To mark International Women’s Day, Sarah Sharp (PhD Researcher), writes about ‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’.
Sitting on my sofa watching the Apple+ documentary ‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’, I experience an intense sense of relief that I am not in an industry where there is pressure to conform to others’ expectations. Selena Gomez is clearly a talented artist, yet the first quote that ‘If I was a guy, I could wear jeans and just switch up my t-shirt and put on a beanie and no one would care’ hit me hard. The pressure to look ‘sexy’ and desire of unattainable perfection is soul destroying for many women. But to measure up to these expectations as a female pop star, the anxiety must be all consuming. While trying on a swimsuit style outfit for her upcoming tour, Selena despairs, stating ‘I wanna have the body to wear it proudly and I want the booty that I don’t have’. When will the popular music industry stop expecting so much from women? Why can’t talent alone be their claim to fame?
Next, scenes of Selena having fun with friends are projected to the screen, alongside manic scenes of performing and being hounded by the paparazzi. Her 2016 Revival Tour was cancelled after 55 shows, and an understanding of the pressures are reviled. Selena had a psychotic episode. A black and white video of Selena dancing with her face painted as a skull is used to represent the illness and the fear she and her loved ones felt. As someone who has experienced a psychotic episode, I found this to be an insensitive and negative representation. Psychosis is an illness; the person who experiences is not a monster. It feels scary to go through but can be treated and managed, and with such education, the fear can be reduced, and the illness understood. I state this from my own experience of a psychotic episode.
A female musician’s documentary is not complete without a story of romance and heartbreak. Selena’s past relationship with pop star Justin Bieber upsets her as the paparazzi stalk her and the media ask her continuous questions about it. This makes Selena despair, asking herself when she will just be accepted without having to be associated with a male. Similar stories are prevalent in popular music. Rock musician Courtney Love for example is constantly associated with her husband Kurt Cobain, to the point where Cobain was wrongly reported to have written Hole’s (Love’s band) second album ‘Live Through This’. In the early 2000s, the media bombarded Britney Spears with questions about her past relationship with Justin Timberlake and accused her of destroying their relationship whilst Timberlake was praised for having had sex with her. The gender narrative of love is usually written against the female popular musician. The misogyny could not be clearer.
The quality of work that a person is given when in the media can influence a person’s mood, as seen when Selena is asked mundane, irrelevant questions by interviewers like what her favourite colour is. At one point she is asked a question about her work and has given a sincere, authentic answer, she was cut abruptly by the interviewer to end the discussion. Selena clearly finds this rude; like many artists in the popular music industry, she wants to be taken seriously and for her art and musical intentions to be discussed, which seems so unnecessarily difficult for many female musicians to do in a positive media outlet. Seething from one interview, Selena states ‘I feel like a product’. The artistry is diluted by the mainstream press. No wonder her mood is low during such agonising discontent.
‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’ is essential viewing for those who are fans of Selena Gomez and for those wishing to gain a further understanding of a female’s perspective of working in the popular music industry. Hats off to Selena for openly discussing her mental ill health; it is always a brave, strong thing to do.