A perk of the job, if your job is being Selena Gomez, is that you get a front-row seat to the whole entire world. Back in the day, before coronavirus put a dent in global travel, and arena concerts, and the very premise of loud and sweaty live music, Gomez travelled the world most months; performing to crowds of people, walking red carpets at premieres and galas, meeting fans in cities as far flung as Rome, Manila and Nairobi. Or Sydney, which Gomez last visited in 2018. “I miss it … I feel like I could live there,” says Gomez, Zooming into this interview from her new home in Los Angeles, the afternoon light filtering through gauzy cream curtains. “I just love the energy.”
It’s been three years since she was in Australia, and they have been three big years in Gomez’s world. Three years in which she has emerged from the shadow of two relationships that made her feel, she says, “less than”. Three years in which she logged off social media for good, despite being at one point the most followed Instagram user in the world. Three years in which she returned to the realm of music after a five-year break between albums, and is poised to return to television after a long absence from the small screen. Three years during which she has used her platform to advocate for awareness around mental health, chronic illness – Gomez has lupus, and in 2017 received a kidney transplant as part of her treatment – and politics, working with US politician Stacey Abrams to encourage voter turnout during the 2020 presidential election. Three years in which Gomez settled in to the grooves of her life, comfortable and comforting as they can be when you have them figured out.
Another perk of the job, if your job is being Selena Gomez, is that one day in the middle of pandemic-related aimlessness, you might have the idea for an unscripted television series called Selena + Chef in which celebrity chefs teach you how to cook. And one of those chefs might be Curtis Stone, and he might send you a care package of Australian snacks for you to sample on camera in the second season of your show – sleeves of Tim Tams and Mint Slices, a jar of Vegemite, and one distinctively wrapped chocolate bar called Violet Crumble that you’re going to really detest. At the first mention of Violet Crumbles, Gomez laughs. The truth is, she’s more of a savoury girl. “I remember when I was there, I loved – are they called Cheezels? I remember those little things,” Gomez says, grinning and relaxed over Zoom in a black sweatshirt and big hoop earrings. (“I’m going to the studio after this,” she jokes. “This is what you get.”) And anyway, it wasn’t just the Violet Crumble that Gomez didn’t like. “I already knew from years ago that I was not a Vegemite girl,” she admits.
Gomez moved into her new house in the middle of lockdown. It became her quarantine sanctuary, complete with its own studio, where Gomez is currently recording her next album, the kitchen for filming Selena + Chef, and space for working on Rare Beauty, the make-up brand that Gomez launched in 2020 and that is now available at Sephora in Australia. As well as being the home of Rare Impact Fund, which Gomez established to help drive conversations around mental health. She has always used her platform to raise awareness about subjects close to her heart, whether it’s her own mental health, or, more recently, the importance of political activism and the dangers of social media. “I think before, as a celebrity, it’s like: ‘Don’t say certain things.’ People are like: ‘Who are you? You’re just a singer,’” Gomez reflects. “I was like: ‘You’re right. That’s what I am. But I also really care about this.’ I may not know the ins and outs, but I’m not going to stop.”
VOGUE AUSTRALIA: The past year has been a year. How are you feeling?
SELENA GOMEZ: “Well, I feel like there’s so much that is happening that’s good with the vaccinations, but at the same time, I feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface of what really needs to be done with these vaccines. So I have made it a point to not only educate myself, but to also be aware of what I can do with my platform.”
VA: Have you been vaccinated? What about your family?
SG: “Yes. I’m from Texas, and so there’s some family members who are a bit wary, but everyone in my immediate life has gotten it … I know it comes with a lot, but I was completely fine. And I feel – even though I wear my mask, I take all the precautions – but there is definitely a feeling of protection.”
VA: Do you have any hopes as we move into our new normal?
SG: “I do. I hope people understand how fragile life is, but how beautiful it is at the same time. I’ve seen people become lighter, more patient, actually [having] a lot of intellectual conversations, real substance. You can tell that’s happened with people. It’s not just like: ‘Oh, how you’re doing? Do you want to go and get dinner?’ It’s so special when you’re with someone. You never get to value that, or you’re so involved in your phone. I can just tell that the world is craving connection with people, and to be honest, I think we lacked that.”
VA: You’re currently filming the third season of Selena + Chef, the cooking show you started during lockdown. What have you learnt about cooking?
SG: “I’ve learnt one thing – not one thing, millions of things – but I am not a baker. I found that out very quick! And [also that] I enjoy cooking. This was actually kind of a nice surprise. I didn’t really think I would do something like this. But during quarantine, I was like: ‘What is something I can put out in the world that can make people laugh, or make people smile?’ And what do I love more than anything? Food. I did not think we would be making it to season three, but it’s so enjoyable … All my friends were texting me: ‘What are you doing trying to cook?’ But I love cooking. I’m not great at it, but I like to add my own things … It’s been really fun.”
VA: People really loved watching Selena + Chef when it premiered last year. What have you been watching or listening to?
SG: “I’m really, really trying to support my industry. I’m buying every movie that I want to rent, and I’ve been buying music and making sure that I’m contributing. I watched The Undoing, The Queen’s Gambit, Succession, Broad City, and Saturday Night Live [SNL] – that’s actually been one of the biggest things. I’ve never followed SNL consecutively, I just watch it wherever I can, but I became such a fan, and now I watch that as my little calm-down thing … As far as podcasts, it’s really funny, the TV show that I did [Only Murders in the Building] is kind of based on murder podcasts, because there are so many out there and so many people have these fascinations, and we kind of make fun of that in a way, because everybody is obsessed with them … I’m very much into [them]. It’s so weird to say because it’s kind of morbid, but I think I just like the psychology and how they figure it out, because I’m not as smart as that.”
VA: Only Murders in the Building sees you team up with Steve Martin and Martin Short as part of an unlikely crime-solving trio. What was it like working with them?
SG: “First off, they’re brilliant. They’re legends, and they have lived so many different lives, and it’s like I’m a sponge and I’m just soaking all of that in. They were just like uncles. Marty calls me Bubbala, like: ‘How’s my little Bubbala?’ They’re so quick and witty and established. I want to be where they are. I love when people challenge me, and they would tell me things I would never know. I think you’re going to see on screen how much we did love each other.”
VA: You’re a producer on Only Murders in the Building and have been on various other projects, including 13 Reasons Why. What do you get out of that role?
SG: “I get to have a say. I get to see what works and doesn’t work, and that’s exciting for me. Because I don’t know what’s going to happen when I grow up. I would maybe love to write something, I’d maybe love to direct something. Producing has been like dipping my toe in the water. When I’m acting – I don’t want to say this because there are multiple things I feel with all my projects – but acting to me is just my favourite. It’s really, really wonderful, and I’m very happy when I’m on set.”
VA: Do you have any career ambitions that you haven’t yet achieved?
SG: “I think my life has been dominated by music. And I don’t mind it whatsoever, I’m so grateful. I’ll always probably make music, even if it’s just for me, and that’s something I’ll cherish. But what I do have goals for is to be in the acting space a bit more, and continue to work hard on my cosmetics brand because I want it to be a safe place.”
VA: Let’s talk about your brand Rare Beauty, which has just launched in Australia at Sephora. The word ‘rare’ is a very important one for you. It’s the name of your brand, the name of your last album, and you have it tattooed on your neck. What does it mean to you?
SG: “I think most of my experiences in relationships have been cursed. I’ve been way too young to be exposed to certain things when I was in relationships. I guess I needed to find what was that word for me, because I felt so less than in past relationships, and never really felt equal. And so that word to me – when I first heard it [used in the single Rare] with Nolan [Lambroza], one of the writers, I just said this is what I want to feel about myself. So it wasn’t even necessarily like: ‘Oh, I feel that way, let me sing it.’ It was almost like: ‘Actually, I need to feel that way about myself.’”
VA: Are there people in your life who embody that word for you?
SG: “Yeah. I think that my family, and my chosen family – I feel like I’m surrounded by real people.”
VA: Why did you want to start Rare Beauty?
SG: “I wanted it to be the bare essentials, and, of course, we come with colour and lip liners and all this stuff that we’re releasing. But I just wanted it to be that place where you feel good, it covers what you want to cover. And to be honest, I wanted it to become a platform for mental health and for young women or men who deal with anything – insecurities, depression, anxiety. That’s why it was necessary for me to start the Rare Impact Fund, and our goal is to raise a hundred million dollars in 10 years. I believe in that so deeply. We have so much access to help in so many different ways … Why wouldn’t there be a place for mental health? Because that’s so important.”
VA: This is something you have spoken about a lot. What are the things that help you when it comes to your day-to-day mental health?
SG: “I’ve studied DBT, which is Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. I’ve been to four treatment centres. I think in mental health, I never understood the stigma until I went to my first treatment centre, because that was years ago. But then there was a photograph that got out, and it’s wild to see how mean they were. It was like: ‘She’s the next this person, she’s the childhood star,’ whatever. And: ‘She’s doing drugs.’ They’re saying all this stuff about me. I’m watching all of that change, slowly but surely, because now, if any media outlet made fun of me, they’re the ones that look like the asshole because we don’t tolerate that anymore. It’s actually crazy that I’m watching it happen, even though I know we have so much more to do. And I have goals. I want to put this as a curriculum into schools. I feel like I practise [DBT] every day … And then I also love being in the studio. Because the first hour I’m in a studio, I just talk. It’s like therapy. You just go in and you share your heart.”
VA: Do you have a message for women who might be struggling with their own health journey right now?
SG: “Honestly, I never want to be a person that’s like: ‘I got medication, it’s fine now.’ I do believe in medication, obviously, therapy – all of these things I’ve done to try and make myself better. But my advice isn’t going to be: ‘Oh, you’re going to get over it.’ It’s actually an everyday practice. So if I’m thinking about something, I want to catch it before then. Or if I’ve been alone and isolated for too long, I’ll be like: ‘Oh wait, I need to be around people I love.’ And like I said, I also go to therapy. You can find ways to live in it. But once you understand it, the fear of you admitting that you have something goes away.”
VA: In the past few years, you have bravely revealed your lupus diagnosis and the fact you have had a kidney transplant. What things are important for you in order to feel healthy?
SG: “It’s something I’ve had to prioritise and set boundaries to ensure my health always comes first. I love what I do, but sometimes I feel overextended and it’s those moments when I have to step back and make sure I’m getting enough sleep, finding the time to have [time off] to enjoy time with my friends and family.”
VA: You’re almost 29. What do you hope the future holds for you?
SG: “I am beyond grateful that my loved ones were really safe during the pandemic. And I’m just really happy with who I am. I’m grateful that as I step into 29 – even just two years ago – I was different. It’s only gotten better, and that’s kind of what people say, you know, when you get older, you feel a bit more confident with who you are. I don’t know if that’s gonna be every year for me. Maybe it is. But I just feel like I’m constantly growing in the right direction.”
Selena + Chef is streaming now on Binge. Rare Beauty is available from Sephora Australia. Only Murders in the Building will stream on Disney+ later in the year.
This article appears in the July issue of Vogue Australia, on sale June 28.
Source: The Australian