At 18, Justin Bieber is the age that his mother was when he was born.
“I didn’t expect this life for him,” the pop star’s mom, Pattie Mallette, told us during an interview at the downtown Atlanta Ritz-Carlton last week. “I think he’s made a lot of great decisions.”
Mallette signed copies of her powerful new memoir, “Nowhere but Up,” on Saturday at the Alpharetta Barnes and Noble. We have done a random drawing to select the winner of a signed copy of the book. Thanks to all who entered!
In the book Mallette shares painful secrets from her past. Her father abandoned the family. She was sexually abused by a number of perpetrators she identifies as people close to her circle of family and friends. Her sister died in a tragic accident before Mallette was born, casting a pall over her home.
“It took a lot for me to get to the place I’m at now,” Mallette said. “It’s been a long road.”
The longing she felt for her absent father and the psychological damage wrought by her abusers left Mallette with shattered self-esteem as an adolescent. She experimented with drugs, skipped school and shoplifted for fun with her friends. And although she was taking birth control pills, she became pregnant.
“We lived below the poverty level,” Mallette said of the early days of young single motherhood. “We were on public assistance. Justin and I would go out for dinner. We would share a meal and I would have water. Justin always said he didn’t know we were poor, but he’s always going to appreciate what he has. When we first moved to Atlanta to get his career started, he had me among other people telling him, ‘Don’t forget where you came from.’”
“Nowhere but Up,” written with A.J. Gregory, touches on the now-familiar story of Bieber’s path to fame. His mom posted YouTube videos of him performing at a talent contest so his grandmother could see them. The videos quickly went viral, and before long Scooter Braun had flown Bieber and his mom to Atlanta to sign the young star. But most of Mallette’s book deals with her own journey, from a child too afraid to stand up to her abusers to a young woman confident enough to share her past with the world.
“When you’re a child and you’re going through something as horrific as sexual abuse, you’re going through fear and confusion,” she said. “Once I found my voice, I wanted to prevent others from going through that sort of thing. My faith has been a huge part of my confidence and my growth. I feel like I can’t survive without my faith. God has just given me so much favor. I see him working through my life in so many ways.”
Mallette and her famous son get back to Atlanta occasionally, although his travel schedule keeps them away from their adopted Southern hometown much of the time.
“I miss it,” said Mallette, looking wistfully out onto Peachtree Street from the balcony of The Atlanta Grill, the restaurant at the Atlanta Ritz-Carlton. “I love the people. I love the Southern hospitality.”
Although her teenager is arguably the world’s most famous, he’s still her baby.
“He steps on stage as Justin Bieber the performer. He steps off stage as Justin Bieber the kid,” said Mallette, who once dreamed her son would become a youth minister. “Justin will always be Justin to me. I’m always Mama.”