Selena Gomez was a child star turned teen idol, as famous for her romantic entanglements as for her actual talents. But times change, and now she’s a grown woman finding her own voice. Plus, she’s also dealing with serious health problems that might have floored others.
There was little in Gomez’s early life to indicate she was destined for stardom, beyond the fact that she was named after Tejano singer and actress Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Her mother gave birth to Selena when she was just 16, and they weren’t rich.
When Selena Gomez was five years old, her parents split up. “I blamed my mom a lot because I wanted a family so bad,” she later recalled. “I remember just being angry with my mom. I still feel really bad about that.”
Life for the young Selena wasn’t always easy. She and her mother Mandy would count every coin in order to afford simple things like gas and food. However, her extended family were often on hand to take her to pageants – because, even from a young age, little Selena wanted to perform.
Mandy ended up putting her whole life on hold to support her young daughter, a fact Gomez never forgot. “She gave up everything for me, had three jobs, supported me, sacrificed her life for me.” And the two are still close now.
It was in 2002 that Gomez bagged what was to be her breakthrough role as a child actor. After a period of auditioning during which she met fellow future star Demi Lovato, both kids were selected for the TV series Barney and Friends.
While still working on Barney – she didn’t leave the show until 2004 – Gomez also made an appearance in the 2003 film, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over. She only had a small role, though, as the “Waterpark Girl.”
Slowly but surely, Gomez was making a name for herself as an actress. In 2007 she won the role of Mikayla on Hannah Montana acting alongside Miley Cyrus. Cyrus would also make the transition from teen to adult star, albeit much more dramatically.
Gomez’s success on Hannah Montana to her own Disney Channel show, Wizards of Waverly Place. She and her mother could now move to Hollywood – they were struggling for cash no longer.
Gomez was part of a new wave of teen idols which also included Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, and her old friend, Demi Lovato. Their fans were many, and they were hugely devoted – but any ex-teen idol will tell you it’s especially hard to cling on to that sort of fame.
Gomez and her fellow teen idols were known for being “safe” young celebrities, far from scandal. But they had the media hanging on their every word, and for every record that Gomez released, there was a headline about her personal life not far behind.
Gomez ended up dating fellow Disney star Nick Jonas for a while – they both wore “purity rings” at the time – but they called it quits in 2010. Her next relationship, though, would be on a completely different level.
In March 2011, Gomez confirmed on Ellen that she and Justin Bieber were dating. The couple were suddenly the darlings of Disney – but it wasn’t to last. Before the year was even over, a fan had accused Justin of being the father of her child, although the allegations turned out to be false.
Unfortunately, Selena Gomez was becoming less and less known for her own persona and more for being “Justin Bieber’s girlfriend.” And as their relationship turned into an on/off one and the media lapped up the drama, it was clear that something had to give.
As time went on, Gomez revealed that – like most young stars – she was struggling with fame. And allegedly the young star had a small “meltdown” on the set of the film Spring Breakers, while her 2013 film Getaway was a disaster.
But still, Selena clearly still loved music. She performed at the Billboard Music Awards in 2013 and embarked on a tour that same year, but a blow was to come. In January 2014, the news broke that she had checked herself into the Meadows, an addiction and trauma treatment center.
While it was certainly obvious that Selena was neither a child nor a purity-ring-wearing teen anymore, the real reason she was admitted to the clinic may well have shamed a few “sources” when it eventually came out. Gomez had been diagnosed with lupus, and had entered the center to start chemotherapy treatment.
It was clear that Gomez was going through a difficult period in her life and her career. Her next two films were flops, and she ended up changing management. But what did she title her second studio album? Revival.
And her Revival was a tremendous success. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, gained a lot of praise from critics and made Gomez one of only six women who had each had three chart-topping singles from a single album. And her fans were over the moon.
Despite being dogged by health problems well into 2016 – her lupus medication causes panic attacks and depression – Gomez has achieved a lot in a short space of time. She has just short of 100 million followers on Instagram, the largest number in the platform’s history, and she’s still got projects on the go. All in all, not bad for a woman once known simply as “Justin’s girlfriend.”