THE STORY – After years in the limelight, Selena Gomez achieves unimaginable stardom. But just as she reaches a new peak, an unexpected turn pulls her into darkness.
THE CAST – Selena Gomez & Raquelle Stevens
THE TEAM – Alek Keshishian (Director/Writer) & Paul Marchand (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 96 Minutes
Selena Gomez seemed on top of the world in 2016. The 24-year-old had amassed fans everywhere because of her acting (most notably the star of the Disney Channel show “Wizards of Waverly Place”) and singing careers, and she even earned the title of the most followed person on Instagram. Her applauded second album, “Revival,” was released the year before, and she was ready to embark on an international tour.
But what the fans didn’t see was all the self-doubt, tears, and criticism she hurled at herself almost every step of the way. She thought her body didn’t look good; she didn’t think she sounded good enough and believed everything about the show sucked.
“When am I just going to be good enough?” she asks before the start of the tour, even though countless people around her assure her things are fine. Her struggles came to a head when she decided to cancel her tour after 55 performances due to anxiety, panic attacks, and depression caused by her lupus (also swirling in the media were rumors she had drug problems and partied too much). She entered a rehab program for her mental health and disappeared for a while.
But she’s not hiding anymore with Alek Keshishian’s documentary “My Mind and Me,” which includes a number of home videos and fly-on-the-wall moments during Gomez’s most trying moments. The documentary, initially meant to capture her 2016 tour, dissolved following the singer’s breakdown before it was picked back up a few years later. Although Gomez has subsequently opened up about her mental health struggles, “My Mind and Me” gives us an unpolished, real-time view of the events of the last six years. We may know tidbits of what happened, such as her bipolar diagnosis, a kidney transplant for her lupus, philanthropic work, and a busy acting and music career. Still, Gomez doesn’t hold back in this documentary.
Even though Gomez’s life has been covered every which way from a young age, Keshishian manages to capture new and revealing pieces of the pop star’s life. One of the most touching aspects of the documentary is the way it shows Gomez evolving from a young talent who felt like she had to fit a certain image of a star to a woman focused on fueling her heart and passions and helping those around her. Gomez admits she’s still a work in progress by the end of the film, but that appears to be OK at this point in her life compared to any other. The singer, who recently turned 30, knows what makes her happy, even though she’s still trying to figure out how to organize her chaotic life. Frankly, who isn’t?
There’s a lack of footage after Gomez canceled her tour due to her rehab program, but interviews with her closest friends and family members reveal just the iceberg of what she was facing during that time. Gomez revealed to her then-assistant Theresa that she didn’t want to be alive anymore. When her friends tried to figure out what was going on, Gomez apparently didn’t know either, just that the voices in her head were getting louder and louder, her friend Raquelle said. Among the most heartbreaking revelations is that her mother, Mandy, learned of her emotional and mental breakdown through TMZ, showing just one of the most toxic elements of fame.
Diary entries read by Gomez through voiceover also give insight into her mental state, such as “I want to know how to breathe again” and “Do I love my own self?” She says she didn’t want to go to a mental hospital, but she also didn’t want to feel trapped in her mind. It eventually led to her bipolar disorder diagnosis, which helped put many things into perspective for her. Sitting in bed and crying, Gomez opens her heart up and expresses remorse for how she treated and spoke to her loved ones, which still hurts her many years later.
In a time when everyone wants to look and put their best self forward, it’s refreshing to see someone like Gomez, known for her glamor and global status, share this raw, emotional moment with us. We can also thank her relationship with Keshishian, who directed one of her music videos, for putting the star at such ease, allowing her to open up in a way rarely seen among celebrities. Keshishian is most known for his 1991 intimate documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare,” which was the highest-grossing documentary of all time until “Bowling for Columbine.” Clearly, he has a talent when it comes to capturing female celebrities, and it shows in all the moments when Gomez allows herself to be her most vulnerable.
Through all the ups and downs, Gomez makes it quite clear she doesn’t like the fame part of her life. Instead, what makes her happiest is getting away from the mind-numbing noise around her and connecting with people. During a few visits to her hometown of Grand Prairie, Texas, Gomez lights up as she visits some of her favorite spots with her cousin and takes a trip down memory lane with her old neighbors. She seems to be at her fullest when she goes on a trip to Kenya and meets students at a school she has raised funds for. She takes in the bright sun hitting her face, giggles about love, and sings a few songs. There’s definitely a difference between the young African students and Gomez in terms of their upbringing – in one conversation, she describes having to attend school for a few hours on set so that she could keep working – but she forms a deep connection with a young woman who reveals she also came close to ending her life because she felt like a burden to her family. Being a voice for mental health and helping people through their struggles is a mission Gomez has focused on for the past few years with her Rare Impact Fund, and it’s clear this is where she feels the most “useful” when it comes to her global fame. So much so that she doesn’t want to leave Kenya and return home. “This isn’t reality,” Raquelle says. “You can come and volunteer for a week, but this isn’t reality.”
The contrast is immediately apparent when Gomez re-enters her reality. Swarms of fans, paparazzi, and flashing cameras await her in London as she promotes her hit song “Lose You To Love Me.” Her exhaustion is apparent as she struggles to stay awake in the glam chair, and participating in videos where she answers meaningless questions seems like “such a waste of time,” she says. One interview in particular, in which Gomez says she plans on devoting most of her time later in life to philanthropy and is met with no further follow-up from the reporter, gives us insight into how mind-numbing a press tour can be, especially when it feels like no one is actually listening to you. She equates the feeling to how it was when she was on Disney, something she’s spent years trying not to be again. But later, when she does get an opportunity to answer deep questions, she’s uncomfortable and puts up a barrier. When Raquelle clearly sees Gomez is not enjoying herself during her promo work and tries to address it, the singer gets defensive. She seems afraid to admit the truth, maybe because she doesn’t want to appear ungrateful for all she has in her life, even though it’s clear it’s not making her happy. It’s frustrating as a viewer to see her dodge these important conversations, especially when she provides this much access in the documentary. However, it appears she is still working through it herself.
There’s been a definite shift in the work Gomez has focused on over the years, and it paints a clearer image of what she wants to be remembered by. In May 2022, she and her Rare Impact Fund hosted the first-ever Youth Action Forum on Mental Health with the White House, where she and President Joe Biden discussed the creation of a nationwide mental health curriculum in schools. The Rare Impact Fund also wants to raise $100 million to provide free mental health resources to young people. After the documentary’s premiere, she even released the personal song “My Mind and Me” on her struggles. We’ve seen celebrities talk about mental health over the years, but Gomez’s dedication to connecting with people and educating them on resources is truly admirable. This isn’t a PR stunt to win brownie points or an Instagram post for sympathy. It’s a true calling for a woman who has battled hell and back and is set on doing good in the world, and that is rare to find.