rough childhood, she says she works to, "inspire people to get through their own journey."
Mallette admitted, "I think a lot of people don't know that I lived in a pregnancy home the whole time I had Justin."
"That was really challenging living there with a bunch of hormonal pregnant teenagers. When I got out, I was on social assistance, I worked two or three jobs to try and put food on the table. Stood in food bank lines." Bieber would, she says, call her a strict parent. "I was definitely at times overprotective because I'd been through so much in my life, and I really didn't want him to have to go through anything that I had to."
Her parents weren't at all strict with her. Mallette says, "I think you can either go two ways. You can either do the exact same thing as your parents did or you can go the complete opposite. I mean there is a middle ground. But I think that I really wanted to be protective. In some ways, I feel I was overprotective. He's turned out great so far," she laughs.
The author also didn't grown up religiously, but after a suicide attempt at 17, in a dark moment, she cried out for help. "I had an encounter I could never deny. Since then, I've been trying to seek and see what that's been all about," she reveals. "My faith has been an integral part of my story of who I am. I talk about it a bit in my book. It's been a messy faith, not so neat and tidy in a bow."
But what, it seems, did come more smoothly was music. A country music and Rascal Flatts fan, Mallette is really into Boys II Men. "It never gets old," she says, "I used to listen to Boys II Men on repeat when he was in my belly, and when he was growing up, he used to listen to them on repeat too, and practice the runs and the riffs, and he credits them with learning how to sing."
As a teenager, she listened to artists like Tracy Chapman, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath. "I was in that whole party life," she says. We asked Tracy Chapman? The party life? "It definitely wasn't Debbie Gibson," she concluded.
When questioned about her son's tunes, she says she favors his acoustic stuff, "from the Believe album. 'As Long as You Love Me' and 'Boyfriend' are my favorite from that album. But my all time favorite has to be the song 'Turn to You,' that he wrote for me on my birthday that was released on Mother's Day." We asked if there was anything he's put out that's horrified her, she laughed, "No! Thankfully! I haven't had at experience yet."
She has, though, experienced what it's like to now be in the spotlight as apposed to the shadows thanks to her new book. "It's been a whirlwind," she admits, "I just remember why I'm doing this. I'm here to help people who've been through similar things."
Her advice to young, single moms? "Use the resources available. You don't have to do it alone. And don't give up." Pretty solid. She adds of her book, "It's not a story about how to have a pop star for a son. It's a story of my life."
Justin wrote the forward to book, through in which he tells the world that, "'I believe this is a story that needs to be told. I believe my mom is the strongest woman I've ever met,'" she relates, "I've been sharing my story since before he started his career. So, he's seen the difference it makes in lives, so he's behind me." One of the lives she's changed was that of her foster daughter. Before spending a year with Mallette, she wouldn't stay in a home more than three months and wouldn't go to school. Now, she's doing well, married with three children.
As far as whether or not she sees Bieber frequently, "I'm going to see him tomorrow." she says excitedly, "and travel with him a little bit." A recent Rolling Stone article on the singer revealed how vulnerable he is in so many ways. "I used to worry a little more than I do now. He's made some really good decisions. I'm just going to pray that he continues to make them. He's got really great people around him that I know and trust. So I always know who he's with, what his day shoot is, where he is, what he's doing."
As far as internet drivel, she admits, "It's scary sometimes. People can be mean and everyone can be a critic. People think that cause you're in the spotlight that you don't have feelings and that you're not a real human being. You just have to get thick-skinned." That, and realize who matters and what it is that you believe in yourself.
What it comes down to for Mallette, in the midst of all of this good and bad: "When I feel out of control, I know God isn't."
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!