Thanks to Justin Bieber’s recent choices, I am seconds from parlaying my career from writer to Baby Biebs life coach in a desperate attempt to make him see the light.
Last week, our prodigal pop son went nude in an attempt to re-birth himself (as far as I’m concerned). The week before, he aired his thirst for Selena Gomez online. This week? He got dreads, Lorde help us all.
It’s true. For reasons not many of us can quite make out (just kidding: This lad is tragically ignorant and it’s killing me slowly), Justin Bieber teased dreadlocked hair on the weekend, and then wore said hair to the iHeartRadio Awards, where he was rightfully called out for cultural appropriation. Even worse, when Instagramming his ‘do the day before, he simply captioned “Why” as if prophesizing exactly what I ended up screaming into the night in a fit of rage and helplessness.
But yet he follows in the footsteps of countless souls who just don’t get it. Like the boy I liked in high school, Bieber saw dreads and thought he should get them too. And -- also like the boy I liked in high school -- he was wrong and shouldn’t have. But at least High School Guy™ had some sad semblance of an excuse: The year was 2001, he was barely 16, and Internet knowledge was limited to Instant Messenger, Napster, and Winamp skins. (Plus, he was 114 percent the actual worst.) In 2016, Justin is 22 years old and a multimillion-dollar superstar. He shouldn’t just know better -- he does know better. And yet, as the world’s oldest teen trying to figure his life out, he still chose to get dreadlocks as a form of personal expression.
So, Biebs? Fine. As your self-appointed big sister, I’m here to help. I want you to know that you’re not alone. Nope: More than a few white people in music have opted for dreadlocks over common sense, so to remind you of where you now belong in the pop culture hierarchy, here are a few of my “favorites” to remind us all that we should never forget.
Chris Kirkpatrick (*NSYNC)
Not a single person on Earth knew why this happened, and this includes the demographic (teen girls) *NSYNC was targeted to. Worse yet, it didn’t start out this way. In the beginning, Chris grew out and parted his hair in the spirit of a Titanic-era Leonardo DiCaprio. Then, proving to all of us how much like Justin Timberlake he was not, he dreadlocked for several years onward, pairing them with everything from wire-rimmed glasses to iced-tip dye jobs, thus forever cementing himself as “Who? Oh, the one with the dreads.” No.
Bieber, I think the best question to ask yourself before getting any sort of hairstyle is, “Has Vanilla Ice done this?” And if he has, force yourself to watch the video for “Roll ‘Em Up” until you start sobbing, and then remember this exact feeling the next time you think about getting dreads.
Only three years ago, Lady Gaga showed up to SXSW with very large, blonde dreadlocks, and then rocked the same look at the Jingle Bell Ball that December. And yes, it was upsetting. It was upsetting then, it is upsetting now, and -- in the words of Miles Teller in Whiplash -- I’m upset (still). Especially since I don’t remember any shade thrown at Gaga the way it was thrown at Zendaya by E! less than 24 months later.
Jonathan Davis (Korn)
And as I gently lay down this photo of Jonathan Davis (and the band that infiltrated the ears and minds of most of my seventh and eighth grade class), I back away slowly and shout to Justin and whoever will listen: “Are you not entertained?” Because at this point, I have never felt more like a gladiator.
A good rule to follow is to be the Pink of 2016, and not the Pink of 2001. The naughties were cruel, unusual, and full of idiocy. But this particular incident was roughly 15 years ago -- proving that a white, young, privileged pop star who gets dreads now is simply choosing not to learn from the past and instead considers himself immune to the consequences of his choices. (Ugh, know better, Bieber.)
Do you know who this is, Justin? Do you? No. No, because any young white man who bursts onto the scene -- this particular “scene” being Season 7 of American Idol -- with dreadlocks deserves to take a step away until they understand why this is a bad choice. In the case of Jason Castro, his current Twitter avatar tells me that this has happened, and we can breathe a little easier in his shorter-haired wake.
But, J-Biebs, you tiny muffin, you already took your step away. Which means that unless you want to take another step -- one so far it might reach the city I live in so I can sit you down and say, “Get it together, kid” -- you’re inching closer and closer to another roast-like intervention. And you don’t want that. And I don’t want that. But I do want you to do something about your hair now, please. And then I want you to do some reading and discussing and listening, because guess what, kid: Even a world tour is no excuse for not taking the time to realize why dreadlocks on white people are appropriative and disrespectful. I don’t care how many dance moves you have to learn or layers you need to put on. Every time you’re tempted to comment on Instagram, or Twitter, or post anything about an ex-girlfriend, pick up a book and read instead.