By: Anne M. Raso
Justin Bieber’s 38-year-old mom Pattie Mallette—a dead ringer for Sheryl Crow-- was just 17 when she got pregnant with Justin and now wants to share her turbulent journey with teenagers around the world who might find themselves in the same boat via her book Nowhere But Up: The Story of Justin Bieber's Mom (Teen Edition) with co-author A.J. Gregory. The original book for adults came out in September 2012 but this new edition for teens includes “discussion suggestions” and sidebars that are of interest to the younger set. Pattie is often asked advice from Justin’s fans that encounter her, so it’s a natural that she do a book in this format. She is always happy to dole out advice.
Nowhere But Up is the heartbreaking but also heartwarming story of a woman who overcame drugs and alcohol, went on public assistance, found spirituality and raised a loving son pretty much on her own. Pattie also candidly discusses her suicide attempt, how she was driven to raise a fine young man without totally losing herself in the process. Justin himself wrote the forward on the book calling Pattie “the strongest woman he ever met.” Pattie told us that she cried when she first read her song’s forward, and we enjoyed talking to her! Nowhere But Up (Teen Edition) was released by Revell Publishing On July 1st and is available on amazon.com.
Hi Pattie, congratulations on the book. I have been reading all the literature on it and I guess the most obvious question is why did you decide to write it now?
Well, I have been sharing my story for years—even before Justin started his career—so I just felt that now was finally the time to put it on paper and I just feel like I have a story to tell. There are a lot of things I have been through that I just feel like a lot of other people can relate to, especially from my teen years. I just want people to feel that if I can get through it, they can too.
Justin did the forward to the book, which has me really intrigued. Did you like what he said? Did you go back and edit it? How was your reaction to it initially?
Oh, you know, I was moved and I was very happy with it. Just to see Justin say “she was the strongest woman that I ever met” was great to hear as a mom, you know.
Do you have anything else going on besides your book? Do you have your hands in different businesses? What is your everyday activities or work that you do?
I am doing a bunch of things right now. I am producing a few movies and I am getting my foundation up and running. I am hopefully going to have the website up in the next couple of weeks. I am meeting with a couple of girls starting tomorrow and doing some mentoring with them. I will be going through my book with them and sharing their stories. I am very busy doing all kinds of stuff.
I have to say that I love the picture of you and Justin onstage in Johannesburg on Mother’s Day where he is kissing you on the cheek and you are holding a bunch of roses. That is one of the best mother-son photos of all time so I hope that you have it framed somewhere. I am curious about the story behind it. Were you just on the road with him in Johannesburg? Did you go down there because it was a place you had never been?
I went down there to see him for Mother’s Day. We went on a safari together and then I went to his show on Mother’s Day. He surprised me. I had no idea he was going to pull me up (onstage). Every show, he does “One Less Lonely Girl” where he pulls somebody up from the audience and he sings to them. So he surprised me and he brought me up and he sang to me. (Laughs.)
Now I assume this website you are setting up is partially to promote the book but I also assume that it is interactive. Are you having contests like where girls win the chance to have tea or meet up with you? Can you discuss that a little more?
Well we are just putting things together right now but the website is actually not about the book—it is about Round 2, the foundation that I am running. But we are talking about putting together some sort of campaign and having the girls send in some of their stories—and I am hoping to meet up with some of them. We are not sure how it is all going to work yet. We are figuring some of that stuff out this week. I am hoping to integrate some of that (into the site).
Now, I need to know if what I read is true—are you the next Bachelorette on the show of the same name?
No, no! That was a joke that I tweeted online. I love the show The Bachelor and so I tweeted about I would love to be the next Bachelorette. I was just joking. I would never do that. Then everyone picked it up and started printing it—and it was kind of funny.
What issues did you deal with yourself growing up that you wrote about it the book?
I talk a little bit about parental abandonment. I talk about some sexual abuse, some things that I have been through. I tell my story because I know that so many people can relate to portions of my story. I talk about being a product of divorce. I had some bullying happen to me in grade school and talk about the effect that had on me and my self-esteem. At 17, after all the abuse and trauma in my life, I ended up getting into drugs and all and ultimately, at 17, I attempted to take my own life. So I talk about my suicide attempt, my depression and all that kind of stuff.
I read that you had emptiness in your life because you lost your father at a young age. Would you say that this was the root of a lot of these things that happened to you?
I definitely think that the absence of my father played a huge role in why a lot of the other things happened to me and how I responded. Definitely.
I know you were a busy single mother but were there any interesting careers or odd jobs you had along the way?
When I was pregnant with Justin, I lived in a teen pregnancy crisis center so I lived in a shelter with a bunch of other pregnant teenagers so that was an interesting story in itself. After that, I was living on social assistance and sometimes working two or three jobs just to put food on the table. Eventually I was able to do some schooling through some government programs and I wound up doing some website designs and computer training. So I was teaching computer classes and I was doing some website design and that was near the end before we ended up moving to the US.
I read that you were able to have Justin, and then go back and get your GED and then teach web design.
That is sort of what the official story is.
The way I got my high school diploma was really through the kindness of a neighbor/friend who decided he wanted to see me graduate high school. He paid for an entire year of day care so that I could go back to school and graduate.
That is really nice. Have you stayed living in the same general area of London, Ontario that you were from all these years? Or do you live in the US now?
I was born and raised in Stratford, Ontario, and when Justin started his career, we moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and now we live in Los Angeles.
You have been described as a very strong person and obviously you are if you have been through all this and have emerged victorious and happy. So I am kind of wondering what kept you going through all these different things you went through?
What gave me the strength I needed was a combination of people in my life whom I surrounded myself with and reached out to and my faith. My faith plays a huge role in my strength. We have this little campaign we are starting with Round 2 called “Find A Mentor Or Be A Mentor.” So we are really encouraging people to reach out for advice and also give it.
Now this book was originally published last year by a Canadian Christian publisher...but this is the teen girl version of the book so what did you change? I assume that the sidebars on different teen interests are new but what else was changed in the story?
The original version was published last year, actually in the US. Now the teen version is different because some of the content is really intense (in the original book). We were able to take some of it and make it more teen friendly. I would not recommend the original book that I wrote for anyone under the age of 14 or 15 to read. I wanted to make a version where younger readers could read the real story but have it more relatable and digestible.
Where are you going to be promoting the book? I hear that you are doing a full book tour in July. Are you doing signings so people can meet you?
We are putting the routing together right now. We will be visiting a lot of cities but I am not sure how many. It is quite a bit of cities. So I am going to be doing a big book tour with signings and some speaking.
You tweet a lot and you are also on FB. Do you do all that yourself or do you have a staff and tell them what to put up?
I do all my own tweeting. Sometimes I will work with my management and they will give me some ideas but I do all my own tweeting.
This is a general question. What are your goals and as an author…and just as a professional in different fields right now?
I really want to make a difference. I know what it is like to live in depression, anxiety and fear from terrible circumstances and my message is that there is hope and that you don’t have to stay there—and there is healing. And so I really want to be able to help make a difference.
As a mom, are there certain sorts of music or music videos or clothing that you do not think is appropriate for teenagers? Do you ever hear a rap song and say, “kids shouldn’t be listening to that”? Are you conservative a bit like that?
Yeah, I definitely think that is I was doing one on one mentoring and if someone asked me what I thought about certain types of music, I have my opinions and it is important what kind of messages the songs have.
Who inspired you to be a good mother?
I think that I was so determined to prove everyone wrong since I can from such a rebellious teenage life. I made motherhood my primary focus and wanted to prove everybody wrong about me.
Nowhere But Up (Teen Edition) was released by Revell Publishing on July 1st and is available on amazon.com. Photo: Revel Publishing