Will Hailey and Selena’s Feud-Ending Photo Finally Stop Toxic Fan Behaviour?

I’m 14. We’re sitting in homeroom, my friends and I, looking back at crappy videos we took on our phones at the Justin Bieber concert last night. We’re trying not to be disappointed that none of us were picked as his One Less Lonely Girl, but we’ll get over it.

When I think back on that day now, 12 years later, it’s kind of insane to remember the height of fangirl obsession that we were experiencing. Although we were too embarrassed to admit it (to anyone except each other); Justin Bieber had an undeniable hold over us.

Bieber shot to stardom in 2009 after Scooter Braun clicked onto one of his YouTube videos and thought “this kid could be a star”. It was the first we’d ever heard of someone being discovered on the internet; and it was the start of an era of unrivalled pop stardom.

Along came “Biebs” — as he was called affectionately at the time — with his signature hair flick and purple colour theme, singing lyrics like “I thought you’d always be mine” and “when u smile, I smile” and we were his “Beliebers”.

I mean honestly, how could you not believe? Justin Bieber was marketed perfectly to appeal to us. He was our pop star boyfriend.

But then, when he fell in love with Selena Gomez and their romance took a hold of the internet; every Belieber had an opinion. While some totally shipped the couple, others absolutely haaaated Selena for stealing their (hypothetical) boyfriend. To them, she had taken away any chance for him to fall in love with them, no matter how unrealistic.

This has always been an area of fandom that rockstars and boyband members have garnered. Didn’t people realise that Justin Bieber was never going to actually date any of us?

It’s one thing to want to be chosen out of the crowd to go up on stage as his One Less Lonely Girl, but it’s another thing entirely to actually believe that he would notice you. He was a worldwide superstar, a kid plucked out of obscurity and thrust into a sparkly world that was so bright; I’m sure he could barely see straight anymore.

But still, the hate for Selena prevailed. She went from a Disney star, to someone that people would write hateful things about. Then, as Justin and Selena’s relationship went up and down in the public eye — the Selena-hating seemed to manifest in a global phenomenon.

Headlines read “The REAL Reason Why Selena Gomez BROKE Up With Justin Bieber” or “Selena Gomez: Off the Wagon After Justin Bieber Split?” passive aggressively painting her as the toxic one throughout every alleged break up and reconciliation. There were Instagram accounts and Tumblr blogs made to berate her, posting every little moment that may or may not prove that she was “bad for him”.

And then, after one last reconciliation between 2017 and 2018 with a bit of a hazy timeline in between, Bieber confirmed his relationship with Hailey Baldwin on Instagram. This turned the tables. People hated Hailey now, because how dare she come between Justin and Selena?

Justin ended up marrying Hailey. However, it’s worth talking about the craziness that fandom can create, especially against women.

Although there has been plenty of bad press surrounding Justin and his questionable behaviour at times, when it comes to his relationships; the negative storylines have followed both Selena and Hailey around relentlessly. Not only have fans been quick to paint them each as the “problem” half of the relationship, they’ve also pitted them against one another, claiming that Hailey “stole” Justin from Selena.

At this point, it goes without saying that pitting women against women is something that our society has done for a long time. Acerbated by tabloid culture, the instinct we have to blame the woman, is something that is all too familiar; it’s ingrained. Just like we don’t often see respect given to “the other woman” in a cheating scandal, we haven’t seen extremely famous and powerful dudes, like Justin Bieber, cop any public responsibility for their part in a relationship — until recently.

Just last week, Hailey Bieber went on Alex Cooper’s Call Me Daddy podcast. Cooper is known for asking the hard questions, so it was likely the Justin and Selena saga would come up at some point. Cooper asked Hailey if she was “ever with Justin romantically” at the same time as Selena, to which the model promptly responded, “No, not one time.” She continued, “It’s not my character to mess with someone’s relationship — I would just never do that. I was raised better than that. I’m not interested in doing that and I never was.”

Although Hailey made it clear that she and Justin were never together during his and Selena’s relationship, Hailey said that she understands “how it looks from the outside.” Touching upon Justin and Selena’s eventual breakup, she added, “I know for a fact it was the right thing for them to close that door … It closed a chapter and I think it was the best thing that could have happened for him to move on.”

Hailey also spoke directly to the Selena fans who have participated in online harassment , acknowledging that while she understands they’re not going to become her fans overnight, there is still an expectation for “mutual respect” — especially because “it’s all respect, it’s all love” between the two women IRL, which we now know due to their coming-together at the Academy Museum for their second annual gala on Saturday night.

“You’re not obligated to like me” Hailey said during her Call Me Daddy episode. “But I believe that no matter what, there can always be mutual respect between people. To me that means you don’t have to say anything.” She ended by reminding the fans that behind the screen is a real person with real emotions. “Know that what you say can have impact.”

Selena seemingly responded to respond to Hailey’s interview in a TikTok Live shared Sept. 29 promoting her makeup line Rare Beauty, reminding fans of the impact of their words. She referenced the viral chant at the 2021 Met Gala — with fans chanting Selena’s name audibly as Hailey and Justin walked the red carpet — “vile and disgusting.” “No one ever should be spoken to in the manner that I’ve seen and all I have to say is it’s incredibly ironic that I would release something that is all about kind words ’cause that’s exactly what I want,” she said.

And now, in their first ever photos together, Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez posed together at the Academy Museum for their second annual gala, putting to rest any swirling feud allegations that yes — are still circulating the internet.

This whole thing got me to thinking about what a toxic place the internet can be, especially for famous women. It also made me reflect on the insane about of fame that was awarded to Justin Bieber when he first launched onto the scene as everyone’s dream boyfriend with the voice of an angel. Honestly, what is that level of fame good for? Bieber himself has been open about the crippling mental health struggles that came with those experiences as such a young person, not to mention the struggles of both Selena and Hailey with excessive online bullying and negative press.

Why do we still feel the need to put someone down over who they’ve chosen to be with? And more importantly, how can anyone feel as though they have the power to make judgement on that choice? It doesn’t matter how dedicated of a fan you are; there is never an excuse for the bullying behaviour that has been displayed to both Hailey and Selena over the years.

The public coming-together of these two strong women hopefully leads by example and that people get the message: hate is never okay.

If your love and dedication towards a celebrity fills you with the desire to spread hate, then its time to look inward. What will any form of hate achieve? It’s unnecessary and it has an impact.

In the words of Hailey Bieber, let’s move forward with “all love” from now on.

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