Courtesy of Apple TV+.

November 21, 2022

‘Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me’: The Charm of Authenticity

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“Let me make a promise. I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets,” Gomez vows in the opening sequence of her documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, released on Apple TV+ on Nov. 4. The documentary, spanning six years from 2016 to 2022, follows Gomez’s raw journey of self-discovery in her struggles with fame, lupus and above all, mental health. Her film is not a publicity tactic; instead, it is an exploration of Gomez’s complex character. My Mind & Me inspires viewers not by showcasing Gomez as the gold standard of fame and fortune, but rather by illuminating how human it is to be entangled in a cycle of hurting and healing.

30-year-old Gomez began acting professionally with a role in Barney at age seven, landed a lead in Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place at age 13 and continued on by starring in countless films and developing a flourishing music career. She currently stars in Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building and even started her own makeup brand, Rare Beauty, in 2020. Yet, filmmaker Alek Keshishian barely features these triumphs of her career in My Mind & Me and instead narrows the narrative around Gomez’s mental health.

Gomez’s struggles have not been a secret — the star has been open with her diagnosis of lupus and bipolar disorder, as well as her struggles with depression and anxiety. In My Mind & Me, after a woman on Gomez’s team tells her there is no shame in not sharing her bipolar diagnosis with the world since “that becomes the narrative,” Gomez swiftly responds, “And I’m sure that means, like, what — certain people or directors or something might not want to work with me? But then why would I want to work with them anyway?”  

Gomez’s open and brave willingness to share her story is staggering. Within the first 10 minutes of the documentary, Gomez breaks down after a dress rehearsal for her 2016 Revival Tour. She tearfully exclaims how she did not sound right, look right or feel right. She expresses what so many of us experience: self-doubt. The communality of this incident is precisely why it is perfect to include in the film. In the digital age, so many of us wonder what is right to share online. Do you show the highlights? The breakdowns? Gomez, a woman constantly in the spotlight, shows us that it is okay to be vulnerable, even in a film watched by millions. 

Gomez’s relatability sets a precedent for the rest of the film, as Gomez is typically displayed like us “normal” people. The documentary constantly paints Gomez in a natural state — she wears sweats, ties her hair back in a scrunchie and barely ever wears a full face of makeup. This is a stark contrast to the typical image of a female popstar. 

Keshishian scarcely features Gomez’s life of fame, besides brief edited clips with flashing news headlines, reporter voiceovers and paparazzi cameras. These snippets remind us of Gomez’s fame, without situating us in it. Instead, the film focuses on Gomez’s interactions with people outside the industry, such as her visits to her Texas hometown. My Mind & Me also interweaves voiceovers of Gomez’s journal entries and childhood home videos throughout the film, which adds a dimension that so many documentaries lack. Gomez is not merely the subject of a film — she is given authorship of her own story.

My Mind & Me prominently features Gomez’s journey towards purpose. This theme bridges connections between Gomez and viewers, since so many of us stumble in our quest for purpose. In the film, Selena’s friend Raquelle tells her she thinks Gomez knows what her calling in life is, but she does “not always choose to walk in it.” Selena constantly stresses her want to make change in the mental health sphere, yet we barely see her take concrete steps. I kept feeling unsettled — I craved for her words to translate into action. Finally, I was partially satisfied with the film’s ending, as it shared how, in 2020, Gomez founded the Rare Impact Fund, which aims to raise $100 million in 10 years to provide mental health services in educational settings. While content with this ending, I would have liked to see more of Gomez’s tangible journey to get there.

I must admit I originally felt the film was imbalanced. The documentary seemed to be a disarray of clips, not cohesively weaved in a moving, clear story for Gomez. Her 2016 Revival tour and Kenya trip appeared to take up a lot of unnecessary space, there is an absence of footage between 2016 to 2019 and so much of her professional life was kept out. Yet, after considering the film as a whole, I have a new understanding and appreciation of My Mind & Me. In one of her journal voice-overs, Selena confesses, “I’m a work in progress. I am enough. I am Selena.” This film encapsulates the idea of “a work in progress” — it is not a film to make you like Gomez nor to compel you to understand her identity in its entirety. My Mind & Me ties normalcy with struggle, highlights human flaw and stresses that sometimes sharing the truth is the only way to heal. The documentary’s disconnects are its charm. 

Gomez shows us that you can simultaneously have success and failure and assures us that it is okay to break down even when others do not understand why. At the conclusion of My Mind & Me, Gomez iterates that her ultimate goal is to save others’ lives through whatever media she can. It’s not a stretch to mark this film as one of them.

Gillian Lee is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].