Justin Bieber Reveals Will Smith Counsels Him Weekly in Rare, Raw Interview
In his first in-depth sit-down in nine months, the embattled boy wonder tells The Hollywood Reporter that he doesn't "give a f---" about the haters. Says longtime manager Scooter Braun, "He has to be allowed to make his own decisions -- and mistakes."
Of course, Hanson came to prominence at a time when hyper-celebrity didn't yet exist -- the omnipotence of YouTube a good decade away. And even at its height, the group likely would have struggled to reach Bieber's clout of 46.6 million Twitter followers and 57 million Facebook likes.
Bieber, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes to be $130 million, also has surpassed his predecessors in using his influence outside of the music sphere -- no doubt steered by Braun -- by donating about $13 million to charity (included in that total: one dollar from every ticket sold for two world tours) and investing his earnings in high-tech companies like Spotify and the iPhone app Stamped.
Braun, too, has jumped headfirst into forays like tech, creating a reported $120 million investment fund with Drake, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Shania Twain manager Jason Owen and former Lady Gaga manager Troy Carter. A multimillionaire who boasts an 8,000-square-foot glass-walled property in the Hollywood Hills and is in the market for a New York City pied-a-terre (Brooklyn: not an option), Braun has built his business into a 26-staff operation that's quickly outgrowing its Beverly Hills office. He counts more than 10 clients these days, including The Wanted, pop newcomer Ariana Grande (who scored a No. 1 album with her August debut, Yours Truly) and K-Pop sensation Psy, and has become among the music industry's most-talked-about players, amassing more than 3.3 million Twitter followers.
You'd be hard-pressed to find many music insiders who openly would disparage Braun as most find themselves charmed by the Greenwich, Conn., native -- who made his name as a party promoter while attending Atlanta's Emory University (he didn't graduate), then moved on to a marketing position at Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Records -- or in business with him. One such peer, who wished to remain anonymous on the chance of future work with Braun, vocalizes what many in the industry secretly think: that "there's something inherently wrong with a manager who wants to be as famous as his artist."
Indeed, you'd have to go back to the days of David Geffen, label head and former manager of Joni Mitchell, The Eagles and Cher, for the last time a music executive had recognition not just beyond the biz but on such a global scale. Not coincidentally, Geffen happens to be Braun's idol, and the 2000 book The Operator: David Geffen Builds, Buys, and Sells the New Hollywood, an unauthorized account of the mogul's heady days, is Braun's bible, as it were.
Speaking to THR.com in 2010, Braun described Geffen (along with Katzenberg, Richard Branson, Barry Diller and Steven Spielberg) as one of his "heroes" but warned of the less honorable executives working in the industry. "It doesn't matter if you're in the music business, the dental business or movies, you're going to have great people and bullshit people."
You hope to work with the former, but in Bieber's case, he often is dealing with the latter. Through "just living," Bieber says he's learned "you shouldn't trust anybody." With few exceptions: "I trust my mom and dad. I trust Scooter with my career; he's always made sure I'm taken care of." Bieber pauses, then adds, "That's it."
"I was going for a modern Boyz II Men sound," says Bieber, back at the photo studio cueing up "PYD" for the fourth time. In a moment, he'll hop from the makeup chair to sing a sweet falsetto and practice some moves along to his music while checking himself out in the mirror. "I'm really influenced by R&B, but I love everybody -- from Michael Jackson to The Beatles to, like, Led Zeppelin and Korn."
For his age, Bieber surprisingly is well versed in the sounds that came before him. "Michael Jackson didn't do Off the Wall until he was about 23," he says of the King of Pop's breakout 1979 solo album. "Bad, not until he was, like, 25 [Jackson was 29]. I have all the time in the world," he declares of his future seminal third album. Braun completes the thought: "Justin's Thriller is yet to come."