By Emily Evangelakos
Boston University News Service
Selena Gomez started her career on Barney & Friends at age 7. She then moved on to play the role of Alex Russo on Wizards of Wavery Place at age 15. At 16, she signed a recording contract with Hollywood Records. Before she was 20, she was headlining a major tour. To put it simply, she has lived most of her life under the spotlight.
Outside the spotlight, Gomez had been experiencing a myriad of health issues. She was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease, that has caused her intense pain all over her body. At only 24 years old, she had to receive a kidney transplant in order to fight the disease. Aside from lupus, Gomez has experienced severe anxiety, depression and panic attacks. These would often flare up with lupus, making it difficult for Gomez to perform and continue with her career. Later on, following time spent in an inpatient mental health care facility, Gomez was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Her documentary, My Mind & Me, follows her battles with physical and mental health, as well as her personal healing journey.
The film provides an overview of Gomez’s entire life. Viewers meet her cousin, Priscilla Cosme, who helped shape her childhood.
“Priscilla is my cousin,” Gomez said in the documentary. “She’s probably the closest person to me in the world, except for my mom. We did everything together. To this day, she’s my life. She’s my blood.”
Selena describes herself during childhood as “an outsider.” She visited her middle school, Danny Jones Middle School in Mansfield, Texas, and showed current students what she used to do when she attended the school. She pointed out her old locker, next to her cousins’, and sat down in her lunch spot where she said she usually ate alone. While Gomez didn’t have many friends of her own, her cousin was a cheerleader and popular among the student body, so no one would ever pick on her. While in her hometown, viewers watched Gomez reunite with neighbors who were impactful in her early life. The interactions were very emotional, as was much of the documentary.
The documentary was raw, vulnerable and incredibly impactful. Rather than the film telling Gomez’s story, it felt as though she was telling the viewers her story as she would to a friend. Throughout the documentary, Gomez shared personal anecdotes of how the struggles with her illnesses felt. She did not spare the details, explaining that she wants to be as open as possible in order to help others. Footage of her breaking down, feeling insecure and sharing her anxieties was scattered across the film, allowing viewers to connect with her.
Connection is what has given Gomez a purpose, she said in the documentary. Connection to her home, her fans, her family, her friends and people in general. A week-long trip to Kenya, where Gomez funded a secondary girls’ school and WE College, is featured as an important time for her mental health. The trip has her visibly emotional, but at peace. She has tearful conversations with some of the students, one being an open conversation with a girl who almost took her life at a river. It appeared that the meaningful connections and experiences that Gomez had in Kenya helped her to fulfill what she felt her purpose is — human connection and philanthropic work to help other people. She even decided she wanted to visit the country quarterly to continue to make an impact on the town of Maasai Mara and to connect with the students of the WE schools.
“Part of my heart is still in Kenya,” she said. “I felt guilty being there sometimes. I hate that, I feel like I went and filmed and I experienced, but it’s just so hard because I feel so selfish. Do I feel great? Yes, and do I feel like I left an impact? Yes, but do I feel like I’ve done enough? No.”
On Nov. 14, 2022, Gomez won the Boston-based Ruderman Family Foundation’s Morton E. Ruderman Award for Inclusion for “drawing inspiration from her personal journey” to help others worldwide get access to counseling and other services.
Overall, the documentary did a wonderful job of showing Gomez’s struggles without glamorizing her illnesses. The documentary was in-depth and showed every side of her — the seemingly “confident” woman on stage but also the one who could not get out of bed in the morning or was sick to her stomach. Gomez’s vulnerability in sharing her story and complete honesty of her battles — from Lupus to self-image to bipolar disorder and more — inspires viewers to take care of themselves and others. For fans of Gomez and for those who don’t know much about her at all, this documentary was an eye-opening and emotional watch.