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Selena Gomez first real brush with stardom was not a positive one.
The pop singer became a household name as a teen starring on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place, but as she explained in a new interview with Business of Fashion, she still harbors negative memories from that time in her life.
Gomez said she first questioned the fame game when individuals began noticing the actress more for her looks and less for her talent. “I started getting known for things that weren’t [related to] my work,” the 25-year-old recalled. “That’s when my passion started to really feel like it was going further and further away. And that scared me.”
Performing for 100 people at state fairs was the “best feeling in the world,” but as she told the magazine, “When I got older, I started to become exposed to the truth behind some stuff and that’s when it flipped a little bit.”
“I realized that, ‘Oh this is actually really hard, and kind of slimy in certain areas,'” Selena continued, “and I didn’t realize that certain people wanted certain things from me. My confidence went through a lot with that.”
When asked about that understandably terrifying turning point, Gomez pointed to being photographed at the beach.
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“I remember just feeling really violated when I was younger, even just being on the beach,” she said. “I was maybe 15 or 16 and people were taking pictures—photographers.”
She added, “I don’t think anyone really knew who I was. But I felt very violated and I didn’t like it or understand it, and that felt very weird, because I was a young girl and they were grown men. I didn’t like that feeling.”
Gomez would continue starring as Alex Russo on Wizards until 2012, but it was when she turned 18 that things really worsened for the celebrity. She told BoF, “Then, I would say the last season of my show, I was probably 18-years-old, is when I felt like the flip happened. I didn’t feel like it was about my art as much.”
“I was on the fourth season of the show, and I felt like I was outgrowing it,” she said. “I wanted something different and obviously, I fell in love [with then-boyfriend Justin Bieber] for the first time. There was all this stuff that was happening, and I didn’t know what to do.”
In early 2012, Selena took a short break from making music with Selena Gomez & The Scene and acting before debuting her first solo album, Stars Dance, a year and a half later. When asked how she ultimately reconciled the highs and lows of pursuing a career in the spotlight, Gomez credits prioritizing her mental health and redirecting her passions.
“Well, I stopped as well,” she explained. “I stopped and then I continued, because I realized that I needed to challenge myself. Do I really love this? Is this worth it anymore? I would look at my crowd on tour and think, ‘Yes, this is worth it, right?'”
Four years later, Gomez canceled the remainder of her Revival World Tour and sought professional treatment for health issues related to her lupus diagnosis. She quietly checked herself into an all-female treatment center in rural Tennessee, and re-emerged at the 2016 American Music Awards after nearly three months away from the public.
Selena elaborated, “‘But then I would look at myself in the mirror and I just felt like, ‘I’ve had enough, I don’t know if I can go on anymore.’ And I stopped it for a second. But it didn’t mean that I didn’t love it, I just had to find what I was going to do with it. As long as I’m healthy and happy in my mind, I’m all about it.”