Outside a posh hotel in Toronto’s Yorkville district, Justin Bieber’s fans shiver in the cold, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pop star undergoing a bad boy metamorphosis.
Some are casual fans, skipping out on a school trip to the museum. Some have come with mothers in tow. Saghi, Celina and Giselle appear to be at the top of the fan pyramid. They barely stir when a departing limousine draws a flurry of attention from photographers and fans. Mr. Bieber is not inside, of course.
“He’s not coming out any time soon. He doesn’t come out in daylight,” said Saghi, an 18-year-old university student.
Having ducked out of the wind, they occupy a table in a sandwich shop packed with other teenage girls. They may all follow the same star, but they are not on friendly terms, Saghi explains. There have been fights in this very restaurant, chairs flipped, voices raised.
“No one here gets along. We know them from Twitter. We don’t talk. We don’t like each other. It’s competitive, because if they’re here, the less chance there is you’re going to get to talk to him,” she said. “Toronto is known as a city where all the fans are rivals. Not like L.A., where they help each other.”
Mr. Bieber is in Toronto because police charged him with assault on Wednesday night in connection with an incident involving a limo driver last month. He was believed to be staying at the Hazelton Hotel, although it is not clear whether he was there or with family in Stratford, Ont. Mr. Bieber was recently arrested in Miami on an impaired driving charge. The Associated Press reported on Thursday that a preliminary toxicology report showed Mr. Bieber tested positive for marijuana and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax after that arrest, but no other illicit drugs.
And scandal-plagued Mayor Rob Ford found himself defending Mr. Bieber on Thursday. “He’s a young guy, 19 years old,” Mr. Ford told a Washington radio station.
The three girls, who did not want their last names published, said they would rather Mr. Bieber were not making such headlines, but their devotion has not wavered.
When she left her university dorm on Thursday, Saghi packed a bag and told an astonished roommate she would be back in a few days. In the past, the three girls have stayed out all night haunting 24-hour coffee shops and hoping their endurance would bring them a chance to chat with Mr. Bieber. When he’s in town, they drop everything to look for him.
Their best moment came in December, when Mr. Bieber spotted them in Yorkville and waved them over to his SUV. He hugged them, chatted, posed for photos, including one where he kissed one of the girls on the cheek. They were thrilled.
“He kept calling us ‘babe’ and ‘baby,’ and it was really weird and also so cool,” Saghi said.
They described him as very tiny and perfect in person, with a tiny, perfect head and a great deal of confidence. He was very proud of his mustache, they said.
“He smelled really good,” Celina said. “I took a deep breath when I hugged him – Ahhhh,” she sighs, closing her eyes at this happiest of thoughts.
The young women are a typically multicultural Toronto trio. Their families are Persian, Hungarian and Ecuadorean. They met through their shared passion for Mr. Bieber. Saghi’s parents do not like her hanging around the streets at night. They think her devotion is inappropriate. Giselle, an 18-year-old university student, said her mother has stayed out until 5 a.m. with her while she pursued Mr. Bieber, and then started work an hour later.
All three have packed provisions. Already bundled in fashionably big scarves, they slip sweatpants over their jeans and leggings, in some cases adding a third layer.
Should they meet Mr. Bieber, it would be through a car window, he would not see their lower half, they say.
They were missing a friend’s birthday party. They tell themselves she will understand. Friends, jobs, school are all sacrificed to some extent for Mr. Bieber. They have followed him since his big break five years ago, but got serious in the past 18 months. One has the distinction of being followed by Mr. Bieber on Twitter. Another has nearly 100,000 followers thanks to her Bieber-related tweets. But they really distinguish themselves by how they act when they see him, Celina said.
“When we’re with him we don’t freak out, and he likes that. He doesn’t like the screaming and banging on his windows,” she said.
“Don’t startle the Bieb!”
They are annoyed by the younger fans who lose their minds when the pop star appears. They’ve all lost wallets and phones in the mad scramble that accompanies his arrivals and departures in Yorkville.
They live for the experience of seeing him in the flesh, for the chance to be close to a young man they see as an exceptional, beautiful talent.
Saghi said she listens to his music and looks at the picture of the two of them together and simply cries.
Somewhere in the back of her mind she hopes that Mr. Bieber will see her and fall in love, but she knows it’s just a pleasant daydream.
How long will they keep this up? Will they be in this sandwich shop again a year from now? Five years from now? They can’t say.
“The best memories I’ve had are through being here – the best friendships I made are here,” Giselle said. And as they sit wiling away the hours with Mr. Bieber nowhere in sight, they talk and laugh and enjoy each other’s company and look forward to a long night in the city.
With a report from Jill Mahoney