The singer and actress is getting candid about her childhood in the spotlight and when she first felt uncomfortable about fame.
By the age of 25, Selena Gomez has already achieved monumental success in multiple fields, first as a Disney star, then as a pop icon and now she's storming into the world of fashion, and the young star is opening up about her time in show business and how it's changed the way she thinks about her own life.
"I’ve been doing it since I was seven. To be honest, I don’t think I know anything different," Gomez told The Business of Fashion in an interview published on Monday.
Reflecting on her years as a child star on the Disney Channel series The Wizards of Waverly Place, Gomez credits her mom, Mandy Teefey, for keeping her grounded, supporting her, and never falling into the so-called "stage mom" trap.
"She was very aware, for some reason, of what could happen to me," the actress recounted. "She always said to me that I should have fun, and if it wasn’t fun or if I wasn’t learning something or I wasn’t growing as a person, she wanted to take me out of it."
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Gomez recalled how she loved being part of show business when she was young, but "it got harder the older I was getting."
"I was actually more confident when I was younger than I am now," she shared. "I think it changed when I started getting known for things that weren’t [related to] my work… When I was younger, it was all fun to me. When I did state fairs and 100 people would show up, I would be stoked. That was the best feeling in the world. But when I got older, I started to become exposed to the truth behind some stuff and that’s when it flipped a little bit."
"I realized, 'Oh this is actually really hard, and kind of slimy in certain areas,' and I didn’t realize that certain people wanted certain things from me," she added. "My confidence went through a lot with that."
One of the first memories she has of being uncomfortable about her celebrity status came when she was a teenager being targeted by paparazzi in her day-to-day life.
"I remember just feeling really violated when I was younger, even just being on the beach. I was maybe 15 or 16 and people were taking pictures — photographers. I don’t think anyone really knew who I was. But I felt very violated and I didn’t like it or understand it," she reflected. "That felt very weird, because I was a young girl and they were grown men. I didn’t like that feeling."
Another turning point came when Gomez was 18 and she was working on the last season of her Disney Channel show. "I didn’t feel like it was about my art as much. I was on the fourth season of the show, and I felt like I was outgrowing it. I wanted something different and obviously, I fell in love for the first time," Gomez said, referring to her high-profile relationship with fellow child star Justin Bieber. The pair split in 2014, and Gomez is currently in a relationship with The Weeknd.
As she's grown ever more famous, Gomez has also become increasingly aware of the need to maintain her own emotional and mental health, causes she's also publicly championed over the last two years.
"I have to take care of myself and not feel guilty about it. I will say no when I need to say no, and I will make sure that I will not overdo everything," Gomez said of what she's learned to do to maintain her work/home life balance. "[Sometimes] I feel like if I don't accept everything that's happening then maybe it seems like I’m ungrateful, or I’m not doing enough. [But] I just have to take care of myself."
One of the challenges Gomez said she's faced is finding people who she can trust and who actually care about her, which has led her to be much more selective with who she truly opens up to and considers a friend.
"I feel like I know everybody but have no friends," she shared. "I have like, three good friends that I can tell everything to, but I know everyone. I go anywhere and I’m like, 'Hey guys, how’s it going?' And it feels great to be connected to people, but having boundaries is so important. You have to have those few people that respect you, want the best for you and you want the best for them."
Despite the stress of living in the public eye -- which once led her to step back from the spotlight entirely for several months -- Gomez said that she cannot ignore her passion for creating things.
"There were so many moments where I felt like, 'You know what, I’m done.' But there is this fire in me that I can’t explain. I’ll have two days off and it burns," she said. "There’s something inside me that knows I’m supposed to be doing something. I want to be communicating and creating and being stimulated. I want to keep doing things, keep progressing. I always want to challenge myself. So, I want to do the best that I can possibly do."