| 16°C Dublin


The old song asks "Why must I be a teenager in love?" and, while we may be well stuck in to the 21st century, those lyrics from 1959 still ring true.

There's still nothing quite as devastatingly amazing as being an adolescent falling in love for the first time, whatever the decade. It's magical, innocent and life-changing all at once, but it's only with hindsight that we can truly see this.

At the time, everything that's happening is blurred, almost like an out-of-body experience. Lust, chemicals, hormones and the internal mania that accompanies the first flush of love is blindsiding at any age, but never more intense than as a teenager when new experiences abound.

How then must it be for a young person whose life is played out in the public eye, and for whom every move is speculated upon not just by friends and family, but by millions of people the world over? What happens when a famous teen falls in love not just with anybody, but with another famous teen?

Famous folk have been dating as far back as celebrities have existed. They understand one another's worlds. They know how showbusiness works and can identify with each other's problems and peaks.

However, they also have to deal with the eyes of the world upon them. Two celebrities are better than one as far as the media and consumers are concerned -- after all, weren't Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston the most photographed couple on the planet? This is difficult enough to handle as an adult, let alone as little more than a child. However, with some teenagers becoming bigger superstars than adults, it's inevitable their relationships (however childlike) will receive the same interest.

Precocious talent has always been fascinating, and there have always been child stars. Lately, though, there has been a surge of interest in teen celebrities, with the likes of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus now as well known to adults as Barack Obama or Simon Cowell. You can't switch on E! News without hearing a story about a famous teenager, and with contestants on reality talent shows barely pubescent -- the US X Factor age limit is 12 -- the trend of super young celebrities doesn't seem to be waning.

Britney Spears may have become famous at the tender age of 16, but for Cyrus and Bieber it was 13, and that three-year age gap as a teen is vast. Britney also came of age before the advent of iPhones, and the scant privacy that afforded her may have been a small mercy.

The world watched as she fell for fellow young star Justin Timberlake at only 17. When they parted after three years in December 2002, Spears attempted to carve out an adult career for herself, shedding her good-girl image with controversial performances and videos.

Timberlake launched a successful solo career, alluding to the rumours that Britney had cheated on him with his video for Cry Me A River which featured a Spears lookalike. Even now, nine years later, the two are frequently asked to comment about one another despite Britney being married twice and Justin experiencing several more high-profile romances. As they say, the first cut is the deepest. While you never forget your first love, when you're a teenager superstar, neither do the media.

"Teenage relationships are very innocent, even if they're physical," says adolescent psychologist Dr Sarah O'Doherty. "They're almost childike in a way. The teen years are a time for experimenting, a time for trying on different things for size and finding out who you are. When a teenager falls in love for the first time, they don't have the emotional capability to deal with everything that goes with it, unlike an adult who has experienced romantic relationships before. There's the assumption that it will last forever."

Unfortunately, this rarely happens, especially in the world of celebrities, who seem to struggle even more with lasting relationships than the non-famous.


The latest, and it would seem most high profile, celebrity couple are the aforementioned Justin Bieber, now 17, and his 19-year-old girlfriend Selena Gomez. They are in love in the time of Twitter and Instagram, and invite the world in to their young love as never before. It's probable that they don't even realise how precious privacy is to young love, and this sharing of their intimacy is something they may regret later in life. The couple post kissing snapshots and tweet their affection for one another, from declarations of love to the lyrics of each other's songs.

Bieber actually found fame on YouTube by posting amateur videos of himself singing. He was spotted by singer and entrepreneur Usher, and in turn brought to the attention of megastar producer LA Reid. Now he's one of the most famous people on the planet with armies of fans.

In October 2010, a Twitter staffer revealed that 3pc of all the site's traffic was Justin Bieber related. Gomez, by comparison, was less well known than her boyfriend, but thanks to an association with Bieber, her celebrity status has skyrocketed.

Is their relationship inevitably doomed due to their young ages and the level of fame? Some first loves do last, but they are in the minority and the added pressures of fame and scrutiny at such a young age could doom Gomez and Bieber's romance.

For now they will probably continue to frolic on beaches half naked under the zoom of a paparazzi's lens and post pictures of each other captioned "My baby xxx" on social networking sites. Whatever happens, it's very likely that such a public display of affection will follow them for the rest of their careers.

Just ask Justin Timberlake.

Vicki Notaro is the deputy editor of Kiss