Tori Sutton, Stratford Gazette
Most of the world knows her as Justin Bieber’s mom.
But now Stratford native Pattie Mallette is ready for her turn in the spotlight with the release of her memoir, Nowhere But Up.
By no means is the book a bubblegum-pop tinged look at young love and growing up.
Instead, Mallette has presented a candid, honest and sometimes disturbing look into her troubled youth, which included sexual abuse, bouts of serious depression, a suicide attempt and drug abuse.
It also outlines the tumultuous – and at times, abusive – relationship with Justin’s father, her time at the now-defunct London pregnancy home, the Bethesda Centre, the struggles of being a single teen mom and the rediscovery her Christian faith.
Of course, it also includes the rise to fame of a young, energetic boy now adored by millions of fans around the world.
Mallette wants to be clear: Nowhere But Up isn’t just another pop-star mom tabloid tell-all.
“The only reason I wrote this book was to help others,” she told the Gazette.
The book – which was written with A.J. Gregory – was a vessel for healing for Mallette, but mostly a way to reach out to others who are facing many of the same challenges she has overcome.
“A major key in my healing was finding my voice – the voice I never had as a little girl,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “By giving that little girl a voice, I hope to help others find theirs and find the courage to use it.
“My heart’s desire is that my words bring others the hope that I have discovered in my own life.”
Mallette’s wounds run deep.
She was abandoned by her alcoholic father at age two. She says his departure was her first childhood memory, one that set her up for a lifetime of feelings of abandonment and rejection, and the desire to be unconditionally loved at any cost.
At three, she had her first violating sexual experience at the hands of neighbourhood children. Within a few short years, she was molested by someone known to her family. And then another. The abuse continued for five years.
She also fell prey to unwanted advances by schoolmates, a babysitter, and friend’s grandfather. She lost her virginity at 15 when she was date raped.
The years of abuse skewed her view of sexuality so much that for a time, she toyed with the idea of becoming a sex trade worker.
Mallette knows the raw confessions in her book were difficult for both Justin and her family members to digest.
The first time she handed over a draft, she was nervous to how they would react. She had never shared the full story with her mother Diane and her stepfather Bruce, who were unaware of the extent of the abuse.
“My mom and my stepdad were as shocked as anyone to find out some of the details,” she said.
“They knew a little bit, but I think it was hard for them to read. I never told them.
“I don’t blame them for what happened. They didn’t know what was going on.”
Despite the shocking revelations – and the sharing of intimate details about other areas of their lives – her family has been supportive and positive when it comes to the book, something for which Mallette is grateful.
She’s also grateful for the decisions she made when she found out she was pregnant at age 18, just weeks after being discharged from the hospital following a suicide attempt.
She dismissed suggestions she should have an abortion, instead choosing to move to the Bethesda Centre in London, a decision supported by her parents.
It was the middle of an unhealthy on-again, off-again relationship with Justin’s dad Jeremy, who was a drinker, a fighter and brought out the worst in Mallette.
She recounts several instances when she got physical with Jeremy during fights, even smashing him in the mouth with a beer bottle in a fit of rage.
After the toxic relationship ended, Jeremy would be absent for several years. But Mallette points out she harbours no ill-will towards her ex, and is proud of the man – and father – he has become today.
“I have worked hard at preserving my relationship with Justin’s dad and he is not the same person he was when we were growing up,” Mallette says. “We were kids. I’m not the same person that I was.”
The book’s foreword is written by Justin, who gives credit to his mother for her ability to persevere and inspire.
“She is an example of a person who doesn’t compromise and doesn’t quit,” writes Justin. “Just by who she is, my mom inspires me to be a good man. And she is always pushing me to be better.”
Just as Justin refers to her as the strongest woman he’s ever met, Mallette is quick to heap the same praise on her family for being there through the rough times.
“I get my strength from my parents,” she said. “They’ve taught me to just be strong through everything that comes at me.
“They’ve been there and they’re still there for us, cheering us on.”
Mallette has been beside Justin during his rise to fame but having the attention on her is something new.
Since the book’s launch on Sept. 18, she’s had a hectic promotional schedule, appearing on the daytime talk show circuit in the United States before heading north of the border for Canadian interviews this week.
“It’s weird, it’s different,” she said, with a laugh. “I’m used to being in the background and cheering him on and now I’m kind of in the hot seat. It’s taken some getting used to.”
So why is now the right time to share her story? Always the supportive mom, Mallette said it was important she wait until Justin was 18 and more independent, freeing up time for her to pursue her own projects.
Along with the book, she’s busy establishing her own charity, the Nowhere But Up Foundation. A portion of the proceeds of the book will go to the foundation to support single-parent homes, drug addiction centres and to assist those in need of counselling.
After so many years of struggling with her emotions and keeping secrets, Mallette said it feels good to open up.
“I feel like I have a story to tell and I have something to say,” she said. “It feels amazing to be able to use Justin’s platform for good … it’s exciting to be able to know that I can hopefully change lives.”
Sharing her story has also helped change her life, as has her faith. She said her Christian beliefs have played a big role in allowing her to forgive those who abused her.
“I feel forgiven and free from a lot of mistakes I’ve made,” she added. “I don’t want to stay bound to being that victim. It was really important for me to forgive.”
Now with her meager beginnings in Stratford miles away, if she could back in time to speak to her 18-year-old self – pregnant, scared and feeling alone – what would she say?
“I would say don’t be so hard on yourself. Just hold on and things are going to get better.”