As I read the Selena Gomez profile in Elle, I had a lot of thoughts. It’s a good read, albeit full of the kinds of things you always see in a story about a starlet who’s retreated a bit from the limelight but is inching her way back — stuff like how she’s simplified her life, she’s moved away from L.A., she’s tightening her circle, she’s working for a philanthropic organization, she drops a swear word when claiming she doesn’t care what people think… we’ve seen the ingredients before. But Selena evidently is annoyed with it. And it’s not totally clear why.
I don’t know much about this Hillsong Church she’s joined, courtesy of Justin Bieber I believe, but the dribs and drabs I’ve read on the Internet do make me raise a cautious eyebrow. The idea is that it’s supposed to be this young, hip, relatable church. But in this Cosmo piece, which is otherwise annoyingly cutesy, scroll down to No. 9 and keep going. The website TooFab.com talked to some former members who claim it trades in homophobia. And the great Taffy Akner interviewed Cool Pastor Carl in 2015 and profiled the whole church experience, and it’s a fascinating and well-written piece that makes me wonder if — given its rotation around this particular transfixing personality, and its slow-build collection of celebrities like Chris Pratt and Kevin Durant — Hillsong is borderline cultish. All of that is out there and has been speculated upon; the Elle writer, however, is restrained, mentioning Hillsong only in the context of Selena moving to Orange County with a friend from Hillsong; Bieber and Hailey Baldwin are being in Hillsong; and that Selena’s current internship is with an anti-trafficking organization called A21 that’s run by a Hillsong congregant. That’s it. There’s no judgment in that, unless you count the fact of repeating the word “Hillsong” three times — which I guess Selena did, because she posted on Instagram a whole statement about how the story bummed her out because it felt agenda-seeking. Given the story, that’s… not totally coherent, and came across as the lady protesting an accusation or implication that was not levied. That said, although the story did not directly connect these dots, I did twig to the fact that she both moved in with a Hillsonger and is concurrently selling all three of her multi-million-dollar homes, which… That’s a fat wad of donateable cash, whispers my inner cynic. Maybe Selena felt that, too, or maybe I just am naturally suspicious and she is defensive. I don’t know. People are fascinating. But I do know that in speaking out, she gave people a reason to look between the lines for something they may not otherwise have noticed.
One thing the story does well: It addresses the recent Demi Lovato overdose — apparently it had happened six days before the interview — without overshadowing Selena’s own story or making it the central point (even if that’s the morsel most likely to make Twitter). It’s also noteworthy that she still doesn’t have any kind of coherent comment on her decision to work with Woody Allen, and/or on whether she’s changed her spots on that decision. I found this mention of her mother extremely interesting:
It’s hard to square the idea that Gomez is volunteering for an organization that deals with sex trafficking but would still choose to act in a film by Allen, who was accused of molesting his seven-year-old daughter, Dylan Farrow, in 1992. (Allen was never formally charged, but a flood of actors have publicly said they regret working with him.) For a role model for young women, it seems like an odd choice. Gomez’s mom and producing partner, Mandy Teefey, felt similarly, posting to Instagram earlier this year, “Sorry, no one can make Selena do anything she doesn’t want to. I had a long talk with her about not working with him and it didn’t click.”
She declines to comment on any of it, and claims she’s off the Internet now because “it’s not real to me” and because she realizes her voice is prominent, so she has to be selective with how she uses it. That’s fine, but I would think the issue Woody Allen is a super time to select “Use My Prominent Voice” — I mean, she was ready enough to use it to knock the Elle story without quite explaining why — and that the whole argument about being off the Internet and being so careful is a disingenuous way of dodging having to take a stand on something. It was disappointing to read. I think a good barometer of the choices you make is whether you are prepared to stand by them, out loud, in the face of all weather. And if you can’t, or you won’t, then that should tell you something.
[Photo and story: Elle]