Selena Gomez has revealed she was bullied while working for the Disney Channel in her breakout role on Wizards of Waverly Place.
“I think he understood that I knew what it meant to be bullied,” Gomez told NY Times, explaining how she convinced Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher to let her and her mom option the rights to his book. “I went to the biggest high school in the world, which is the Disney Channel. And my mom had a lot of history dealing with [bullying]. I heard her stories growing up. She’s very open about it.”
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“When I was growing up, I was always bullied because I was the outsider, the weird girl with the purple hair and combat boots,” added Gomez’s mother, Mandy Teefey. “Then I was a teen mom. You get really judged. I had counselors telling me how I’d ruined my life, [Selena’s] life and how I ruined the father’s life, even though he participated.”
The mother-daughter duo got candid while promoting the new Netflix series Thirteen Reasons Why, based on Asher’s best-seller about a high school student who takes her life, leaving behind cassette tapes explaining which 13 people drove her to suicide.
Gomez was 15 when she optioned the rights to the story with her mom and says she’s happy to be playing a strictly behind-the-scenes role, as executive producer, on the project.
“Once I left my series [and] started to go for roles that weren’t that age range, it organically began to become a project that I knew I would be behind the scenes with,” she said. “I actually like that I’m not in it. To be honest, this book has such a huge following. I wanted it to be credible. If I’m a part of it, that’s going to cause a whole other conversation.”
The 24-year-old Spring Breakers star, who has lupus and has struggled with depression and anxiety, also addressed her 90-day retreat from the limelight for health reasons – “It felt like [the show] was mirroring what was going on in my life,” – and made an Instagram confession.
“I delete the app from my phone at least once a week,” she laughed. “You fixate on the [negative] ones. It’s like they want to cut to your soul. Imagine all the insecurities that you already feel about yourself and having someone write a paragraph pointing out every little thing -- even if it’s just physical.”
Having grown up in the limelight and frequently typecast as a fresh-faced, innocent teen, Gomez hopes that 13 Reasons Why, which premieres March 31, will help propel her to the next stage of her career.
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“I could do any tomboy/teen princess movie in the world if I wanted to. But I want to be a part of projects that have value and it’s really hard to do that. Sometimes I feel defeated,” she admitted. “I’ll audition for a part that I feel very passionate about, meet with people, tell them I’m willing to go places. I think they think I won’t go there.”
“To be honest, I don’t think it’s going to happen anytime soon for me,” she added. “I think I look really young, and image-wise, it’s difficult for people to grasp. But early on, my mom taught me that sometimes you just have to create those projects for yourself. That’s what I want this to be: a launching pad.”
See more on Selena’s difficult time producing 13 Reasons Why below.