Shawn Mendes is on the cover of Rolling Stone flaunting his Great Hair. The hair-heavy cover is accompanied by his most revealing feature to date. The last Shawn Mendes profile I wrote about was the one in Variety’s “Power of Young Hollywood” issue. That feature was all about work. It was all about Shawn’s obsession with staying humble and working hard. The Rolling Stone feature, written by Patrick Doyle, is the first profile that puts cracks in Shawn’s pristine image. 

It’s more of a realistic glimpse of a 20 year-old pop star on top of the world. Shawn does shots! He loves weed! He cares about the paparazzi! He’s not gay! He’s a bit neurotic! Each of these points are made in Rolling Stone; they succeed in showcasing Shawn as a complex human being, full of conflicting views and gnawing insecurities. That shouldn’t be a bad thing but it sounds like Shawn and his team think that it is. Before we get into the specifics of what Shawn revealed to Rolling Stone, here’s his reaction to the piece: 

I’m not sure what part of the profile warrants this reaction. Sure, there are times Shawn comes across as annoyed at the job, like when he shuts down questions about whether he cooks, but even when Shawn seems exasperated with the work, there’s a familiar anecdote about how he’ll stop for fan selfies – no matter what – and a note about his ambition. That’s the Shawn Mendes we’re used to. The one we’re meeting now is creeping other celebs in his hotel room. That’s new.  

Shawn Mendes was up late in his hotel room a few nights ago, scrolling through he kept seeing Top 40 A-listers with their partners — maybe it was Dua Lipa and her boyfriend, or Justin Bieber and his model-fiancée — and he was starting to get a little jealous.

“I had this thought: ‘I have to get paparazzied with someone. Who am I gonna get? I’m not relevant,’ ” Mendes recalls. But he gave up on the idea just as quickly. “I was like, ‘Ugh, you f-cking idiot. Why did you think that?’ ”

I LOVE this anecdote. They all try to act like they don’t do this. They all act like they’re not trying to one-up each other or that they hate getting photographed, not that they secretly crave it. This moment of honesty humanizes Shawn. Sure, he might be embarrassed to see it in print, but I don’t think he should be. 

“It’s literally my biggest fear, to wake up tomorrow and nobody cares.” 

You don’t think every single other popstar shares that insecurity? 

The other big anxiety Shawn talks about in Rolling Stone is the longstanding rumour about his sexuality. I understand why Rolling Stone went there and I appreciate Shawn’s candor but I also wish for the day when an artist’s sexuality isn’t such a hot-button topic. We know we’re not there yet. The same culture that is obsessed with Shawn’s sexuality is the same one that fuels Shawn’s need to declare that he is straight. He says it outright, multiple times in this piece. 

“In the back of my heart, I feel like I need to go be seen with someone — like a girl — in public, to prove to people that I’m not gay... Even though in my heart I know that it’s not a bad thing. There’s still a piece of me that thinks that. And I hate that side of me.”

It’s sad that he’s feeling this way and you can chastise him for caring so much OR you can analyze the toxic masculinity that Shawn was raised in that has made him so anxious about the speculation. He shares that reading YouTube comments about his sexuality led him to give a statement on his straightness. 

“I thought, ‘You f-cking guys are so lucky I’m not actually gay and terrified of coming out,’ ” he recalls now. “That’s something that kills people. That’s how sensitive it is. Do you like the songs? Do you like me? Who cares if I’m gay?”

He also shared that he analyzes his own body language and voice to see if he comes across in a way that will add to the rumours. If he spots something, he changes it. That is SO heartbreaking and obviously unnecessary but again, he’s self-correcting to make up for a culture that perpetuates antiquated notions of what it means to be a straight man or a gay man or however you identify and who’s allowed to be a successful popstar. Shawn is struggling through these confusing stereotypes in real time. 

As a kid, he’d put glitter on his eyelids to make his parents laugh; he grew up with 15 female cousins, “braiding hair and painting nails. Maybe I am a little more feminine — but that’s the way it is. That’s why I am me.”

This is a message that every young man should hear. If Shawn or his team are ashamed that it’s included in his Rolling Stone profile, I think they’re missing the point. I hope we get to a point where we’re not constantly discussing his sexuality but until then, Shawn normalizing the fact that men – straight or gay – can have varying expressions of masculinity and femininity is a good thing. It’s not bad press. 

The press they also probably don’t love that’s coming out of this Rolling Stone piece is the quote about Hailey Baldwin Bieber. Shawn finally admits that they dated, which I’ve been saying all along.

“I don’t even wanna put a title on it… I think it was more of a zone of limbo." He texted her congratulations after she and Justin got engaged and in a pensive moment, he almost reveals what he thought of his ex-whatever moving on to his music rival. “I think I’m an idiot to not, you know … But you can’t control your heart.”

So Shawn, Hailey, and Justin are going to share some headlines for a few days. So what? So we now know that Shawn smokes weed, drinks a bit, and is obsessive about his image. And? The kid can't rest on his good looks (his really, really good looks) forever. He’s got to give more. This is the first time he’s done that and it already sounds like he regrets it. I hope how Shawn feels about this profile doesn’t stop him from showing this candid, human side more because it’s the most interesting Shawn we’ve seen so far. 

Read more of Shawn in Rolling Stone here.