At only 18 years old, Madison Beer has amassed 10.5 million Instagram followers and is releasing her debut album, As She Pleases, this Friday, February 2.

But where did she come from? You can trace her rise to fame from one Justin Bieber tweet from July 17, 2012. He tweeted out a link to Madison’s cover of “At Last” by Etta James; everyone discovered her from there.

But before she was Madison Beer with millions of followers, she was just a young Jewish girl living in Jericho, Long Island. According to the Madison Beer Wiki (yes, it exists), her bat mitzvah took place only four months before Justin Bieber tweeted her. Her theme was “Madison’s Square Garden” and according to the wiki, Madison “sang an original song called ‘Life’s a Beat.'” (Yes, you can watch it and yes, 148,000+ people already have.)

madison beer bat mitzvah
Madison Beer at her bat mitzvah

Like most Jewish kids from the tri-state area, Madison attended sleepaway camp. She went to Point O’Pines in upstate New York, where she learned to waterski and more, as she wrote in her Instagram, “shoutout to camp point o pines. you taught me everything i know.”

But let’s get to her music career, because as Madison sagely tweeted —

Justin Bieber appeared in her first music video (she has since pivoted away from teen pop) and his name is consistently linked to hers. A Daily Mail headline from June 2017 proclaims, “Justin Bieber’s protégée Madison Beer taunts her toned tummy in sexy bralette as she makes leggy exit in tiny skirt after dinner in LA” (obviously this headline is problematic in many other ways, but they make it seem like Madison is Justin’s).

But she’s pulling away from Justin — and pivoting to “slinky R&B” (as one site described it) with her new album. On the first single, released last summer, Madison sings, “You say you can’t live without me / so why aren’t you dead yet? / why you still breathing? Definitely not Disney pre-teen pop:

But more fascinating than her music (for now) is Madison’s rabid social media following. There are hundreds of fan accounts dedicated to her; they’ve been following her since the beginning. Madison seems to have this ability to make her fans — mainly young teenage girls — feel a part of her career. She said in an interview with V Magazine that her active fanbase is due to “being recognized at such a young age, they were so young at the time as well, and we really grew up together and we’ve all learned a lot about ourselves and about each other over the years.” As Ellie, 16, who runs the fan account @infinitybeer, explains: “I love and appreciate our bond” — I assume “our” means Madison and her fans — “she’s so close to her fans and never fails to make us smile.” Similarly, Maria, 17, runs a fan account called @vipmadison (with 21,500 followers) that she started in 2014. She wrote to me that “there are people who [have been] with her through the whole journey.”

Like many pop stars, Madison inspires this kind of “I’d die for you” attitude in her fans. Over and over again, they emphasize her influence on their lives, her positivity, and most importantly, her connection to her fan base. Briley, 15 years old, who runs @madisonbeercloset, emphasizes that her account is to show “how much of an inspiration Madison is to her fans.” Hadir, 16, who runs @tropicalmeb, created the fan account (that now has over 50,000 followers) because Madison “spreads so much positivity and love” and she wants to show her love and positivity back.

But what makes Madison’s fans different is that Madison — unlike her pop star peers — has yet to release any music. (Until Friday, at least.) That makes her fanbase even more impressive: They haven’t had albums, or many music videos, or really anything to freak out over for the last four and a half years. And yet:

Unfortunately, we also have to assume that a good portion of Madison’s followers aren’t there for her voice, but her “hot girl on Instagram” vibe. The first thing that pops up on Google as suggested after you type in “Madison Beer” is “Madison Beer age” (which, frankly, makes us uncomfortable). For her to have been thrown in the public spotlight at such a young age from that one (!) Justin Bieber tweet, she has certainly molded herself into the Instagram influencer aesthetic (as best demonstrated by the Kardashians): contoured, lots of crop tops, fully filled in eyebrows, dark straight hair, a lot of highlights, pouty lips… just scroll through her Instagram for yourself. You’ll see. She’s anti-frump.

vices

A post shared by madison (@madisonbeer) on

Yet all the fans I spoke to talked about her positivity and status as a role model, not her aspirational looks. Brazilian fan Amanda, 19, who runs @beer.flawless (37,200 followers) believes this new album will “show people how much she has matured in music and that looks aren’t everything.” Maybe now that she’s releasing an album, her followers will be drawn to her for *both* her voice and her presence. But even her fan accounts have just so. many. followers.

It’s beyond impressive that Madison has built up a fanbase out of practically nothing (a few covers, scattered appearances, and looking hot?). For example, @madisonbeerupdates  — run by Taylan, age 18, who lives in California – is currently at 70k followers, but Taylan hopes to hit 100,000 soon. The page is an “update account” (for those out of the loop, that means sharing every single thing that Madison is up to). As Taylan explained, she’s essentially “a news reporter”… except her only subject is Madison. She posts her Instagram stories, images with fans, paparazzi photos, and more.

Now that the album is *finally* here, the fans are beyond excited. Marie (@vipmadison) wrote to me, “I feel so proud, I followed her on her journey for 4 ½ years.” This feeling is echoed constantly: the idea that her fans have been with her for so long, and now they actually get to hear her original music. As Ellie (@infinitybeer) wrote in an 18th birthday post to Madison (trust us, go read the whole thing), “You came so far, you made it bby and THIS is still the beginning. Sadly, you are not our little secret anymore.”As Taylan explained, “I want to run [@madisonbeerupdates] as long as she’s still living.” If only we all had something in our lives that made us as happy as Madison Beer makes her fans.

On top of all these highly dedicated fans — yes, she actually has a pretty good voice. While we’re only going off of six songs (of which only two will appear on her new album), Madison can sing. Seriously. Billboard named her one of “10 Pop Stars to Watch in 2018,” writing, “Considering she’s an 18-year-old whose nascent career traces back to a Justin Bieber tweet, you can be forgiven for sleeping on Madison Beer — but 2018 should be the year that ends. Beer is a versatile, strong vocalist who’s as at home singing Shawn Mendes-esque strummers (“Say It To My Face”) as she is delivering seductive, gooey late night R&B numbers.”

And so we have to admit: We are kinda excited for her album to drop.

Bat mitzvah photo from mitzvahmarket.com; header image from @madisonbeer.

Emily Burack

Emily Burack is an editorial assistant at Alma.