Selena Gomez is only 20, so not a whole lot of time has passed since those heady days in Grand Prairie, Texas, but she is now a global superstar. Thanks to a six-year relationship with Disney, where she starred on the hit show The Wizards of Waverly Place, she is a massive force in entertainment, complete with 14 million Twitter followers,
..a feverishly speculated-about personal life (her breakups/makeups/breakups with Justin Bieber are a national fixation on par with friend Taylor Swift’s romances), an upcoming album (her fourth), a clothing line (Dream Out Loud, for Kmart), more grown-up film roles, and, on top of that, a world tour scheduled for later this year. Probably best, then, that she’s only 20.
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It’s not uncommon for former child stars to have an eerie maturity about them, and Gomez is no exception. Her voice is unexpectedly raspy, her humor on the dry side. (“I’ve been smiling for six years. I’m not smiling anymore,” she cracks on the Bazaar cover shoot.) But her fan base, at least for now, is still largely made up of children and teenagers, and she takes her responsibility to them seriously. “I love letting them know how bizarre this world is,” she says, waving her arms around (and presumably referring to Hollywood, not Hooters), “and that our lives are not better than theirs just because we get to be in magazines.”
And Gomez is on the cover of an increasing number of magazines as her star continues to rise and her cherubic looks evolve into full-blown beauty. “I’m getting older, though I don’t look it at all—I hate it now, but I’ll love it later,” she admits, chuckling. After finishing Wizards last year, she shot the action movie Getaway, opposite Ethan Hawke, but what has raised eyebrows (precisely her intention) is her role in Kids writer Harmony Korine’s button-pushing new film, Spring Breakers. She has also been stepping out without Bieber, who she dated for two years before their current state of on- or off-ness. The attention on the starry pair was doubly magnified. “It was, but that’s not a factor for me because unfortunately you can’t control that,” she says. “To me, love is normal. Of course, you see Jay and Beyoncé and you’re like, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re perfect for each other,’ but at the end of the day their love is just like everybody else’s love. They have problems, I’m sure, and they solve them, like anybody else. So to make it as normal as possible—in such an abnormal lifestyle—was super important to both of us. Which was great … ” she trails off. “That’s how it should be.”
Gomez is sanguine about the single life, adding that she doesn’t get “asked out a lot. Well, firstly, I look like this all the time,” she says, showcasing her flannel shirt and chunky knit scarf, which a blob of ketchup has landed on, “and when I actually look presentable, I’m at an awards show. It’s not like I’ve wanted to go out and look for someone. I’m not really good at that.”
But that doesn’t mean Gomez is a cynic when it comes to love. “I believe in love—yes, I’m one of those girls,” she says. “Most of my friends believe in love. I went out with Katy Perry last night. She’s so fun and awesome, but it’s cool to see someone older believe in love too. She is all about it, and that’s how I will always be. I believe in stories like, ‘Oh, I met him in Starbucks.'”
That said, Gomez is aware that she’s swimming in a smaller and smaller dating pool, recalling a breakup with an earlier boyfriend that was caused primarily by her emerging celebrity. “I’ve dated people that are not in the industry, and it does get really hard and stressful. My first boyfriend wasn’t, and it all sort of started happening, so—” she says with a sigh. “I felt bad.”
While the idea of meeting someone at Starbucks is grand in theory, Gomez has developed an invisible armor around her young shoulders. “It’s hard for me to tell myself to trust people and be open, because I don’t,” she explains. “That’s one of the negative things about this industry, that makes you very scared of everybody and their motives. It’s sad, but that’s how you have to protect yourself.”
She values her girlfriends like Taylor Swift, Emma Stone, and old friends from Texas. “It’s good to have both. It’s great to just pick up a phone and call Taylor and say, ‘I have people following me, and I’m having a bad day,’ but if I were to say that to someone else, it’s like, ‘Oh, boo hoo.’ But it’s nice to have people back home that grew up with me too.”
Gomez can also rely on a steadily rising career. In addition to finishing her next album and preparing for a yearlong world tour, there is the release of Spring Breakers, which saw her jump into the arms of the controversial director Korine in the story of college girls gone (really) wild. “It’s fun to do something that’s not necessarily for my fans,” she notes. “And Harmony really believed in me.”
She’s gradually becoming a bit of a style darling too, with two deliberate fashion personalities: one for movies and the other for music. “If I’m going to the MTV Movie Awards, I’m going to dress a certain way, but if I’m going to the MTV Music Awards, it can be a little more out there. I mean, I’m probably the only one that notices, but,” she says faux dramatically, “there’s two distinct Selenas.”
Day to day, though, “I do not give a damn what I look like, I don’t,” she says. “I wish I could pay attention because Gwen Stefani, say, looks flawless.” Gomez is also a fan of Rachel Bilson (“the one person I totally love casually”), Gwyneth Paltrow, and Charlize Theron.” She laughs. “Of course, when I’m on red carpets, I’m nervous, sweaty, and weird.”
Perhaps the reason is that there is a growing number of eyes on her. “I really don’t understand that at all,” Gomez says of the attention. “That said, I won’t lie to you and say I don’t like to see what people are wearing, like, what are the Olsens wearing? At the same time, I feel bad.”
But at the same time as that, attention equals success. And Gomez has that in her DNA. Back in Grand Prairie, she was a cheerleader. So in retrospect, it makes perfect sense that she is—once again—”on the top of the pyramid.”