Selena Gomez Brings New Angle to Body Positivity

Looking at Selena Gomez in 2015, you’d think she was the girl who had it all. Three years out from her successful Disney career, Gomez had cranked out a platinum hit with Zedd titled “I Want You to Know,” yet another top 20 entry for Selena in the Billboard Hot 100. She had joined the ranks of Pantene as their new face of the popular haircare line, reprised her role as Mavis in the commercially successful Hotel Transylvania 2 and released her second studio album, Revival, with her most prolific first week sales to date.

But in 2016, Selena Gomez, the star who seemed on top of her game, canceled her worldwide tour, checked into a rehabilitation center for mental health, disappeared from social media and retreated from the spotlight, much to the bewilderment of the public. Why did the world’s most famous pop star leave us?

Gomez was struggling with anxiety, panic attacks and depression as a result of lupus, an autoimmune disorder. She coped with chemotherapy and body changes to keep her disease at bay and to focus on returning to good health. The last thing she should have had on her mind was physical insecurities. However, the internet’s greatest concern was “is Selena Gomez getting fat?” Paparazzi stalked her on beach trips and continued to beg that question as she simply tried to be happy again. The perfect, skinny, smiling mold that her Disney Channel teenage years had projected to the media now trapped her from admitting it’s okay not to be okay.  

Instead of letting gossip magazines and social media commenters shame her, Gomez took the ridicule as an opportunity to celebrate. “I love being happy with me yall #theresmoretolove,” she put simply on Instagram. She made clear her priority was not what other people thought of her figure.


A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on Apr 16, 2015 at 5:39pm PDT

Gomez’s search for inner peace hit a physical peak when her life was put in danger. She became gravely ill in the summer of 2017 when her lupus began to attack her kidneys.  She had arthritis, her kidneys were shutting down and Gomez was faced with her own mortality. Her saving grace was a kidney transplant from her best friend and roommate actress Francia Raísa. Gomez has spoken profusely about how the experience changed her life, her future and her relationship with her best friend. She even won Billboard’s Woman of the Year Award because of her openness throughout her struggle. Yet unfailingly, the media focus returned to her body, which was finally able to work on its own again with less medical intervention. 

Photos surfaced of Gomez on a yacht in Sydney in March 2018, her surgery scars and changing body exposed for the first time. The comments were inescapable, cruel and most of all willfully ignorant about Gomez’s health problems. Gomez responded on Instagram fearlessly: “The beauty myth –  an obsession with physical perfection that traps modern woman in an endless cycle of hopelessness, self consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of flawless beauty. I chose to take care of myself because I want to, not to prove anything to anyone. Wind in her sails.”


A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez) on Mar 19, 2018 at 9:56pm PDT

Selena Gomez’s journey toward mental and physical health has reminded people that even a young beautiful celebrity —who’s been in the public eye since childhood — is fallible, and more importantly, human. Her candor throughout this process is a reminder to the world that she should be treated as such, and that she will not take any attacks lying down.