Selena Gomez has sat for countless cover interviews, but this one is special. Gomez co-founded Wondermind in 2021 along with film producer Mandy Teefey and entrepreneur Daniella Pierson because the three women shared a similar passion for destigmatizing and democratizing mental health. Here, Gomez sits down with Pierson for the first of many candid conversations on Wondermind.
[This interview originally appeared in an April 2022 edition of the Wondermind Newsletter. Sign up here to never miss these candid conversations.]
Daniella Pierson: You have been on so many covers, but this is different. What do you want people to know about what this monthly digital cover represents? And what do you want to say to the people on our next covers?
Selena Gomez: Just…thank you! I think it’s very brave to speak up about your own journey. At the same time that it can feel debilitating, it can feel empowering when you find the right space to share your story. Who is on that journey with you is very hard to navigate as well. If anything, I’m just grateful for anyone who is willing to share their story and be brave, and take a few moments of their day to make someone else’s day. I hope this will let people know it's okay to feel all of the emotions that they do.
DP: It's truly impactful when people talk about topics that usually others think they are the only ones suffering from. Were you scared to be open about your mental health?
SG: No, once the first picture came out of me going to seek help I felt so violated. In a way, I was forced to share, because I couldn’t stand the idea and the fact that people could tell a story based on a photo or something they see. They can just run with the story and ultimately it isn’t the truth and it’s not my story, it’s not coming from me. Maybe I wasn’t purposefully going to speak up. I think it happened and the freedom that I felt and the control I thought I had over my story was worth everything to me. So maybe being so open wasn’t my intention at first, but now I couldn’t be more grateful.
DP: What does your current relationship with your mental health look like now?
SG: I think it’s important to take moments and kind of analyze them. I know people can overthink sometimes and I’m one of those people—raising my hand—because I do overthink situations. But sometimes taking a step back and just looking at it from afar and thinking, Okay, from the grand scheme of things, where am I? Am I happy? Am I genuinely fine when people ask me? That's something that I try to do often. When moments come up, or there are triggers that come up, I feel more comfortable to take action in doing the things that are necessary for me to feel safe, to feel heard, and to feel loved no matter what state I’m in. I think that takes a lot of time and I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m really happy. It’s just important to check in.
DP: It totally is. What would you say to anyone who is concerned about the stigma around taking mental health medication?
SG: I can only speak from my experience, and what has happened in my journey is that I had a chemical imbalance. I believe in science, and medicine has changed my life. But everyone needs to do what is right for them, and, of course, speak to a licensed professional.
DP: Wondermind is using this term "mental fitness" to describe working on your mental health. What do you currently do when you feel low?
SG: There are moments that I felt depleted, like Oh my gosh, I feel like I need help. But the truth is that I can’t sit and feel sorry for myself. It’s really hard to get out of your own head, and I actively do things to work on that every day. Even if it’s reading a passage in a book that I love or poetry. It’s so silly, but it really helps me reframe my mindset. It can be as simple as working out in the morning or wanting to start my day with coffee and 30 minutes to myself.
DP: Your schedule is so packed and you are constantly surrounded by people. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
SG: I would definitely say I’m an extrovert with introvert tendencies. What I mean by that is that I thrive with people, I love people from all walks of life. I feel like life is connection. Love is connection, however that looks. Whenever I’m on set and I’m surrounded by 60 or more people—each one of them you have at least one encounter with, and I’m just so happy to be there. But then there are days when I kind of check out, and I’m overwhelmed. Sometimes I want to call someone but other times I need to recharge on my own. I would need to take a really long nap or take a quick bath and just light a candle in the room just because it’s pretty, not because of any other reason than that. Just making my lighting comfortable, having a warm setting, and putting on something familiar like a song. Or writing, I have my journal right next to me. I do what’s necessary for me.
DP: When you’re feeling like an extrovert and you need to recharge with other people, who do you call in those moments?
SG: It depends, actually. I feel strong emotions towards different chapters of my life and if something gets brought up that I need to flush out or I just have questions in my mind, I usually go to someone that maybe was in that moment with me. So that could be my best friends. I’m lucky to even have one, but I have three that I truly, truly trust with my life, and I would call them. Sometimes I just want to hear someone’s voice that I love, so I’ll call my mom or I’ll try my sister, even though she’s so difficult to get in contact with as an 8-year-old—she’s cooler than me. I just want to hear my nana’s voice or my pops' and sometimes that’s all I need. There are moments where I don’t know who to call, and I think those moments are scary too but also important to have. I don’t always write, but I do kind of talk aloud. I genuinely talk to my dogs. I totally have conversations, I’ll be like “Why am I doing this?” or “Where is this coming from?” They don’t really say anything but they look really cute.
DP: Do you think that they’ve helped your mental health?
SG: I totally believe that animals are healing. I did equine-assisted therapy and that was fantastic. It was fascinating to be able to work with a horse. There are techniques to disarm an animal that is so majestic and rooted in the ground. It just feels so real, and they can sense your emotion. If you’re feeling really anxious, they can feel that. It’s a practice within yourself to take deep breaths and to put your mind somewhere and work on these little exercises and see if you can get through to them. It’s weird but it works!
DP: How does it feel to know that so many people have their eyes on you and that you are under a microscope? Do you even think about it anymore?
SG: No, I don’t. I think it’s been maybe four years now, or three years, since I’ve been off the internet. Unless someone sends me an article, not about myself but like a general piece on something. I try to stay updated on the things that are important, but I don’t really connect that way anymore. When my life was ruled by that, it was exhausting and sad. I was just sad all the time, whether people were rooting for me or not. I don’t think I was living for myself at all. When I took that tiny little thing away, it was fine. You can use the internet for all the amazing things: writing and going on Etsy and watching really creative, fun things, like TED Talks—it’s a beautiful thing. I just think that my relationship with the internet does not exist, and I couldn’t be happier about making that decision for myself.
DP: You never feel any urge to go on the internet?
SG: Never get an urge, no. Just because I know that in the most vulnerable years of my life, I was always on it, and it was so messy. That was unbelievably stressful. So since I'm happy living in the headspace I’m in now I wouldn’t jeopardize it whatsoever or have any urge to see things, even if it’s great things. I’m so grateful for the position I’ve been given, and I could not be here or stand here if it weren’t for the people on my journey. I call them my littles. They’re people I grew up with and it’s more than a fanbase. It’s a community. It’s a place that even I feel safe in. I trust the people that are there, rooting with me.
DP: When you are feeling low, do you write in your journal? Do you write songs?
SG: My mind has to be on something else. It sounds stupid and a lot of people would call it a distraction and not a healthy place to turn to, but I always put on the TV. It can be a documentary or really anything. I remember watching these shows about addiction, and I remember feeling like I needed to escape. I don’t know why, but there’s something about, I can see that person hurting and I’m not the only one. It makes me want to do more for people.
DP: It makes you feel less alone.
SG: A thousand percent. Everyone, I believe, needs someone. So that helps me get out of my mind, but I need to get out of my bed. I’ll try to get on my couch, and if I fall asleep I’ll let myself, and I’ll let myself sleep even during the daylight. I used to lock myself in my room, and it was so dark all the time. I would eat there, I would do everything there. Sometimes I still do that for fun, but it’s just different when I’m in a mindset that I need to get out of. I won’t stay in my bed, or I’ll put the TV on, or I will write, call someone, or write a song. I was doing that before we started. I can do those things but I can empathize with people who don’t know what to do when they feel stuck, frozen, because I’ve felt that, and I still have days when I feel that way.
DP: What excites you most about Wondermind?
SG: One of the people that I’ve looked up to my whole life is Princess Diana and, this sounds silly, but what would come out of her was so honest and real, and that’s all I want this to be. A real, honest, safe, comfortable place—something people can turn to. I hope nothing more than for people to feel what I feel when I think about what we’re doing and when I think about other people and talk to people on our expert [advisory] committee and people that have the same goal and vision that we do. For someone to say “Oh, that’s me.” That’s one of the best feelings. Honestly, I believe that’s why a lot of people go to AA or NA meetings, like myself. I do because I find it inspiring and moving. I find it empowering when I can speak or just hear others tell their story. It’s not a scary place. What we're building is so exciting, and I’m really grateful. I’m nervous... and excited.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Wondermind does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a replacement for medical advice. Always consult a qualified health or mental health professional with any questions or concerns about your mental health.