The Upside of Being Justin Bieber
The bad news is a 19-year-old male was arrested for drunken driving in Miami Beach, Florida, on Thursday. The good news is the 19-year-old male was Justin Bieber.
For all the downsides there may be to growing up in the spotlight as a teen idol or child performer, there are plenty of upsides, too. For one thing, the numbers are definitely in your favor. If the day of the Bieber incident was an average day in the United States, then, per federal government data, there were about 3,300 DUI arrests nationwide. Of those, approximately 3,299, or 99.997 percent, did not involve Grammy-nominated prodigies.
[Related: Justin Bieber's Bust]
This particular stat is of no comfort to Bieber because he, in fact, did represent the .0003 percent of the day's noted DUI cases. But on the plus side, the pop star's Forbes-estimated career earnings of $58 million teamed with his apparent means to rent a yellow Lamborghini Spyder suggest he'll be able to shoulder the estimated $8,000 in costs associated with a first-offense DUI arrest in Florida. This is not snark; it is fact. (Bieber faces other charges, as well, so his checkbook will be hit harder, but should survive.)
At the end of the bad PR day, Bieber got in trouble, but not catastrophically so — nobody was hurt, nobody died. He has the wherewithal to settle the financial end of things ... but that's not all! He has yet more numbers in his favor. An oft-cited Wayne State University survey of former child TV and film actors, published in the 1990s, found that nearly nine in 10 participants scored "in the normal range or better" for emotional and behavioral coping. In theory then, Bieber, who acted like a knucklehead on Thursday, should have the skills for turning things around.
Some of those skills he might have even picked up because he's already a veteran of his industry, a singer discovered on YouTube, and signed to a management deal at age 13.
[Related: A Timeline of Trouble Leading Up to Justin Bieber's Arrest]
"[You've] already worked in a very professional environment ... you just gain a maturity," says Paula Dorn, co-founder of the nonprofit child-performer advocacy group BizParentz Foundation, of some of the advantages for a child working in the entertainment industry. Dorn's son, Patrick Dorn, acted as a child, appearing, among other things, on the small-screen soap "The Bold and the Beautiful."
Dorn describes her son's and family's experience as a positive one. "It was very fun," she notes. "We had the opportunity to do a lot of fun and unique things. Fred Savage, Jodie Foster, Emma Watson, and other former child stars parlayed unique resumes (along with, presumably, solid academic transcripts) into admission to elite universities. ( Stanford for Savage; Yale for Foster; Brown for Watson.)
Former teen idols such as Paul Anka, Shaun Cassidy, and Justin Timberlake used early success as springboards to longstanding careers: Anka as a singer-songwriter, Cassidy as a TV writer-producer, Timberlake as a multi-hyphenate brand. These are but a handful of examples of child performers gone good, so to speak. And there are scores more. BizParentz has compiled a list of more than 100 high-profile standouts for its so-called A+ List, noting everyone from Oscar-winner Ben Affleck to "Lord of the Rings" star Elijah Wood.
Laura Campbell, an education counselor who works with child performers via Looking Ahead, an outreach and intervention program run by the Actors Fund, says the families that go through the Hollywood grind and remain the healthiest are the ones where there's a high level of parental involvement, the ones, she says, where "the parents are parents first." The Bieber case points to the opposite of this scenario: There are reports that on the night of the Bieber arrest, Bieber's father, Jeremy Bieber, 38, acted more as an enabler than a parent, helping block off a street so his son and his rented Lamborghini could drag race.
[Related: What's the Deal With Justin Bieber's Dad?]
But if Bieber is a coddled enfant terrible, then there's an upside to that, too, or at least there's a proven path to continued success: Putting out a product people want to buy. Chris Brown, another former teen idol, thrives on the charts, when he's not in a courtroom, despite having been convicted in 2009 of assault on his former girlfriend Rihanna.
For the typical 19-year-old male, Thursday's arrest would be nothing but bad news. For the atypical 19-year-old Bieber, it's a bad-news cycle.