Pattie Mallette propelled Justin Bieber to stardom, and she got a few moments in the spotlight at Sunday’s American Music Awards when her son brought her on stage to accept his Artist of the Year trophy. “I want to thank you for everything,” he said. “It’s hard to grow up with everyone watching me.”
But Mallette’s transitioned to life under the microscope pretty seamlessly. In interviews, the 38-year-old single mom has revealed how she tries to keep her son grounded, and she’s written a book about her own life, “Nowhere but Up.” Read on for five things to know about the mom of today’s most major pop music sensation:
1. She put him on YouTube. Bieber fans know this story by heart, but it’s worth repeating for the uninitiated. Mallette launched her son’s career by uploading videos of him singing R&B hits to YouTube. ”I put up a little video on YouTube for Grandma and some relatives to see, and the next thing we knew, all these strangers were clicking onto it, probably because they recognized the song,” Mallette told Vanity Fair in 2011. ”It was ‘Oh look, honey, you have a hundred views,’ Then ‘Oh wow, a thousand views.’… Next thing we knew, thousands and thousands of views. But it never once occurred to me that there would be a music career out of this.”
2. She was encouraged to have an abortion. Mallette was 17 when she got pregnant. She never married Bieber’s father, on-and-off boyfriend Jeremy Jack Bieber, and in her book “Nowhere but Up,” she writes that people around her pressured her to terminate her pregnancy. “I knew that I had to do what it took,” she writes. “I just couldn’t abort him.” She and Bieber’s father have remained friends for the sake of their son.
3. She was abused as a child. Mallette also chronicles years of childhood abuse in her book. She writes that she was about 3 when she was first sexually abused by someone she knew. ”I was sexually violated so many times that as the years went by it began to feel normal,” she writes. “It’s a strange marriage – knowing something is wrong yet at the same time finding it familiar and commonplace.” Mallette doesn’t identify her molesters, but calls out to them in the acknowledgments of her book, writing “To my abusers: I forgive you.”
4. She abused drugs and alcohol. The rampant abuse and “void of having a father in my heart” — an alcoholic himself, he abandoned Mallette’s family when she was 2 — drove her to alcohol and drugs. She writes that she smoked pot and did LSD before leaving home at 16 to dabble in drug dealing. At 17, she threw herself in front of a truck and ended up in a mental ward, which led her to seek comfort in Christianity.
5. She and Bieber spent his first years in poverty. “We lived below the poverty level,” Mallette told the Atlanta Journal Constitution of her early days as Bieber’s mom. “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.’”
Mallette eventually earned her high school degree, got college training in website design, and earned enough cash for Bieber to nurture his growing interest in playing the drums, guitar, and singing.
6. She’s shared her past with Bieber. Mallette first told her son about her troubled upbringing when he was 12. “I felt like he was old enough, mature enough to hear my story, and, you know, talk about it,” Mallette said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I feel like it’s really important for us to talk, and I’ve always asked him a lot of questions and always tried to protect him from going through the same sort of thing.”
7. She’s ready to start dating again. Mallette promised Bieber that she wouldn’t date again until he turned 18. Now, she’s ready, and she told the AP that Bieber will have a say over who she brings home. ”I think he’s going to be a tough one to please,” she said. “He’s pretty protective, but yeah, definitely, he would have to approve.”