Over the last year, Selena Gomez — one of four stars celebrated as PEOPLE’s People of the Year — has found solid footing as an advocate for mental health, racial equality and body positivity
In a year where many have felt lost, Selena Gomez found a new sense of purpose.
At the start of 2020, the pop superstar, 28, released her long-awaited third studio album, Rare, her most personal album yet that debuted at No. 1.
But just weeks after, Gomez shelved promotion plans for her latest work as the pandemic began to shut down the country.
She didn’t stay idle for long.
After protests against police brutality erupted nationwide over the summer, Gomez handed her Instagram account — with its 195 million followers — to activists like Black Lives Matter co-creator Alicia Garza and Black Trans Circles founder Raquel Willis.
“That was a no-brainer,” says Gomez in this week’s cover story, where she and three other stars are celebrated as PEOPLE’s People of the Year. “It made sense for me to learn, and learn from the best people.”
The star also continued to be open about her struggles with depression and anxiety, sharing how she initially felt hopeless and at times was unable to get out of bed.
Then when she launched her inclusive makeup line, Rare Beauty, in September, she committed to raising $100 million in the next 10 years to provide mental health resources for underserved communities.
“I don’t feel like Rare Beauty would have been [possible] three or four years ago. I understand now how it feels to be on the other side, comparing myself or thinking I need to look more like this or more like that to fit in,” says the entertainer.
“It can take a toll on you, for sure. We’re not all a certain way, and we’re not meant to be. It’s fair to say that I am 1000 percent on the journey with the consumers,” she adds. “It’s not easy for everybody, and I want people to know they’re not alone.”
Ahead of the presidential election, Gomez also got loud about voting — revealing she was exercising her right to vote for the first time in 2020. She also amplified the messages of women who inspired her in 2020, including Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, Michelle Obama and Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams.
“I’ve had a sliver of dealing with [racism] growing up, especially with my dad [who is Mexican]. When it came to telling people to vote, I felt like it was my duty,” she says. “Witnessing strong women who have walked journeys that I couldn’t imagine walking was such a pinch-me moment, and I’m just very grateful.”