A role model for troubled teen star Justin Bieber could be, believe it or not, provocative songstress Miley Cyrus.
Bieber, who racked up charges in two cities in the span of a week, would be wise to use Cyrus as his guide to navigate the transition from teen pop stardom to a serious adult career, branding and celebrity crisis experts said.
Should the 19-year-old Canadian fail to chart a new music-focused course soon, he could go the way of actress Lindsay Lohan and countless other young stars who rose to fame only to have promising careers come unhinged by their personal lives.
"The hardest, hardest transition to make is from teen idol to working performer with an ongoing career," said Howard Bragman, vice chairman of online personal branding website Reputation.com. "The streets of Hollywood are lined with teen idols who couldn't make the transition," he added.
"What's ironic is that the only way to have long-term success is to really focus on your career and not focus on the rest."
In the past week, Bieber has been arrested twice. He faces charges in Miami Beach, Florida, stemming from an alleged street drag race where preliminary tests showed he had marijuana and anti-anxiety medication in his system. Another charge in Toronto accuses Bieber of assaulting a limousine driver.
The first step Bieber could take in his turnaround would be to unplug from social media and his nearly 50 million Twitter followers, said Mark Pasetsky, the head of public relations firm Mark Allen & Co and former editor of OK! magazine. "He's got to take a step back from the spotlight," he said.
"Everything he's doing right now makes him appear to be completely unstable. You're already seeing the impact of his behavior and what it's doing to his brand. He's eroding his core fan base with this type of behavior."
'EVOLVING' INTO ADULTHOOD
A long-term course to get back into good graces with the public - and the parents of his army of teenage fans known as "Beliebers" - is an "evolution" into adulthood, Bragman said, much like Cyrus' transition from Disney idol "Hannah Montana" into an edgy 21-year-old pop star.
Cyrus shed her innocent teen act for a sex-forward persona orchestrated around music videos with her wearing little or no clothes. She also grabbed headlines last year when she "twerked" on singer Robin Thicke during a performance at MTV's Music Video Awards, giving the sexually explicit dance widespread cultural currency. "The question is how you're going to be doing as a 25-year-old?" Bragman said. "Are you going to be playing the Missouri State Fair or are you going to be having a respectable recording career?"
Bieber's representatives declined to say what professional plans the singer has in coming weeks. His arrests have added an exclamation mark to a rocky year for the star, who has scuffled with paparazzi in London and been the target of a felony investigation into whether he pelted a neighbor's house with eggs. Now, the charges from the past week put the baby-faced "Boyfriend" singer at risk of serving jail time.
"The last 500 times we've heard about Justin, it had nothing to do with his music," Bragman said. "Everything we hear about Miley has to do with her music. You may disagree with her execution, but it's hard to argue the strategic wisdom behind it." That advice was echoed by Pasetsky, who said Bieber's challenge is to get people talking again about his music and his famously fanatic teen fans. "Cyrus is coming out with breakthrough videos and performances and that's what he needs to be doing," he said.
Cyrus herself had some advice for Bieber during an appearance on NBC's Tonight Show on Thursday. "I would just say, you've got a lot of money, pay people to make sure you don't get in trouble and party at your house," she told host Jay Leno.
Justin Bieber exits from the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami, Florida. (AFP photo)