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07 November 2013

Selena Gomez

Escape from Cracker Barrel and the Search for Transcendence

SELENA GOMEZ’S PARENTS NAMED HER AFTER A POP STAR. Her mom Mandy was only 16 years old and surely had Selena Quintanilla-Pérez ringing like a miracle from every tape deck in her possession in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Tejano star was 21 at the time, the height of her power, and would be shot dead not three years later at a Days Inn in Corpus Christi, crawling for the lobby at midnight, while six hours away, Selena Gomez was toddling through dreamland. Eighteen years, six months, and seven days later, she’s 21 herself, finishing up a rehearsal for her world tour in a cropped black top and capri sweats and fronting eight dancers at Millennium Dance Complex in the valley, each smiling in a way that is both comforting and inviting, as if welcoming the viewer to partake in a fully stocked buffet line of human joy.

Of all the gifts given during her very own quinceañera episode on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, one is not, sadly, a medal displaying her patron, the individual destined to guide you through life, the one you pray to when you’re not praying to God. What’s more, your patron can define your life; it would say a lot if Selena Gomez was linked to, say, Saint Genesius, a comedian working in Rome around the third century AD, who was tortured and beheaded when the emperor found he was earnestly receiving the sacrament during a satirical play.

“Text me!” Selena Gomez calls back to her dancers as they leave the rehearsal space.

SELENA GOMEZ SAW A GHOST ONCE. When she was sixteen, the place she lived in had a dollhouse left by the previous owners, well-lit and built on a little hillside. She saw a girl in a white dress running by. It happened fast and she made her stepdad go and look. Later, she and her very first boyfriend were taking a walk around the property and he saw something pass by, out of the corner of his eye, right behind her. “We weren’t allowed to go anywhere because we were kids,” she says. Her boyfriend didn’t believe in ghosts, not at all, but when he told her what he saw, she knew that they were real.

SELENA GOMEZ BELIEVES THAT IF SHE WOKE UP AND SHE WAS BACK IN GRAND PRAIRIE, AND SHE WAS 21 AND HER MOM LIVED IN TOWN AND SHE MAYBE WENT TO KARAOKE ONCE A WEEK AND THAT WAS IT, SHE WOULD WORK AT A CRACKER BARREL. She loves Southern food and baking and even took a cooking class in Italy and did pretty well, a couple screw-ups but things turned out fine. She’d have to drive to Arlington but it’s right there, the Cracker Barrel, out on Watson Road.

SELENA GOMEZ WAS RECENTLY TALKING TO JARED LETO, a man she respects and admires in terms of the choices he makes in film and music. He asked her why she didn’t show other sides of herself to the public and she returned that there would be nothing left for people she cares about. “There’s nothing left for me, and there’s nothing left for my friends, and there’s nothing left for my family,” she says.

“I think you have to experience everything,” Selena Gomez says, earnest, never breaking eye contact. If we’re going by birthdays, Selena Gomez’s patron saint is Mary Magdalene, who is actually only thought of as a whore thanks to the opinion of Pope Gregory the Great circa the sixth century and echoed by Martin Scorsese, who cast Barbara Hershey as the repentant sinner who would go on to marry Willem Dafoe’s Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ.

SELENA GOMEZ WANTS TO PLAY A NEW YORK GANGSTER MOLL FOR MARTIN SCORSESE AND SHE IS PREPARED TO TRANSFORM HERSELF TO DO THIS. She wants to do a dramedy with David Fincher, something dark with a lot of heart. She seems to observe darkness as an attitude rather than an action, a way of being rather than a way of speaking, an implication rather than a statement. “It’s fun to completely go to the dark side,” she says. Going by name affinity, her patron could very well be Saint Cecilia, who was suffocated for a while and eventually beheaded when she refused to sacrifice to false gods. Or Saint Lucy, patron of blindness and the darkest nights of the year, often portrayed with her plucked eyes on a silver plate.

COME & GET IT (EXCERPT)

You ain’t gotta worry, it’s an open invitation
I’ll be sittin’ right here, real patient
All day, all night, I’ll be waitin’ standby
Can’t stop because I love it, hate the way I love you
All day, all night, maybe I’m addicted for life, no lie.

When I ask her where she’ll be at 26, Selena Gomez says, “I hope that I’ve left a bigger impact,” calling to mind a meteor crater or blast site, the imploded ruins of old Vegas hotels. A ten-year plan? “Oh, God. I don’t know,” she says. “I hope that I’m really happy by 30.” Her mother has always told her that 30 was the best year of her life and she hopes to follow in the footsteps of the woman who tore her baby from the Cracker Barrels and Days Inns of North Texas and drove them both to a land where her daughter’s face could build an empire. “I’m hoping I’m super satisfied with who I am.”

SELENA GOMEZ ENJOYS READING INSPIRATIONAL BOOKS such as The 48 Laws of Power. She is also reading 15 scripts for auditions. She still lives at her parents’ house, which is getting uncomfortable. She’s started looking for a place to live. One can imagine Mandy wandering the property in robe and slippers, searching for her daughter. Is she resting on the chaise in the guest foyer? Is she suspended upside down in the workout nook? Is she crouching in the dollhouse on the hillside? Selena Gomez does not appear to be anywhere.

SELENA GOMEZ AND HER MOTHER WATCHED EVERY ONE OF HARMONY KORINE’S MOVIES BEFORE SHE WENT TO AUDITION FOR SPRING BREAKERS. Her mom is intimately familiar with Korine’s catalog and even pulled up the man’s old Letterman interviews before they made the trip to his home in Nashville. A road trip mix to a Spring Breakers audition at Harmony Korine’s house might include “Lunacy” from the Swans album The Seer and maybe that Taylor Swift song about a girl on the bleachers.

From The 48 Laws of Power:

*Law 7: Get Others to do the Work For You, but Always Take the Credit
*Law 10: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky
*Law 27: Play on People’s Need to Believe to Create a Cultlike Following
*Law 29: Plan All the Way to the End
*Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles
*Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect

“Obviously I’ve made a lot of mistakes because I’m human and I go through all of it,” Selena Gomez says. “I do think you do you have to make your own mistakes and they make you who you are.”

SELENA GOMEZ SHRUGS GOOD-NATUREDLY when Lorde is mentioned. The newly minted 16-year-old pop star recently said that, as a feminist, she was sick of women being portrayed as they are in Gomez’s song “Come & Get It.” “That’s not feminism,” she says. “[Lorde is] not supporting other women. That’s my honest opinion, that’s what I would say to her if I saw her.” Selena Gomez says she’s a fan of Lorde. “I actually covered her song in all of my shows that I’ve done so far. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue that.” She says it smiling, in the same attitude of disconnected pleasantry she would employ to tell patrons of the Cracker Barrel that they were out of biscuits, that there would be no biscuits until morning.

Grand Prairie doesn’t have an official patron saint as some towns do (Saint Vibiana, the patron saint of nobodies, is claimed by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles) but there is a Pizza Patrón on 515 S Carrier Parkway. The Pizza Patrón website encourages all of us to “Grab [our] slice of the Latin life.” They serve a pizza called La Patrona involving ground beef, bell peppers, and tomato sauce sweeter than most fountain drinks.

“Come & Get It” was written by Ester Dean, Tor Erik Hermansen, and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen. Selena Gomez’s mother is 37 years old, younger even than Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, who are each 41. Selena Gomez talks about taking more control over the past year with her first number one album and number one single in “Stars Dance.” “I started realizing when I set foot on stage that I didn’t know if what I was singing [is] what I should be singing,” she says.

IF SELENA GOMEZ IS HOPING FOR A MIRACLE, SHE SHOULD KNOW TO WHOM SHE SHOULD PRAY. Control in this town, after all, is very hard to come by; it’s not something delivered by simple desire. Fortunately, her namesake has been canonized. The martyr graces beauty salon murals and train depot shrines. They changed the room number at the Days Inn to keep mourners away but the city built her idol at the seawall, gazing into the Corpus Christi Bay. It’s a beautiful location, one that would make a fine pilgrimage for any young artist fighting for artistic direction. Mandy could do the driving, talking of her time as a stage actress in Dallas, before she was pregnant, so long ago now the stories only come after two days on the road. Mother and daughter might cross the Texas border singing along to songs written by teams and sold into stardom, stripping off their makeup in a gas station bathroom and picking out two pairs of sunglasses and wide-brimmed road trip hats, paying with cash. They might drive all afternoon and finally stop for dinner, someplace reasonably priced, offering comfort food, and Selena Gomez might catch the gaze of the waitress for just a moment longer, searching the girl’s eyes, trying to come up with something, some word of warning for her, before she turns away.

 

Stylist: Ilaria Urbinati
Actor: Shiloh Hernandez
Hair: Andy LeCompte
Makeup: Kate Lee
Manicure: Karen Gutierrez
Photographed at the Rosslyn Hotel, Los Angeles.
Beauty Notes: Photo finish foundation primer by Smashbox Cosmetics, Vitalumière Aqua Ultra-Light Skin Perfecting Sunscreen Makeup Broad Spectrum SPF15, Long wear Luminous Eyeshadow in Fatal, Kohl Pencil in Ambre, and Le Volume de Chanel Mascara in Prune by Chanel, and Eight hour cream skin protectant by Elizabeth Arden.

Written by Amelia Gray

Photographed by Amanda de Cadenet