Selena Gomez has come a long way since she first burst onto US TV screens at seven years of age playing the role of Gianna in Barney & Friends, the popular children's show about a friendly purple Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Born and raised in Texas and in her own words a "proud third-generation American-Mexican”, the actor and singer, now 28, has sold millions of records worldwide, appeared in critically acclaimed films like Spring Breakers, been named Billboard Woman of the Year, launched brands of clothing, accessories and fragrances, and executive produced TV shows including Netflix documentary series Living Undocumented, which follows the lives of eight undocumented immigrant families living in the United States. She has also been increasingly committed in her mental health advocacy, and her fans have been vocal in their appreciation.
Like fellow artist Lady Gaga, Gomez has been candid about the difficulties she has faced living with mental illness, discussing her experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and depression in a 2017 interview with Vogue, where she spoke about undergoing Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, and revealing in April this year when she made an appearance on "Bright Minded", Miley Cyrus' Instagram talk show, that she had recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
For World Mental Health Day, Gomez penned an article for CNN in which she speaks about her own experiences and the stigma associated with discussion of the issue. In the piece, Gomez talks about social media, noting that even though we often look to it as a source of validation, comfort and connection, its constant bombardment of us with distressing news and the way it promotes – especially among young women – unrealistic levels of perfection can have detrimental effects upon our mental health, going on to explain how helpful she has found it to take frequent social media 'detoxes'.
Feelings of isolation can also make things more difficult. “For anyone who is struggling with mental health issues or is simply having a difficult time,” she says, “I want to tell you that you are not alone,” before touching on her own experiences with therapy. “(Therapy) helped me answer a lot of questions about why I was feeling a certain way and helped me overcome some obstacles,” says Gomez, admitting that for a long time, the pressure she had felt to always appear perfect had made it difficult for her to open up about her feelings of depression and anxiety. She speaks about the relief she felt upon realising that therapy was a productive way to engage with her difficulties, adding, “I think admitting I am a human being, and not perfect - nobody is - was actually more beneficial to the people that looked up to me”.
In the piece, Gomez also discusses her new makeup line, Rare Impact, which she says she hopes will not only help shift the conversation around beauty norms towards each person's uniqueness but will also fulfil the company's stated goal of raising $100 million over the next ten years to help provide mental health care access to people in underserved communities. This initiative will be carried out under the guidance of the Rare Impact Mental Health Council, a body made up of expert advisors from leading universities, organizations, and companies. She concludes her article by saying that “we all need to embrace our uniqueness, stop comparing ourselves to others, and love ourselves more, especially right now”.
Gomez is committed to using her immense platform to raise awareness and to encourage others to see mental health as a part of life which it shouldn't be taboo to speak about. "We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back,” she said back in the 2017 Vogue interview. “We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.”