Following his 29th birthday on Wednesday 1 March 2023, Justin Bieber marked the occasion this weekend with a star-studded party. Among the A-list guests were Will Smith’s son Jaden Smith, Aussie rapper The Kid LAROI, and of course, his equally-famous and controversial wife, Hailey Bieber.
The ‘Baby’ singer shared snaps from the event on Instagram and revealed some fun sneak peeks. But what truly gobsmacked the internet was a party favour guests were gifted at the birthday bash, which was revealed online through a picture posted by Alfredo Flores, a music video director who has previously worked with the renowned artist.
On it, a silver lighter (or is it a bottle opener?) featuring a cowboy hat can be seen, bearing the words: “I am so grateful that I didn’t end up with what I thought I wanted.” Many netizens believe the message was a brutal dig at Bieber’s former girlfriend Selena Gomez.
This—let’s be honest here—incredibly petty attempt at throwing shade at Gomez is only the latest in a long list of childish feuds between some of Hollywood’s most famous celebrities.
For those of you who have been living under a rock during the last two weeks, Hailey and Gomez’s yearslong feud recently came to a head after Kylie Jenner shared a screenshot of a FaceTime call with Bieber’s wife in which the pair zoomed in on their eyebrows, seemingly making fun of the former Disney Channel star, who had previously shared a video on her Instagram joking with fans that she had “accidentally laminated [my] eyebrows too much.”
As soon as fans picked up on the potential rebirth of this drama, online sleuths became so obsessed that Gomez had to momentarily delete all of her social media accounts, stating “I’m too old for this.” Shortly after, ‘team Selena’ hit back by flooding Bieber’s TikTok video comment sections with tags to Gomez’s Rare Beauty cosmetic line.
All this to say that things were messy enough already—no one needed the Biebs himself to get involved and make things worse. Though some fans have claimed that it was an innocent choice, countless others have speculated the quote may be a dig at Bieber’s ill-fated relationship with Gomez.
One person wrote on Twitter: “Husband and wife both obsessed [as fuck] with Selena [Gomez]… They’re clearly not okay.” Another said: “Using your birthday party to try and throw shade at your ex like this is unhinged behaviour. He is the real problem in all of this drama.”
A third commented: “If this is really about Selena [Gomez] then this is just cruel. No matter how many years have passed, it would sting if an ex of mine said they’re so glad they didn’t end up with me ON THEIR BIRTHDAY. But I’m a people pleaser so what do I know?”
Even Bieber’s selection of pictures for his Instagram carousel raised some questions in the wild west of social media as he added a bizarre shot of Hailey attempting to hug him as he looks away from the camera, arms to his side.
Meanwhile, The Kid LAROI was featured more than once in Bieber’s post, through several photos of the pair laughing and enjoying some food together. Even Billie Eilish appeared at the extravagant outdoor event, which also included colourful beanbags, mushroom-shaped decor and a stage for live performances.
We’re not sure exactly what the pop star was trying to prove with this controversial present to his guest but it comes just after his wife Hailey lost one million followers on Instagram following the alleged TikTok drama with Gomez. Just when we thought the long-time (and completely ridiculous) feud was over following the two women posing for a photo together back in October 2022.
Over the weekend we saw a revival of the internet’s favourite boxing match (and no, I’m not referring to the highly awkward and cringeworthy Jake Paul versus Tommy Fury event). I’m talking about the epic battle between Hailey Bieber and Selena Gomez. These two women have been pitted against each other for years and the combination of all of the online scrutiny, conspiracy theories and gossip has now become a well-rounded case study in online misogyny.
Let’s first consider the origin story behind these highly juvenile online rumours. In 2010, when planking was still a thing and everyone owned a colourful pair of skinny jeans, Gomez began dating Canadian casanova Justin Bieber. They had a very tumultuous relationship—one that included a seriously uncomfortable on-stage serenade and a number of confusing paparazzi pictures. The pair broke up several times and then officially parted ways in 2018.
Only months later, Bieber dated, proposed to and ultimately married the aforementioned Hailey. The pair have now been wed for over four years, however, netizens have found a way to keep this highly toxic—and misleading—love triangle alive.
Considering how incredibly far-fetched the most recent drama involving Gomez and Bieber has been, I’ll try and run through it as quickly as possible. So, in January 2023, Gomez faced some highly sexist and intense body-shaming online after images were shared online of her in a bikini on holiday in Mexico.
Shortly after, Bieber shared a video of herself, and fellow model Kendall Jenner, lip-syncing to an audio that said: “I’m not saying she deserves it, but I’m saying God’s timing is always right.” While the video has since been deleted, the footage was re-uploaded and fans were convinced that the two events were intrinsically linked.
Moreover, on 23 February, the ‘Who Says’ singer shared a video on her Instagram joking with fans that she had “accidentally laminated [my] eyebrows too much.” Only hours later, Kylie Jenner posted a selfie with a caption that read, “This was an accident?????” written in text placed over her brows. Then, the Kylie Cosmetics CEO shared a screenshot of a FaceTime call with Bieber in which the pair zoom in on their eyebrows.
All this to be said, fans were certain that Jenner and Bieber were directly poking fun at Gomez and the online sleuths became so intense that the 30-year-old singer momentarily deleted all of her social media accounts, stating “I’m too old for this.”
According to Insider, some individuals became so enamoured with feeling as though they needed to defend Gomez from this apparent bullying that they flooded Bieber’s TikTok video comment sections with tags to Gomez’s Rare Beauty cosmetic line.
While it would be easy to immediately assume that fans have fuelled rumours of hatred and judgement between these two women solely out of a lust for celebrity gossip, it would be inaccurate.
Of course, there is an element of this involved, however, when you look a bit closer, it’s plain to see that the internet’s obsession with this so-called ‘beef’ has a lot more to do with societal misogyny, than the power of TMZ.
Women have always been pitted against one and other, whether it be in the public eye, or in private settings. Female rivalry is an incredibly powerful tool for those who wish to keep the patriarchy thriving and manufacturing alleged catfights—particularly when the point of contention is presumed to be a man’s affections—perpetuates the stereotype that women are overly emotional, immature and dramatic.
Gomez and Bieber have gone out of their way to try and silence these rumours, even posing for a photo together in October 2022 in an attempt to squash the unnecessary drama. However, it seems as though they’re valued far more when they’re feuding than when they’re not.
What’s also important to note is that this glorification of female rivalry occurs in every facet of modern life. There’s no playful #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob when it comes to women—it’s cutthroat and it’s devastatingly harsh. And when the internet decides that a certain alleged feud amuses or interests them, they’ll find it increasingly difficult to ever let it go.