Selena Gomez Feels Stronger After Years of Struggle & Scrutiny: ‘It Felt Gross For a Long Time’

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It’s a vast understatement to say that Selena Gomez has had a very rough couple of years. The 29-year-old singer-actress-chef-entrepreneur opens up about emerging from tragedy onto solid ground in a new Elle magazine cover story, in which she talks about seriously bonding with her veteran co-stars in the upcoming Hulu series Only Murders in the Building, and why she has made mental health a top priority.

“My lupus, my kidney transplant, chemotherapy, having a mental illness, going through very public heartbreaks — these were all things that honestly should have taken me down,” Gomez told the magazine about the health and personal struggles that she endured over the past few years. “Every time I went through something, I was like, ‘What else? What else am I going to have to deal with?’ ”

“ ‘You’re going to help people,’ ” she said of the mantra she developed. “That’s really what kept me going. There could have been a time when I wasn’t strong enough, and would have done something to hurt myself.”

Gomez — who has been calling out Facebook and other social media platforms lately for what she said was their complicity in spreading COVID-19 vaccine misinformation — has become so much more than a pop star as she closes out her second decade in the spotlight. In addition to her Rare beauty line and her Selena + Chef series (which has raised $360,000 for 23 nonprofits over two seasons), she executive produces and stars alongside comedy pals Steve Martin and Martin Short in the Hulu show Only Murders. In the upcoming series, she plays Mabel, a lonely young woman who meets her neighbors after there is, yes, a murder in their Upper West Side apartment building that the trio decide to investigate.

Short called her a “brilliant” actress who overwhelmed the cast with her “warmth and loveliness,” while also finding the time to explain the meaning of some of the things the kids say to her elders. “There was a line in the script that said, ‘She’s an OG.’ And Steve walked up and said, ‘Can somebody tell me what OG means?’ ” Gomez recalled. “I started dying laughing.” Another time she taught them the lyrics to Cardi B’s raunchy “WAP,” which had them all laughing.

And while she appears to have had a blast on set, Gomez also talked about how the lack of privacy and the constant press presence in her life since her debut as a child star at seven years old has been mentally taxing. “For a while, I felt like an object,” she said, recalling how she sought mental health treatment soon after being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus in 2014, which led to rumors that she was struggling with substance abuse. “It felt gross for a long time … the narrative was so nasty.”

The singer was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2018, and she said the news felt like a “huge weight lifted” off of her. “I could take a deep breath and go, ‘OK, that explains so much,’” she said. Part of her focus on eliminating toxicity from her life includes re-taking control of her personal narrative by giving the passwords to all her social media accounts to her assistant in 2017. The singer decided to give up on personally posting at a time when she was the most-followed person on Instagram. Unhappy with the constant negativity in the comments on her posts, Gomez said she erased the app and has never looked back.

“I don’t have it on my phone, so there’s no temptation. I suddenly had to learn how to be with myself. That was annoying, because in the past, I could spend hours looking at other people’s lives,” she said. Though she doesn’t use the app herself, Gomez still provides photos and quotes that her team uploads for her. “I would find myself down nearly two years in someone’s feed, and then I’d realize, ‘I don’t even know this person!’ Now I get information the proper way. When my friends have something to talk about, they call me and say, ‘Oh, I did this.’ They don’t say, ‘Wait, did you see my post?’ ”

And while she said earlier this year that she was considering quitting music because she didn’t feel that she was being taken seriously, Gomez — who released her first all-Spanish language album, Revelación, in March — appears to have had a change of heart. “I don’t think I’ll ever quit making music,” she said. “I’m not saying I want a Grammy. I just feel like I’m doing the best I can, and it’s all about me. Sometimes, that can really get to me.”

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