Culture

Justin Bieber’s GQ Interview: 10 things that blew me away

by Jewel Yu // April 20, 2021, 5:04 pm

Justin Bieber Redemption

All images taken from GQ.

What if you woke up one day to the realisation that you’ve turned into a person you don’t want to be?

Many of us know the story of how Justin Bieber rose to fame as a teenager. First scouted in 2007, Bieber’s debut EP was a record-breaking hit. It threw him into massive stardom as he became one of the most famous celebrities in the world.

He was only 15. But fame, especially at a young age, comes with a price. For one, the freedom he used to know was gone.

Speaking in an interview with GQ, Bieber said: “I was working so much as this young kid that I got really sad, and I missed my friends and I missed normalcy.”

Freedom was not the only price that Bieber had to pay, however.

The period between 19 to 21 years old was a dark period for the young singer.

It involved a range of distasteful and sometimes dangerous activity. As a result, Bieber went from being one of the most loved personalities in the world to one of the most hated.

At that point, he neither recognised himself nor liked the person he had become. Little did anyone know, however, but something remarkable was also beginning to happen in Bieber’s life at that moment.

Now six years on, the 27-year-old superstar is speaking out about his newfound purpose. Here are 10 things from Bieber’s iconic interview that blew me away.

1. “What is this worth if I’m still feeling empty inside?”

Bieber’s massive popularity meant that he had a lot of influence and a lot of money. It had always been his dream to become one of the most popular singers in the world, and he had achieved it.

Yet, there was still a sense that there had to be something more to life.

I had all this success and… I’m still sad. I’m still in pain.

“It was like I had all this success and it was still like: I’m still sad, and I’m still in pain. And I still have these unresolved issues,” said the Canadian singer. 

That made him think: What is this worth if I’m still feeling empty inside?

2. “Hurt people hurt others”

Now married to Hailey Baldwin Bieber, an American model and media personality, Bieber has found stability in his life through his faith in God.

Asked about his past, Bieber explained, “Hurt people hurt people — you know? And there’s a quote; I’m trying to remember it. I don’t know if it’s biblical, if it’s in the Bible.”

“But I do remember this quote: The comforted become the comforters. I don’t know if you’ve heard that before. But I really do feel comforted. I have a wife who I adore, who I feel comforted by. I feel safe. I feel like my relationship with God is wonderful. And I have this outpouring of love that I want to be able to share with people, you know?”

Bieber grows up: Highlights from Justin’s YouTube docuseries, Seasons

The world was merciless in judging Bieber. Many disliked him because of his actions, but few had considered that Bieber was acting out of his own hurt.

Hurt people hurt others. The comforted become the comforters. It’s simple, yet profound.

3. Justin Bieber is a changed man

Bieber isn’t the same person he used to be — the one that the world hated at least.

Zach Baron, GQ’s senior staff writer, noted: “Justin Bieber and I have just met when I ask him something and he talks and talks—for ten illuminating and uninterrupted minutes he talks. He talks about God and faith and castles in Ireland, about shame and drugs and marriage.”

“He talks about what it is to feel empty inside, and what it is to feel full.”

Justin Bieber: How a bad boy became good

While Baron had expected an interview with someone more “monosyllabic”, “distracted” and “unhappy”, he found himself instead speaking with a young man “bursting with the desire to connect, to tell his own story, in case it might be of use to anyone else.”

Bieber has found who he really was meant to be, and his dark times make his transformation all the more astounding.

4. “Have to” versus “want to”

Bieber also shared the value of differentiating between “have to” and “want to”.

Bieber’s popularity meant that life had been largely shaped by things that he had to do, rather than the things he wanted to do. He ended up living with burdens that were too heavy to carry, and eventually needed to rethink his priorities.

Fair warning: this doesn’t mean we should give in to all our whims and fancies.

The way forward is found in asking God to show us what we need to change in our lives, and help us to prioritise what is truly important.  

5. The secret is Jesus

Bieber’s friend, Chance the Rapper, told GQ why both of them “seem so happy in an industry that tends to grind people to dust”.

“Both of us, our secret sauce is Jesus,” the three-time Grammy Award winner revealed. “Justin doesn’t fake the funk. He goes to Jesus with his problems, he goes to Jesus with his successes. He calls me just to talk about Jesus.”

6. The simple things matter

Riches and fame don’t satisfy our need for love. In the interview, Bieber talked about his desire for a happy family.

“My whole life, I had a broken family,” he said. “And so I was just attracted to a family that eats dinners together, laughs together, talks together.”

Reading this was a revelation to me. I think we sometimes see celebrities as superhuman. We look up to them because they are talented and well-groomed. We think they have it all.

But really, they are just humans with deep and personal struggles just like ourselves. I was reminded of the need to cherish my family — not to take it for granted just because I’ve always perceived it as normal.

7. “I am still worthy of helping”

If we’re not careful, our past can dictate our future and prevent us from living the fullest life.

Bieber’s mistakes were a weight on his shoulders that had prevented him from doing good for a long time.

Bieber on a Mumbai bus

That was until he decided, “I don’t want to let my shame of my past dictate what I’m able to do now for people.”

“A lot of people let their past weigh them down, and they never do what they want to do because they think that they’re not good enough. But I’m just like: ‘I did a bunch of stupid s***. That’s okay. I’m still available. I’m still available to help. And I’m still worthy of helping.’”

That is the power of the gospel. It’s not about who you were in life, it’s about who you are in Christ! 

8. “How can I be of service?”

Certainly, Bieber hadn’t always been a kind and loving person.

However, he now sees himself as a comforter, partly because he was the one in need of comfort for a very long time and had received it.

Now, he frequently asks himself: How can I be of service?

It’s not about who you were in life, it’s about who you are in Christ! 

Bieber’s new music, the inspirational messages he posts on Instagram, and the work he does with the underprivileged bear testament to his desire to make a change.

It’s incredible when a person of influence decides to help others, especially from a heart of sincerity. A transformation from not caring to being concerned and engaged — that speaks to people’s hearts.

I, for one, am inspired by his humility and heart for helping others.

9. “If God put these desires in my heart, then I’m going to trust Him”

The 27-year-old continued: “I came to a place where I just was like, ‘God, if you’re real, I need you to help me, because I can’t do this on my own. Like, I’m struggling so hard. Every decision I make is out of my own selfish ego.’

“So I’m just like, ‘What is it that you want from me? You put all these desires in my heart for me to sing and perform and to make music — where are these coming from? Why is this in my heart? What do you want me to do with it? What’s the point? What is the point of everything? What is the point of me being on this planet?’ ”

I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I believe that God wants me to do. And there’s nothing more fulfilling.

Hard questions. But Bieber received his answer through a certainty that grew in his heart. “If God forgives me and He loves me and He set these things in motion, if He put these desires in my heart, then I’m going to trust Him.”

His mentoring pastor Judah Smith helped him make sense of his relationship with God, showing him what God could be for him, and what he could be for God.

“It’s just rewarding to be all that you were designed to be,” reflected Bieber. “And I believe that, at this point in my life, I’m right where I’m supposed to be, doing what I believe that God wants me to do. And there’s nothing more fulfilling.”

10. “I am who I am, not what I do.”

It’s easy to forget that we are who we are, rather than what we do. That means our value lies not in the things we are capable of and have achieved, but in who we are as a person — as a child of God.

This was Bieber’s realisation, and it helped him reorganise the way he spent his time. Today, he tries not to work after 6 pm; he has a routine, rules and boundaries in place.

As I finished reading the GQ interview, I was left amazed by how far Bieber has come. He had fallen so low in life, but then rose so much higher because of what God did in him.

To be sure, Bieber’s life in the coming years won’t be perfect, but I believe that God will continue to use him as a force for good.

And that is why I think Justin Bieber is going to be just okay. 

THINK + TALK

  1. How do you think you would have fared if you were in Justin Bieber’s shoes?
  2. Which of the 10 points did you resonate most with? Why? 
  3. Know someone who is going through a transformation like Bieber’s or could use one? Send this over to them this week, along with a word of encouragement. 🙂
About the author

Jewel Yu

Jewel Yu is a communications and new media undergraduate at the National University of Singapore. She is an adventurer and avid lover of nature, and hopes to travel the world with her guitar, friends and family.