Washington Post: Selena Gomez opens up about experiencing emotional ‘abuse,’ prioritizing mental health
By: Sonia Rao
Jan. 27, 2020 at 2:29 p.m. CST
Selena Gomez’s latest release, “Rare,” marks the pop singer’s first album in more than four years, a period in which she went through two high-profile breakups and dealt with multiple health struggles, including a chronic illness, depression and anxiety. Gomez has publicly addressed it all but remains wary of being too specific, often speaking — and singing — about her emotional well-being without naming names.
But while promoting the No. 1 album on NPR over the weekend, Gomez opened up to “Weekend Edition Sunday” host Lulu Garcia-Navarro about feeling like “a victim to certain abuse” during her relationship with ex Justin Bieber. (Garcia-Navarro named him and asked if Gomez meant emotional abuse; the singer confirmed both.) It was a notable step in Gomez’s professed journey of finding “a way to claim my story.”
“The reason why I’ve become so vocal about the trials and tribulations of my life is because people were already going to narrate that for me,” Gomez told Garcia-Navarro. “I wasn’t going to have a choice because of how fast everything moves now. And most of the time, yes, it’s not true, or it’s an embellished version of what the truth is. I want to be able to tell my story the way that I want to tell it.”
“Rare” is one such way. The lead single, “Lose You to Love Me,” which became Gomez’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, set the tone for what would be a more revealing album than its predecessors. The ballad ruminates on letting go of a toxic relationship in the name of self-love; similarly, the album itself comes off as a conscious effort from the singer to reject her “old self,” as she told Zane Lowe this month.
As most listeners deduced, the single is about Gomez’s breakup with Bieber. She has written songs about the on-and-off relationship before — 2014′s “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” for instance — but “Lose You to Love Me” feels more finite. The singer told NPR that she didn’t feel as though she got closure, and wrote the song as a way to “say a few things that I wish I had said.” Lyrics such as, “I saw the signs and ignored it/ Rose-colored glasses all distorted” don’t place blame as much as they acknowledge why the relationship had to end. When Garcia-Navarro asked if it’s painful for Gomez to look back on that time in her life, she responded: “No, because I’ve found the strength in it.”
“It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality,” Gomez said. “And I’m not being disrespectful, I do feel I was a victim to certain abuse … I had to find a way to understand it as an adult. And I had to understand the choices I was making. As much as I definitely don’t want to spend the rest of my life talking about this, I am really proud that I can say I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt.”
Though his representatives didn’t respond to NPR’s request for comment, Bieber seemed to allude to the relationship in an Instagram post from September, in which he revealed that he turned to “heavy drugs at 19 and abused all of my relationships” while struggling to deal with his rapid rise to fame. It has taken him “years to bounce back from all of these terrible decisions, fix broken relationships,” he wrote, before referring to his marriage to model Hailey Baldwin as “the best season of my life.”
Gomez has previously spoken out about the pressures of growing up in the spotlight, too, having worked since age 7 and spending most of her teen years on the Disney Channel. Once the most-followed account on Instagram — she still boasts more than 160 million followers — the singer has been known to take breaks from social media every so often to put her mental health first.
While promoting Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die” at the Cannes Film Festival last year, for instance, Gomez lamented the negative effect social media has had on her generation.
“It does scare me when you see how exposed these young boys and young girls are,” she said, adding that while she’s grateful to have Instagram as a platform, she doesn’t “do a lot of pointless pictures. For me, I like to be intentional with it. It just scares me. I’ll see these young girls at meet and greets. They are devastated, dealing with bullying and not being able to have their own voice.”
Gomez’s mental health struggles figure into a few songs on “Rare,” including “Fun,” and have contributed to what she described to NPR as her “real mission” to help others prioritize their health, too.
“I’m on the proper medication that I need to be on, even as far as my mental health,” she said. “That’s something I will have to continue to work on. … But the way I find these moments in my life that are pretty difficult, I think the only way it’s helped me is that I can use that for good.”