“Sorry, it’s kind of a mess right now,” Austin Mahone says as we walk beneath the skylights of his massive, white-marbled bathroom, past a koi pond filled with an assortment of plants and palm trees. I’m taking the first-ever tour of the singer’s new home in the Miami area. He flips the light switch to a connecting room, illuminating racks of his signature colorful shoes. “This is my closet—it’s pretty serious,” he says, his green eyes fixed on the center shelf. “All my Giuseppes, some Gucci, and I have some custom-made pairs.” Also: They’re organized. “I categorize them by, um, how expensive they are,” he says, smiling.
The Mahone house is a bustling place today, with Austin’s friends, mom, and granddad all doing their part to install curtains, fill the fridge, set up the pool table, and unpack the guy-approved DVDs in the movie room, which boasts an LED star ceiling. “I moved in two days ago,” Austin explains, shoving clothes out of the way. He opens a set of glass doors to a sprawling backyard and a grotto-esque swimming area lined with tiki torches he picked up at The Home Depot. “That’s the pool—I could literally walk out there from the bathroom,” he says, delighted. He takes me through his bedroom, where an episode of Family Guy is playing on a flat-screen TV, to his office, which is furnished with a red leather couch draped with a fan-made blanket, his beloved silver MTV Video Music Award Moonman in a curio cabinet, and a signed Tupac Shakur photo on the wall behind his two-computer “command center.” He picks up a scented candle from his desk. “I’ve got salted caramel in here, cinnamon in the hallway, and vanilla cupcake in my bathroom—I have them all over the place.”
It’s a sweet life for the 18-year-old: In a few hours he’s jetting off to take his headlining tour to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Central and South America, with a short in-between jaunt to Los Angeles, where he’ll work on his debut album with hitmaker-kingpin Max Martin. The past few days have been spent hauling belongings from his condo in Miami Beach, which he shared with his mom, Michele Mahone, and his three best friends from Texas: Alex Constancio, 19, Robert Villanueva, 18, and Zach Dorsey, 19. Following a yearlong search, Austin decided on this three-story dream home, situated in a private, secluded neighborhood devoid of young people, after he was rejected from another property. In a world where his peers are infamously throwing raging parties in their own McMansions, who could blame the proprietor for misunderstanding the superfamous teen? “We had letters of recommendation from my condo and other people. I’m not the type of guy who’s going to destroy your house,” Austin insists. “But now that I’m here, I’m like, Man, this house is way cooler. Everything happens for a reason.”
It’s a phrase that consistently rings true for the YouTube phenom, whose life wasn’t always easy. He was born in San Antonio and raised by a single mother and his maternal grandparents. Austin’s father, a pro rodeo cowboy, took his own life when Austin was 16 months old. “It was only my mom and me,” he says as we sit crosslegged on his bedroom floor, leaned against a moving box. “Because there was no father or siblings, that brought us even closer.” Austin takes his red-cased iPhone out of his pocket and pulls up a picture of his dad. “That’s him when he was 10 or 11. I look exactly like him. It’s scary,” Austin says. He’s the spitting image of the boy on the screen: warm eyes, defined chin, same floppy chestnut hair. “Do you see the resemblance? It’s like we’re twins.”
What easily could have been a crippling tragedy doesn’t bring Austin down. “People are like, ‘Is it weird that you don’t have a dad?’ No,” he states. “That’s just how I grew up, and that’s what’s normal for me. I can’t imagine having a dad. I can’t be like, 'Hey, Dad! Want to go play catch in the yard?’ That would be weird for me to say.” Austin’s mother remarried after his father passed away. “She wanted a father figure in my life,” he says. “But that didn’t work out.” Still, it took the sixth-grader to La Vernia, Texas, where his life changed: He met Alex, Robert, and Zach and further developed his talent for freestyle singing, guitar, and piano. “If I hadn’t met them, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Austin notes. The crew started posting videos on YouTube after school of Austin, 14 at the time, singing top-ten hits because Austin had a theory that users just might stumble upon him that way. He was right. He left high school for homeschooling, and his mother quit her job as a loan officer to help manage his burgeoning career. “It is probably the coolest thing a parent could do—to have hope and faith in what I’m doing,” he says. “I felt a lot of pressure on me and was like, OK, I definitely have to go hard now. I’ve gotta be the man of the house and make the money and provide for my family.”