I’ve only been with Gomez for 15 minutes when she begins to open up about decisions of hers most people will never have to make -- checking into rehabilitation facilities in 2014 and 2016, and the kidney transplant she underwent this summer due to complications from lupus (for which she has raised over $500,000 to help find a cure). There is no fidgeting, no hesitation, no searching gazes as she speaks -- only a kind of openness that makes it easy to forget Gomez is only halfway through her 20s.
Even the head of Gomez’s label, John Janick, chairman/CEO of Interscope Geffen A&M, marvels that “she has a really good balance in her life -- she’s not just focused on one thing.” The artist Petra Collins, a friend of Gomez’s who directed the “Fetish” video and her November American Music Awards performance, says Gomez “cares so deeply for things and people it’s almost scary -- in a good way.”
The rest of Gomez’s day will be exhaustively documented by tabloids: dinner at a steakhouse with Justin Bieber, who has recently re-entered her life, and a stop with him at Hillsong Church’s annual conference. Hours after Gomez and I part ways, Jennifer Lawrence, filling in as host on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, will even ask guest Kim Kardashian what she thinks about Gomez and Bieber “getting back together.” “I think it’s so cute,” responds Kardashian. (When I ask Gomez about Bieber, she simply says, “I cherish people who have really impacted my life.”)
It’s the kind of attention that makes Gomez contemplate running away, “going to Alaska, only to resurface when there’s work.” Instead, she explains, “I want to live a life that’s worth living,” to choose exactly who and what best fits into her life, no matter how it looks from the outside. Even if it’s in the form of a giant stuffed bear -- which, if nothing else, her dog Charlie leaps onto with abandon.
First things first: How did you choose Charlie?
It’s actually funny -- it was my ex-boyfriend’s [The Weeknd] doing. We were walking down the street [in New York], and he saw a cute little puppy in the window and walked in. Charlie was in the corner. He had his head down and he just seemed really sad, and I loved him. I find I do that in every situation in life. I find that person -- or dog -- and I’m like, “Yessss. That’s who I want.”
Was the house you grew up in anything like this cottage?
I don’t know if “cottage” would be the right word. There were a lot of Texas accents -- a lot of brown and wood paneling in that house -- and carpet in every room except the kitchen. I can picture it all, the way it smells. I miss it a lot. Miranda Lambert’s song “The House That Built Me” depicts how I feel about that home. My mom was 16 when she had me, so I had a room next to my mom and my grandparents. It was very quaint -- you could take one loop around the house and it took maybe five seconds. Every time I go back to Texas I drive by it, but I don’t have the courage to go up and knock on the door.