The Selena Gomez story: How a young actress from Texas transformed into a multi-million dollar music icon

Fresh from the success of her new album Rare, the 28-year-old is leaving no stone unturned while evolving into an all-round artiste with her virtual cooking show and debut make-up line

Karan Pillai Published :  11th September 2020 06:00 AM   |   Published :   |  11th September 2020 06:00 AM
Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

Listening to Selena Gomez sing is like watching a storyteller in full swing. Someone who tries her best to be honest while letting us into the recesses of her mind with passionate lyrics. Which is why, if you look at her three studio albums, you will realise that her music seems to be an extension of Selena herself.

“Inspiration in songwriting comes from various places, emotions and even narrations,” she says while talking about how the art of music continues to evolve for her. Through her songs over the years, the vivacious singer has not only elevated her celebrity stature but also helped her fans look beyond her superstar persona and understand her better as a person.

Sui generis

Album cover of Rare

A strong testament of that would be her latest album Rare, which was released in January this year. Already considered by critics to be her best album yet, Rare not only gave Selena her first number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100Lose You to Love Me — but also showed us an artiste who has developed into a mature songwriter with evocative tracks like Look At Her Now and Vulnerable.

The 28-year-old Texan admits that the music in this album is her most honest work to date. With electronic, Latin pop and R&B influences, it features songs that touch upon themes like self-acceptance, empowerment and loving oneself.

Telling us how her attitude towards songwriting has changed over the years, she says, “I have learnt that the more personal the writing process is, the more powerful the lyrics and the outcome of the song turn out to be.” This statement, coming from someone whose personal life has always been under the scanner — especially her relationships — makes perfect sense, and shows that she is not one to shy away from her past.

Onboard the K-pop cart 

Nevertheless, even though themes like love and heartbreak dominate her soundscape, her creative versatility has enabled her to break the mould and team up with K-pop girl band BlackPink for a refreshingly energetic and fun song called Ice Cream (the second single from the group’s upcoming debut album, titled The Album).

In the music video, Selena looks unlike anything we have ever seen her as before and manages to fit in perfectly with the extravagance of K-pop’s audaciously colourful universe. The hype surrounding this song was surreal, to say the least, as fans of both the artistes were visibly thrilled when this collaboration was announced. Ultimately the video garnered over 200 million views on YouTube in just two weeks.

Selena on the set of Ice Cream by BlackPink

“It was actually amazing to be working with the girls of BlackPink. They are very talented and were very warm and welcoming,” Selena shares. While the scenes featuring the band were shot in South Korea, Selena’s scenes were completed in the US. “Although we shot virtually it was such a fun project,” she admits while recognising the massive popularity of K-pop — “Reaching out to the Korean music industry has been a pleasure.”

Watch Ice Cream video below:

Beyond the Billboard

Those who have been following Selena’s career since the beginning would be aware that she does much more than just make music. She has proved her versatility in other projects too, be it acting (both TV and movies), anchoring a band in the early years of her career (Selena Gomez & the Scene), supporting shows like 13 Reasons Why for which she was an executive producer, and even philanthropy as one of UNICEF’s spokespersons.

This year, as the pandemic continued to take its toll, Selena presented a cooking show on HBO Max. Titled Selena+Chef, the unscripted show features the popstar trying out a new cuisine in every episode, while being remotely assisted over video chat by professional chefs from around the world. “I have wanted to try my hand at cooking for so long and what better time to do it while you are in quarantine, right? As they say, when you are passionate about things, you make time for it,” she says.
 

Watch the trailer of the Selena+Chef below:

Besides this, she also launched her debut make-up line Rare Beauty earlier this month, which stays true to Selena’s comprehensive approach towards body positivity with beauty products that cater to all shapes and colours. “I have been pretty occupied with different things, but it just felt like time,” she says.

Unity in positivity 

While this year has been important for Selena on the creative front, it has also been a very personal one. A few months ago, on a live Instagram chat with Miley Cyrus, she revealed that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Later, she elaborated on the negative effects of the lockdown on people in general.

“The lockdown definitely has had a huge impact on mental health for a large number of people. Having no access to everyday things can create a negative impact. It’s important to keep helping yourself and to overcome the triggers of mental health. Try doing something that helps with the anxiety. Moreover, learning new things and keeping yourself busy also help by distracting the mind,” she explains.

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With the Black Lives Matter movement rattling the pillars of
USA’s democracy, Selena shares her own opinion about the same —
“This movement has been long overdue. It’s shocking to come to terms with the
difficulties that people face based on their colour and other differences. I do believe that
people make up society and their origin or colour has nothing to do with it. A positive change within the minds of the people will help create a better world.”

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For those who find themselves struggling during the pandemic, Selena has a reassuring message to share. Talking from her own experience of living under lockdown, she says, “I think it has been a challenging time for people around the globe and the only way to overcome it is to ‘stay united by staying away’. Stay home, remain safe and take necessary precautions. Also, use this time to grow by learning new skills, and most importantly stay positive!”

Selena during her Norway dance tour

 

Dream teams
Selena may have a long list of solo hits, but her oeuvre won’t be complete without her collaborations with other artistes, some of whose songs have ended up being monumental hits in their own right. We pick five such tracks that have added a different dimension to her career and have contributed to her steady evolution as a versatile artiste:

We Don’t Talk Anymore | Charlie Puth (2016) — One of Puth’s biggest hits, this song was elevated to titanic levels of excellence with Selena’s restrained yet powerfully soothing rendition. This duet turned out to be the flavour of the season when it released and was followed by Attention, making it a hattrick of Billboard blockbuster releases for Puth.

 

Taki Taki | DJ Snake, Ozuna, Cardi B (2019) — Selena holds her ground beside a fiery Cardi B who ultimately steals the show in this typical DJ Snake track. The song turned out to be a blockbuster in the end and remains one of Selena’s biggest ever hits.

 

Can’t Get Enough | Benny Blanco, Tainy, J Balvin (2019) — This peppy track is Selena’s first collab with award-winning Columbian singer J Balvin and has an equally fun video to go with it.

 

Wolves | Marshmello (2017) — Marshmello perfectly complements Selena’s strong vocal performance in this solid EDM track.

 

Fetish | Gucci Mane (2017) — The critically-acclaimed standalone single that was later added to the Rare album features American rapper Gucci Mane, and has Selena delivering her lines with remarkable grace.

 

(You can get in touch with the writer via mail at karan.pillai@newindianexpress.com and follow him on Twitter at @karan_pillai)

 

 

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