“It’s a Canada goose!” I am sitting next to Justin Bieber in his hotel room at The Setai Fifth Avenue in New York City. He pulls out a mint black iPhone 5 from his pocket, and after seeing my surprised look, he excitedly explains its lock screen. You’d think the image on the nineteen-year-old megastar’s iPhone would be, say, a snap of him and his buddy Drake, a street shot of Harajuku (Justin’s favorite tour stop is Japan), or a beautiful (one less lonely) girl. But no—it’s a simple illustration of the brown- and black-feathered bird that reminds him of his humble beginnings in Stratford, Ontario. Population: 32,000.
Home seems far away when you are sky-high in a hotel above the bustling streets of Manhattan. No one knows he’s here … yet. Perhaps because it’s nearly impossible (and illegal) to park his gigantic black tour bus—complete with purple fluorescent under-lighting— outside on Fifth Avenue (Beliebers can recognize his bus from a mile away). In town to host Saturday Night Live, he’s just arrived from Miami, where, Justin reveals, he filmed a concert movie—a sequel of sorts to Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. “I’m on no sleep,” he admits, but he’s in high spirits, embracing me enthusiastically, as if I were a member of his crew, before we sit down to chat. The first thing I notice is he smells great; it’s almost distracting. (I later found out Le Labo Santal 33 is his signature scent.) Justin is comfy this morning, dressed in baggy gray sweatpants, a snapback Brooklyn Nets cap, and a tight white tank top cut low enough so that his newish tattoo, inked Roman numerals, peeks out just beneath his collarbone (it’s dedicated to his mother, Pattie Mallette, and signifies her birthday). You could almost mistake him for a normal teenager if it weren’t for a not-so-small accessory: a massive gold Rolex with a diamond face.
Despite the superstar bling, Justin is surprisingly low-key. He doesn’t have a personal assistant doting on him. For his Teen Vogue cover shoot, there was no rider and only one request: 50 Cent’s Vitaminwater, Formula 50 (“the purple one”). While he spends most of his life living in hotels, he isn’t picky about where he stays, having acquired room keys everywhere from the Four Seasons to the Radisson. On his current Believe tour, he’ll visit four continents and more than 70 cities this year, with even more shows to be scheduled. I comment that he’ll be in Europe soon. “I’m there the same time as Lil Wayne!” he blurts out in excitement. “That’s pretty cool. I’m probably going to one of his shows.” (Our interview took place before Lil Wayne’s tour was postponed.) It seems big stars are still allowed to be big fans.