Though it's been more than a decade, I can still recall the morning after Justin Bieber's first concert in Singapore like it happened yesterday.
It was 2011 — the year Bieber shed his trademark side-swept fringe for a shorter, more mature-looking do.
The then-17-year-old’s voice was beginning to deepen, leaving behind the pre-pubescent pitches it once reached.
But one thing hadn’t changed — he was still the single obsession of the thousands of girls who thronged the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Apr. 19, 2011.
That next morning, however, their passion had found a new target.
Just imagine this scene: A group of girls, rolling their eyes, speaking loudly and angrily. B*tching around a desk about a girl they didn’t know.
That was exactly what I walked into at school, the day after Bieber’s 2011 concert.
Then-13-year-old me was not at the concert. To keep it short, so it won’t enrage me again, my mum didn’t allow me to attend.
But I didn’t miss out on the drama.
I sat at my desk while at least five other girls in my class recounted the concert; how effortlessly cool Bieber looked on stage, how he’d sounded so much better in real life, and how he’d left the stage only to come back and perform his smash hit “Baby” for the encore.
But most of all, they were fixated on the girl who was serenaded by Bieber on stage when he sang “One Less Lonely Girl”.
“Who was that girl?” we wondered, mourning that none of us had been in her shoes.
“That should be me!”
What is “One Less Lonely Girl”?
One of Bieber’s earliest smash hits, “One Less Lonely Girl” is a love song about the heartthrob’s attempt to win the heart of his love interest.
The accompanying music video tells the story of a girl working in a laundromat, who catches Bieber's eye. Deciding that she’s the one for him, the pop-star goes about creating a scavenger hunt for her, ending in an idyllic date.
“Saw so many pretty faces, now all I see is you,” sings Bieber to the girl, whom presumably has had her fair share of heartbreaks.
“I’m coming for you,” he adds (in a totally romantic way).
In the world of the song, Bieber and this totally ordinary laundromat girl would get together and she’d no longer be single — and as a result, no longer lonely.
But what made the song so important to his fans was how Bieber performed it at his concerts.
As he sang with choreographed dance moves and an entourage of backup dancers, Bieber’s manager would go into the audience and pick a girl.
The girl would get escorted up onto the stage, to a chair in the middle waiting for her.
She’d take a seat, receive a bouquet of flowers from Bieber before being serenaded.
While he sang the hit song, he’d hold her hand, give her a hug, and gently caress her face before flashing her a flirty wink.
And for three minutes and 51 seconds, that girl was Bieber’s One Less Lonely Girl (OLLG).
The first known crowning of an OLLG happened on June 23, 2010, in Connecticut, USA, during Bieber’s “My World Tour”, and he performed the song the same way in the concerts that followed.
From state to state, country to country, one lucky fan at his concerts had the chance to be the pop star’s OLLG.
Looking at the archive of OLLGs, there didn’t seem to be a theme amongst the randomly picked girls except for the fact that most of them looked like any other average teenage girl — at least to me.
So, any teen girl could be picked, right?
Any girl could be whisked from her boring, ordinary life and become the object of Bieber’s affection — if only for a few minutes.
At least that’s what fans chose to believe.
For hardcore fans, myself included, it was a dream to be the OLLG.
I mean, what fan wouldn't fantasise about getting up close and personal with their idol right?
But unfortunately, by 2016 on his third world tour, OLLG was no longer on his setlist.
Bieber somewhat explained why during an interview with James Corden in 2020, when he talked about singing the song at his wedding to his wife Hailey.
“I was like, ‘you know what, you’re not the One Less Lonely Girl, you’re the one last lonely girl’,” said Bieber.
So while we didn’t know it 11 years ago when Bieber first came to Singapore, that girl who was seemingly plucked at random out of the Indoor Stadium’s crowd to be that night’s OLLG was joining an extremely exclusive club that has now ceased to take new membership applications.
In other words, she got to be an OLLG — something I will never be.
Fangirls the day after the concert
In my classroom, we replayed footage of the song’s performance over and over again, scrutinising every moment with envy.
To this day, I can still remember that Singapore's OLLG wore a white headband as she held Bieber’s hand on stage.
How exactly that girl ended up on stage proved to be a sticking point for many local Beliebers the day after.
I couldn’t help but notice how, unlike the other OLLGs, Singapore’s didn’t look like any ordinary girl. In any crowd, she would’ve stood out for how pretty she was.
But then my admiration quickly burned over in jealousy.
Yes, crazy teenage fans can do and feel the craziest things, and I was no different.
As a young teenager, I had piles of Bieber’s merchandise — from t-shirts with his face on them, his perfume collection, posters plastered on my bedroom wall, and even a Justin Bieber doll.
Being a Belieber was such a large part of my identity that even teachers knew I was obsessed with him; one gifted me a printed collage of Bieber’s face on A4 paper.
I also used to tweet him daily, hoping he would see it and acknowledge it – and he did.
I wasn’t alone in my Bieber fandom — as that day in school illustrated, many other girls were heartbroken over not being chosen to be the OLLG.
It wasn’t long before reasons were being tossed around the classroom as to why we weren’t the chosen one.
Mine was simple and straightforward: I wasn’t even at the concert. (Thanks mum.)
Others cited that they were too far back; surely Bieber’s manager couldn’t be expected to walk all the way down to Row P.
Or maybe it was because of her good looks, though that didn’t really fit the OLLG MO.
Yet, the reason that stuck the most had nothing to do with us.
As some of us were engrossed in watching the video for the tenth time in a row, I remembered a classmate from across the room snarking: “She paid the person to go on stage lah!”
This rumour about whether the OLLG experience had been paid for wasn’t confined to our school.
Across social media, Beliebers in Singapore were digging up details of the OLLG, and using it as evidence that she’d paid her way into Bieber’s arms.
Today, a simple Google search using the terms “Singapore One Less Lonely Girl” brings up the following information:
- Her name is Nicole Elise
- She was 17 years old at the time
- She attended the Singapore American School
- She is the daughter of former supermodel Hanis Hussey
For many, Elise’s supermodel mother was the smoking gun for the conspiracy.
Surely, a supermodel, with all her connections and wealth would be able to get her daughter up on stage.
After all, it seemed like Elise’s parents were bent on giving their daughter the best night of her life, as evidenced by the limousine that ferried her to the concert venue.
And with all this “evidence”, fans were convinced. Elise was public enemy number one for Singapore’s Beliebers.
“Why only Singapore has the fake OLLG?” read one tweet I saw, posted weeks after Bieber’s 2011 concert.
“(Elise) you are dead. If I see you on streets, YOU ARE DEAD!”
Investigating the rumour
While I didn’t want her dead, I have wondered about Elise and her rumoured paid-for OLLG experience over the years.
My curiosity over the incident went into overdrive when Bieber announced that he was returning to Singapore for his latest (now postponed) international concert tour.
11 years later, I needed to know.
Was it possible that Elise and her mum had set up the whole thing?
Good thing I could investigate the rumour under the guise of “work”.
I reached out to LAMC PRODUCTIONS, the production house that brought Bieber to Singapore in 2011.
As the company involved in the entire process of putting together the concert, surely they would know if you could pay for such a thing.
I emailed LAMC asking if I could speak to someone on their team about the concert but after a few back-and-forth emails, they ghosted me.
I then tried tracking down people from Elise’s orbit.
Scrolling through the comments on a video interview that she’d done with The New Paper after the concert, I saw the following claim: “She was picked because her parents paid some backstage bouncers to allow her to be the OLLG. She’s from my school.”
That commenter was uncontactable, but I did know people from Elise’s school. Maybe they could shed some light on the veracity of this rumour.
However, when I posed the question, they too were none the wiser; Elise was years ahead of them at the American School and they didn’t know her personally.
It was another dead end.
I guess the best person I could speak to about this was Elise herself.
Finding Elise wasn’t hard — these days she’s a model and influencer living in California, U.S., with over 100,000 followers on Instagram.
I sent her a message through Instagram asking if she’d speak to me about her OLLG experience and after a couple of hours, Elise wrote back: “Hi, yes, I would be happy to chat.”
We went through about a week of back-and-forth messages to secure an interview date.
The time difference did make it difficult to contact Elise. Her delayed responses and repeated rescheduling made me think she regretted responding to my message in the first place.
After all, I was digging up an 11-year-old memory tainted with an unpleasant accusation.
A couple of hours before our scheduled call, Elise messaged me explaining that she'd been busy. I then confirmed our virtual meeting by sending her a message with the details of our scheduled interview and the video call link.
That message was met by radio silence. I was beginning to think that we were never going to speak.
Yet, right at the time we agreed, Elise logged onto our video chat, flashing a warm smile and apologising for having been so busy.
“How do you prepare for something like this?”
While it had been a long time, Elise has distinct memories of the events leading up to her being on stage.
She recalled Allison Kaye, Bieber’s manager who picked the OLLGs at the concerts, walking up to her at her aisle seat four rows from the stage.
In the midst of the noise and bustle of the concert, Elise remembered being perplexed when Kaye, who wore an official concert lanyard and a walkie-talkie, tapped her on the shoulder and said: “Come with me.”
Unsure of what to do or say to the stranger, she looked at her mother for help; Hussey nonchalantly told her: “It's okay, you can go.”
With her mother’s approval, she followed Kaye backstage where she met the dance crew and a line of security guards.
“Honestly, when I got back there and I saw a ton of security, I thought I was in trouble. Like I thought, ‘did I do something (wrong)?’”
“You’re gonna go on stage,” Kaye said as she began instructing Elise on what to do.
The flood of information was too much for the overwhelmed teenager to grasp. In a flash, some dancers grabbed her hand and brought her through black-out curtains and onto the stage.
Bright lights momentarily blinded her while the screams of fans drowned out any other sound, as she made her way to the middle of the stage.
Speaking about it more than 10 years after the fact, Elise oozed excitement as she spoke about how meeting her “idol and crush” and being able to go on stage with him was something her 17-year-old self couldn’t fathom.
“How do you prepare for something like this?” she said, explaining why she looked so awkward when Bieber came close to her.
“... it happened so fast. I don't even remember him being close to me. I just blacked out, I only remember parts of it even to this day.”
The next thing she remembered was being backstage again with a bouquet of flowers in her hand, the latest-minted OLLG.
“The most disliked girl in Singapore”
Elise had little time to savour the moment. Crazed fans in the crowd quickly turned her time in the spotlight sour.
As she manoeuvred her way back to her seat, fans started yelling at her.
From each side, they reached out their arms trying to grab her, some trying to snatch the flowers out of her hands, Elise recalled.
It was hectic enough that when she finally made it back to her seat, a security guard had to be stationed right by her until the concert ended.
For the rest of the night, she felt all eyes were on her.
“I remember going back to the car and I was getting some pretty horrible looks and people weren't happy about it.”
In the days that followed, the scrutiny intensified.
She found all her personal details, including that of her family, blasted online. Many took to discussing how Elise had arrived in a limousine, furnishing their stories with purported accounts of how she had behaved throughout the concert.
Most comments by online users slandered her name, some calling her a fake, others saying she was a ruiner of dreams.
“I remember someone telling me like, just don’t look online because it’s people who are not very happy about you,” Elise said.
“I just remember crying after I did the interview (with The New Paper) because I didn't understand what bullying was until I had seen the backlash.”
Soon, Twitter was flooded with accusations of her using her connections or paying to get on stage.
Many also turned their crosshairs on Elise’s mother accusing her of setting up the OLLG experience and criticising her parenting.
The accusation continues to niggle at her 11 years later; she told me that only just recently she’d asked her mother again if the OLLG experience had been paid for.
“Why would she lie now?” Elise said, explaining that her mum had denied setting it up.
But perhaps the best argument that puts to bed the rumour for me is the fact that Elise and her family had gone to the concert to celebrate her sister’s 14th birthday.
In fact, it wasn’t just Elise, her mother, and her sister that were seated in that fourth row — they were joined by a group of her sister’s closest friends too.
It also explains why the group had arrived in a limousine; it had been a special treat for the 14-year-old’s birthday.
So of course, if her parents were going to pay for anyone to go on stage and be the OLLG, it would have been Elise’s sister.
Teenagers being teenagers
But it wasn’t her sister up there that night, it was Elise. And that meant that it was also Elise who bore the brunt of the hate from disappointed Bieber fans.
What was meant to be an experience she should’ve been able to savour forever, was now tinged with a bitter aftertaste.
Elise remembered seeing an article that referred to her as “the most disliked girl in Singapore”.
“That stuck with me for a long time,” she said.
Now 28, Elise said that as an adult she could understand why so much hate was directed her.
Sometimes fans — obsessed as they are with their idols — just act in toxic ways.
She referred me to an interview where Bieber’s wife Hailey had spoken about the aggressiveness of the singer’s fans towards her.
“It’s almost as if fans feel like they have ownership over somebody,” Elise said.
“I think it comes from a place of — they’re just really big fans of the person. It is what it is. Teenagers being teenagers.”
Needless to say, Justin Bieber meant a lot to me.
He was one of my first celebrity crushes at an age when there were few celebrities I liked that I could relate to.
I liked Brad Pitt and Leonardo Dicaprio too but they are more than 20 years older than me. Bieber is a mere three years my senior, and when he started out, I was hooked by his boyish charm and innocence.
I watched Bieber mature over the years, from his looks to the music he made. It almost felt as if he was evolving along with our own tastes; when Bieber went into his bad boy stage, I was all for it.
Undoubtedly, many others felt the same way towards him, some expressing it rather vocally and forcefully, as Elise found out.
It's not hard to see why the rumour about Elise buying her OLLG title took root — we were all living in a fantasy world where many of us truly believed we were meant to be the OLLG.
When it turned out not to be the case, we needed a reason to explain the discrepancy between reality and our imagination — and the simplest of them all was that Elise must have cheated her way to the spot that was rightfully ours.
As Elise said: “teenagers being teenagers.”
I’m now 25, no longer a teenager, and hopefully, when he reschedules his concert, I’ll finally get to see Justin Bieber live and in the flesh, enjoying the performance as a matured non-toxic fan.
Bieber too is no longer a teenager. He’s 28 and happily married, and no longer looking to the crowd to find his one less lonely girl.
“He doesn’t need to sing it anymore. He’s found his girl,” quipped Elise.
Top image made via photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images and Ollgtracker.