Selena Gomez and her shocking documentary: “After the release of this film, I’ll just want to go and hide”
My Mind and Me unreservedly documents six years of the artist’s life, including his mental and physical health problems. We talked about it with the star and the director, Alek Keshishian. Which explain what prompted them to tackle such personal topics.
Selena Gomez and the autobiographical documentary directed by Alek Keshishian in which she lays bare a part of her “not so beautiful to see”
There is a moment at the beginning of Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me, the new documentary available from November 4th on Apple TV +, in which the artist admits in front of those who are in his dressing room: «I have the body of a very young person». She’s talking about the way she fits a certain outfit, which makes her look, in her own words, “like a 12-year-old boy.” But it’s not just a comment about a look. It is also a reference to one of the main tensions in her career, as well as in this film: the pressure that can come from being aware of the judgment of others. Will her fans see just the shadow of the Disney star Selena once was? Or will they find themselves in front of a full-fledged artist? How her dress, her demeanor, her performance – essentially.
It might seem strange that a person so aware of this attention would choose to make a documentary about his or her mental health problems . Especially with this director. Alek Keshishian first worked with Gomez on the music video for Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself , but is probably best known for the unusual and intimate In Bed with Madonna (1991), which was the largest documentary. collection of all time until Bowling at Columbine(2002), by Michael Moore, didn’t get over it. “I like having access to everything,” says the director during an aunt Zoom call which Gomez is also attending. The latter admits that, as she watched the final cut, there were times when she wanted to cry, not because of the way the film had laid her bare, but because she hated the fact that she felt the discomfort or the insecurity that the film had been able to capture with such sagacity.
An uncensored chronicle of six difficult years …
In some ways, My Mind and Me is nothing more than a chronological account of the last six years of Gomez’s life: the tours, the physical and mental crises that worsened during that period, the cancellation of his ” Revival Tour”, The two-year hiatus, the trip to Kenya to volunteer, the pandemic and the visit to the White House to discuss mental health programs in elementary schools. The documentary also delves into how these events were conditioned by what was happening in Gomez’s mind and body, with particular drama in 2019, when she had a nervous breakdown and was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. We thus witness the touching moment in which the artist decided to make the diagnosis public, and it is impossible, in this regard, not to be struck by the lack of hesitation she showed in doing so, driven as it was by the instinctive awareness that greater openness on its part could help remove the stigma.
My Mind and Me is not a media indictment in the style of Framing Britney Spears or other documentaries that have exposed the relentless pressure of being a famous young woman. Nonetheless, it is still an incriminating document: a catalog of the repetitive and nonsensical questions that Gomez had to answer, as well as the games of the same nature that she was forced to participate. There is something to remain astonished, and this without considering another aspect, far from negligible for a person in whose life every moment is aimed at the achievement of a higher end. It’s hard not to agree with Gomez when, after one of these interviews, she sighs: “What a waste of time.”
Determined not to waste it, we spoke to Selena Gomez and Alek Keshishian about the years they have spent working together on the making of this film and what they hope to achieve through this work.
Alek Keshishian: I had already worked with Selena in 2015 for Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself . In 2016, when she left for the tour, she asked me to make a documentary. After a few weeks, however, we decided it was not the right time. I am quite intrusive in the way I shoot, because I like to have access to everything. Selena was very brave in granting it to me, but, after a few weeks, I got the feeling that she was having a hard time and that having cameras around her wasn’t the best thing for her. We remained friends, of course. I fell in love with her.
Her trip to Kenya [in 2019 with the WE Foundation] gave us another opportunity. I told her: “We film the days before the departure”. We didn’t plan to make a larger documentary, I don’t think any of us really thought about it. But that got us closer and we agreed that this story could help others. This became the motivating element that pushed us to keep shooting.
Selena Gomez: There were times when I was at the height of excitement, but sometimes I felt a certain nervousness. It is an experience that makes you feel very vulnerable. To be honest, just looking at a few clips can cause me some discomfort. But when Alek was there with me, and only he was there, I felt at ease. Like when I had a lupus attack. He documented my condition, but selectively, staying by my side, then, when I needed it.
Is it harder to shoot a movie where you get naked or write a song that talks about you in a very open way?
Gomez: After the release of this documentary, I will want to go and hide. In order to shoot it, I had to look at things from a distance and think about what the film would mean to other people. So, in a way, it was a gesture of sacrifice on my part. But the fact is that it’s not enough for me to do my job, as much as I love it: I want to leave a mark. And if this means exposing a part of myself that is not necessarily beautiful to look at, I am willing to do so, as long as there are people who, watching the documentary, say: “This is just how I feel”; or: “I didn’t know it was possible to get this kind of support.”
One of the most impactful moments in the film is when you explain how difficult it is to say uncomfortable things to those you love, like your parents. Do you have any advice to give to family members or friends of people with mental health problems?
Gomez: I don’t like the approach where you appear to be the patient. I hate the way he makes you feel. My advice to these people is to act like friends. I have the feeling that sometimes you don’t want parents, but, in fact, friends, who listen to you and love you unconditionally.
Keshishian: I think there is a lot to be said about forgiveness. It is something that works in two ways. None of us are perfect, particularly in interacting with others, especially with family. But in the relationship between Selena and her mother, of which I was a direct witness, I saw true forgiveness. Love is the way to healing.
Keshishian: I find Raquelle to be a really funny person. There were times when I used to think, “Oh my God, these two are like Laverne & Shirley!”. Because it was really fun to see them together. Yet, in moments of friction, Raquelle becomes a kind of Yoda, she knows how to say things that hit the mark. But the friendship resists, because the two of them really love each other. I have come to greatly appreciate Raquelle for the way she treats the people around her, an attitude that ultimately stems from deep and unconditional affection.
Gomez: Raquelle attended my trip to Kenya. I wanted to have the people I have the closest relationships with me, and she and I have known each other for ten years. She is the kind of friend who can explain exactly what you are like.