Justin Bieber was 15 when he released My World, his debut EP. At the time, his thin swoopy hair flipped across his face, hiding the entirety of his forehead and creating his namesake hairstyle. He was Usher's protégé, even though he looked like he should be parking his skateboard at a middle school dance.
This somehow younger-than-boyish image was a magnet for adolescent girls everywhere and the subject of ridicule from adolescent boys. He was the quintessential baby-faced pop star, until he wasn't.
Now, he is a man-faced pop star, and he's working to prove it by tattooing every inch of his body, starting with his entire chest and stomach.
On Oct. 21, Bieber posted a mirror picture to his Instagram account. In the foreground is a cluttered bathroom counter, filled with deodorant, soap and a toothbrush. For an unknown reason, the counter also features a small package of cookies and a spoon. However, the main focus of this picture is the man in the mirror, the man whose abdomen is now covered in a thick layer of black ink.
Granted, before this particular monster design, Bieber was no stranger to the tattooing needle. He already had a large cross settled between his pectorals. On either side of the cross sit a growling bear and a stern lion. His arms, save for the upper portion of his right, are coated in sleeves of ink. These tattoos were collected over the years, each building upon the next, creating more and more intricate designs.
Then came his newest, which appeared over the course of three days. "Thank you for the trust," wrote tattoo artist Keith "Bang Bang" McCurdy in the caption of an Instagram post featuring Bieber. "26 hours over 3 consecutive days is the most I've ever tattooed anyone in my 13 year career. You're tough as nails man!"
But what does this new tattoo represent?
Bieber has long been outspokenly religious, and his new tattoo reflects that. Gothic imagery dominates the design, with multiple stone-faced angels perched near a sort of Roman-looking cathedral. A skeleton waves from just above his right hip. An eagle with outstretched wings, an image that was there beforehand, is now incorporated into the design; it looks a little out of place among the angels and billowing clouds. The angels and archways haphazardly cover an old tattoo that read, "SON OF GOD."
Now, you can barely make out the words hiding beneath the fresh ink. The only word clearly visible is "Purpose," just above his bellybutton, an ode to the multiple bangers on the album of the same name, perhaps?
But Bieber no longer needs simple words or phrases; he is focused on imagery, abstract design, a cohesive narrative that only he understands, told through the jumble of images on his stomach.
He is an artist, after all.