A defeated young woman rests her head on the legs of a friend in the back of a car. Together they walk the streets of Paris without saying a word until the second question “how are you”. “Very tired”, she replies without encouragement and with her gaze in infinity the first, impregnated with sadness. “Do you want the medicine? I know what you are going to say, but you should take them, ”her companion insists. There seems to be no remedy, no cure, no forces that can be transmitted to the body that seeks consolation, huddled in the seat. The dejected girl is Selena Gómez (Texas, 1992) on a promotional trip to Paris in 2019.
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The next thing is to meet fans, give interviews and end up feeling like “a product” in one of them. The singer gets angry after attending a journalist who, although she considers that she asks interesting questions, she does not feel that she pays attention to her answers. “She made me feel like when she was at Disney,” she replies to the team, annoyed at her regretting remembering the feeling of going in costume without anyone really caring who she was.
This is just one of the episodes that make up the documentary Selena Gomez: My mind and I, available on Apple TV from this Friday, November 4. A feature film directed by AleK Keshishian (In bed with Madonna), filmed between 2016 and 2020. A period in which the actress let the cameras into her dressing rooms, bedrooms, flights, trips and medical sessions with a freedom that is even overwhelming.
The American is open about her lupus and how the kidney transplant she underwent in 2017 saved her life. She also about anxiety, depression, the psychotic break she suffered in 2017 and forced her to cancel her tour revivalthe feeling of never being enough that has accompanied him since he started working at just seven years old and the bipolar disorder that was diagnosed in 2019.
Seeing Selena face all of this is very hard and powerful, because of how the film has found the right, respectful and committed tone with which to do it. There is no hint of paternalism or infantilization of the protagonist of it. There is also no idealization or romanticization of her illness. She is not deified, she is not blamed, she is not treated with pity or silenced. You see smiles, tears, toasts, performances, recordings, rehearsals, dinners, awakenings, visits to her neighborhood, fights, emaciation and euphoria. All of this turns the feature film into a document that, beyond the drama it relates, does not remain on a surface of morbidity but instead bets on crudeness. And this is precisely its greatest value.
It is painful because it is real and at the same time aware of its potential audience. The interpreter became a Disney star from a very young age -with all that this implies for better and for worse- and she therefore has a wide range in terms of the age of her followers. The piece is classified for people over 12 years of age, to whom she also extends her hand. Going through everything that has happened -and happens- has generated in Gómez a deep awareness about the importance of talking about mental health with young people.
In one of the scenes, he reflects on how children are taught to identify emotions with drawings of happy and sad faces; and the conflict that supposes that, having reached the institutes, something so extremely important is ignored. Such is his concern in this regard that he came to meet in May of this year with his foundation Rare Impact Fund at the White House, to discuss the need to implement a mental health agenda in schools.
count to oneself
Gómez is not the first artist to use the tools that a documentary allows to tell the story of herself. Lady Gaga did it in Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017), Demi Lovato in dancing with the devil (2018) and Taylor Swift in miss american (2020), to cite just a few examples. One might wonder why the explosion of this type of titles.
Perhaps it is a consequence of the lack of space that these artists have faced to express themselves in their careers and how this context has led to end up turning this genre into the ideal place where they can decide what to say, how to do it and why. In none of the cited pieces underlies the idea that they were born out of the obligation to justify themselves, but rather out of the need to have control over how to count themselves.
Selena Gómez does not treat herself like a broken toy, among many other reasons because she is not. The journey and evolution that is recorded in the documentary is valuable because it does not hide how life overwhelmed every opportunity to shoot it based on a pre-established script. The start of her shows the protagonist in the prolegomena of her tour revival practicing and doing costume and makeup tests. “If I were a guy I could wear jeans, change shirts and put on a hat. No one would care”, she muses alongside his team as she dresses in different outfits. bodysuits to test your comfort. After the final rehearsal, in which her classmates are more than satisfied with the result, she can only cry.
“It’s horrible, I don’t know what I’m doing,” he laments while fearing that the record company will think they have made the mistake of “hiring a Disney brat.” Nothing is further from reality. Seconds later she receives an enthusiastic accolade from the label. But no matter, her impostor syndrome is so deeply ingrained that it is impossible for her not to suffer absolutely heartbroken. Gómez experiences this process with the added burden of having to deal with speculation and continuous comments about his love life. He dedicates 24 hours of his day to day to his professional career while the only thing that seems to matter to the press is how he is dealing with his notorious breakup with Justin Bieber. “When will I be worth it on my own without anyone connecting me with anyone?”, is one of her claims.
55 concerts later, the singer canceled the tour. The headlines said it was “for anxiety, panic attacks and depression.” Raquelle, Gómez’s friend who accompanies her on all her trips, assures that if someone had seen her friend in the psychiatric center where she was admitted after suffering the psychotic break that stopped her, “no one would have recognized her”. “One day she said that she didn’t want to live, her gaze was into the void and she scared me a lot,” she recalls. By then Selena was already hearing voices, “increasingly loud”, as they reveal, but then they did not know that she suffered from bipolar disorder. Hence her diagnosis years after her was so extremely liberating.
Her ‘discovery’ led her to ponder whether or not she should go public, until it reached a point where she felt she was ready to say, “I’m sad.” Such was the push that she broke the record for writing a song in less time, 45 minutes. The result was Lose you to love me, which remains one of the artist’s greatest hits. “It talks about my learning to choose me,” she describes her lyrics.
Light in the course of tunnels with exit
The documentary shows part of the philanthropic work carried out by Gómez, specifically with a trip to Kenya to a school that she finances. There she talks with the students and has a conversation with a woman who tells her that she tried to commit suicide. “I know what it’s like to be about to do something to hurt you,” the artist confesses in a powerful face-to-face dialogue, which makes the singer herself question herself, aware of a perverse reality and, unfortunately, universal: “I always find the person who doesn’t like me and I create her.”
As for the rest of humanity, 2020 and the outbreak of the pandemic were not a high point for Selena, who had the aggravation of her lupus complication. The documentary shows the artist undergoing the harsh treatment that she needed to palliate her, and with which she, however, grants slight points of humor. She obtained positive results and thanks to this she has been able to continue forward within the firm personal process that the feature film has registered.
His greatest merit, despite the obvious difficulties that the singer’s life has gone through, is that he is not defeatist. On the contrary, her catharsis so related to her context as a teen star that she in turn returns to her native Texas dressed in tracksuits as a recurring ritual, has a coherent and sincere background. It is luminous because it distills truth, a committed truth, but without frills. The singer closes, which she does not conclude, the journey summarizing the last four years of her life in three lines: “I am an unfinished project. I am enough. I’m Selena.” And what’s left.