In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, former Disney Channel star Selena Gomez reflected on the dark elements of her childhood career, which she kept hidden for years.
Many younger Disney fans will remember Selena from their childhoods. The now 30-year-old star began acting at ten years old, and her television debut on Barney & Friends (2002) alongside future Disney celebrity Demi Lovato eventually lead to a guest star position on Miley Cyrus’ Hannah Montana.
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From there, she accepted a leading role as Wizards of Waverly Place’s spunky Alex Russo from 2007 to 2012. Moreover, Gomez went on to launch a successful music career under the Disney label and starred in Disney Channel Original Movies like Another Cinderella Story (2008) and Princess Protection Program (2009). However, her success was not all fun and games, with Gomez confessing she can feel “triggered” by memories of her time on Disney Channel sets, ultimately freeing herself from the confines of what it means to be a young Disney Channel star.
According to SheFinds, Selena had to limit her use of curse words to fit the Disney Look, noting that as she matured into a teenager and entered her first romantic relationship, she felt somewhat stifled by Disney’s wholesome “good girl” expectations. In addition, she struggled beneath the pressures of both Hollywood standards and her parents’ management, both as her guardians and the keepers of her career, which she touches on in an emotional scene of the documentary Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me.
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In fact, during a 2021 interview with US Weekly, Gomez compared her contract with the family media mogul to “signing her life away,” unaware of the greater consequences of being a Disney starlet when she was just a naive child excited to be on set. Of course, Gomez is far from the first child star to voice realizations of trauma while performing at a young age, as Miley herself often speaks of Disney restrictions, while fellow Disney Channel actor turned icon Bella Thorne recently offered comment on her experiences and Jennette McCurdy, a celebrity who worked minor roles for Disney before her breakout role on rival Nickelodeon’s network, publishing a memoir that explored the subject in 2022.
On having to limit her real personality during her formative years, Gomez told Vanity Fair:
I knew deep down that this wasn’t what I wanted to do. Being exhausted, forcing something that wasn’t right, even in my personal life. I had to have moments where I was crying and I was like, ‘Why am I not in love with what I do?’ I was forced to get very uncomfortable for a while in order to make the decisions I made.
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Although looking back can be hard, Gomez affirms she isn’t ashamed of who she was back in her Disney days but is certainly happy to be more openly herself, including “the ugly and complicated parts.” Since leaving the Disney bubble, the celeb has gone on to more mature roles in Spring Breakers (2012), guest-starring on Saturday Night Live, and the critically acclaimed Only Murders in the Building.
As for looking back to the young girl who tried to be who the Disney Channel desired rather than what was in her heart, she said: “I don’t want to be who I was. I want to be who I am.”