Check out special interview of Mandy Teefey & Selena for todays’ issue of “The Newsette”!
Inside My Mind: Selena Gomez & Mandy Teefey
A note from our founder Daniella Pierson…
Here’s something I’ve only told a handful of people: I have OCD.
And honestly, up until now, I would have rather lived in a pool of kombucha than tell a single soul about it—let alone our entire Newsette community. But if I’ve learned anything during the past six months, it’s that not enough women talk to each other about mental health, which stops us from getting the help and support we need. And we really, really need to change that.
So today, with help from our friends Selena Gomez and her mother Mandy Teefey, we’re going to make a dent in that stigma. We’ll discuss how mental illness has affected Selena and Mandy’s lives, relationships, and careers—and how they’ve learned to support each other and take better care of themselves during their mental health journeys.
Our conversation led to many breakthroughs for me personally, and I hope their honesty will inspire you to talk more freely about mental health with people you love and trust. For more resources and tools, please see the end of the story.
When did you first start talking to each other about mental health?
Selena: My mom has always floated the conversation, and then as I got older, it just became real… Then when I had my own experiences [with mental health], not only was there a sense of relief because I had the information, but it helped me understand my mom more. We’re in the best place we’ve ever been because of how honest we are… we do a great job supporting each other.
Mandy: When she was younger, I let her watch this show on A&E about addiction, and I was like, “This is what happens when you do drugs.” I always tried to find a moment to explain things to her— not preaching, but opening the door to conversations at an earlier age. I’m trying to remember the name of the show…
Selena: It was Intervention! I will never forget that one. I took it so seriously because we’ve had family with addiction issues. She was showing me this stuff at a time when I was asking questions like, “How come those people are on the street?” “Why can’t these two boys be together?” My mom raised me very freely and with an open mind. She was really good at answering questions and being sensitive about it.
How did it feel to see your daughter and her life, as it relates to her mental health, broadcast to the world?
Mandy: I’ve had to learn not to take all of that press personally, but when you’re protecting your child, it’s a whole other element. People can say bad things about me on the internet, but not about my baby! … It’s very hard for me to think, “Gosh, these people are judging her for something no one should ever be judged for. It’s no different than having cancer or having some other illness.” But if we can’t hold her up and try to get her through that time, we’re not helping anybody.
Selena: For me, I had to give up social media… so I would go through these periods when I wouldn’t [use my accounts]. But I got so angry that my story was twisted into so many different things. The first time I posted [again], I was like, “I claim my own story, so if you don’t hear it from me, then it’s not true. Did I go and get help? Yes I did. But I’m not ashamed. I feel better and I feel like I can understand a lot of things now.” I think that was my moment when I knew [nobody] was going to take my story away from me. And I really do believe that I made the circle, if you will, of making the media look like shit if they’re making fun of someone who has mental health issues… I don’t really care what people think about me. On my own social media, I got to tell the truth. And once I started claiming my own name, I think people understood my mental health journey. Now I get to support other people, and with the Rare Impact Fund, we’re pledging to donate $100 million in 10 years to mental health causes, so now I get to talk more openly about mental health to hopefully help others.
What advice would you give to people navigating mental health with their own families?
Mandy: Patience and listening have done wonders for our relationship, and not being in denial about mental health is key. At first, I wanted to “just fix” everything for her… because you don’t want your child to suffer the same things that you’re suffering. It can be confusing to parents who don’t have a mental illness, [but also] it was confusing for me dealing with my mental health and also trying to understand hers. We went through a lot of ups and downs, but if our ups and downs can help another family, then it’s all worth it.
Selena: On the child’s end, the one thing I have to keep in mind is that sometimes, people don’t believe in mental illness. Maybe you’re different from your family; maybe they think, “That’s crazy; you’re just crazy,” or whatever. My advice is to find a group that can help you—it’s easy to do online; you can find great resources to do that, and also read other people’s stories… and I think that’s what really helped me. So I would say don’t give up, even if you feel like your own family doesn’t understand. There are millions of people who would love to talk to you and help normalize it for you… so please do that, and prioritize your mental health first.
Mandy, you’re the founder of a production studio and Selena, you just launched a beauty business and new music. Does mental health ever get in the way of your creative or business process?
Mandy: It does. My brain operates differently, so I don’t think it blocks, but it gives me a different box to look out of, and a different perspective. And if people can understand that everybody has a different perspective and is ok with that, then the creative collaboration works and it’s even stronger.
So the key is to acknowledge that having a different perspective isn’t always a bad thing?
Selena: I was going to say that! I do think I’ve found it in certain areas of my life my unique point of view to be a strength. I feel like being able to just be myself is something really hard, and I’ve had to work on that. I used to be terrified about creating my own stuff. Now when I’m on set, on a movie or TV show, or working on music, I feel like just being myself is such a gift. Once I started doing it and saw the rewards afterwards, I thought, “Oh, I made that decision, and I’m really glad!” I feel more free when I’m just myself.
When do you think is the right time to search for a therapist?
Mandy: In my family, we didn’t really discuss it. I was probably the same age as you are, I might have been a little bit younger. I was self-medicating, because at a young age, I was drinking… I always felt like I was in the wrong place and didn’t understand anything going on around me. When I was old enough to get out of my old environment, that’s when I decided to seek therapy. My advice is that if you’re feeling like there’s something going on that you can’t discuss with someone that you feel safe with, then it’s a time to reach out. And there are so many resources these days, online, the hotlines, the text therapy, there’s so much you can do now… Try to write down your feelings before you go in there. Just writing them down gives you a whole new perspective.
Selena: Because I was raised by a mom who wasn’t afraid to talk about things, it didn’t seem like a taboo thing for me. It was like, “Oh, ok, I definitely know it’s possible to have mental illness,” so I was much younger when I started therapy… and it was great, but I was still figuring it out. I think it takes a special person for you to match up with, but like my mom said, we do have all of these other free resources because many people can’t afford traditional therapy. That’s why I’ve always had dreams of having centers like Planned Parenthood, but just dedicated to mental health. I believe mental health care should be accessible to everyone.
Selena, was launching your newest album easier than those that came before it because of your new focus on mental health and being happier?
Selena: None of what I’m doing now would have stemmed from the mindset I had before. My best stuff is happening now. And then the greatest thing ever in my music was “Lose You to Love Me”… I remember I had a moment where I couldn’t believe it, because the first and second day, the reactions were crazy, and I remember I smiled and I was like, “That’s why it’s worth it. All of these years of confusion and being in love, and all of this stuff… and it was finally a clean slate.” And it wasn’t even because everyone liked it; it was just a realization of why I went through everything I went through…
And Rare Beauty?
Selena: I decided to create the makeup brand 2 ½ years ago. And usually when I’m a part of anything there’s a charity component; it’s kind of a rule with me. If I work with Puma, for example, they help with charity. And my mission with Rare Beauty is all about loving who you are and having this makeup that’s comfortable for anyone to use. I feel like I would have missed so many opportunities in my life if I hadn’t prioritized my mental health. I think because I’m super happy— still have my days, girl!—but it genuinely makes me so happy to see what I’ve been doing and actually having fun doing it, and then to understand what I am doing for other people, too.
Mandy: I love that you asked that question, because sometimes creatives who deal with mental health are anti-medication or anti-therapy, because they feel like that’s where their creativity stems from. And the fact that Selena thinks that she’s doing her best stuff now that she’s healthier, is a positive message. You can take care of your health and your mental health and still be creative.
Because of quarantine, it’s probably the first time in your lives that you’re not around a lot of strangers. How does the break feel?
Selena: I’m personally terrified to go back to normal. I haven’t gone to a place where people stare at me, and I think it’s going to be a huge adjustment! That will be a little awkward in the beginning, because the only people I’ve been around are my family and friends. We’ll play games and have such a fun night, but I’m preparing for when I’m going to have to go back out and do press and stuff… yeah I’m a little nervous.
Mandy: The things I miss most are concerts and going to the movies. Other than that, I work from home normally, but I think having to get dressed again is going to be an adjustment.
Mandy: We had meetings like two weeks ago, and I think we were both in pajamas the whole time… and it was great. But for my mental health, I felt like about a month ago, I started getting a little anxiety-driven. As I have been trying to deal with my ADHD, I’ve also been trying to build my social network a little more, because I got really introverted over the past few years. As great as Zoom is, it’s still a safety-guard for me [because] I have social anxiety in real life. So I’m trying to stay active, and go to her house… because there’s nowhere else to go right now!
Selena: You’ve been doing such a good job, Mom.
Mandy: Thank you, so are you.
When and with whom do you feel the most happy?
Mandy: I feel like when my whole little unit is together, I’m the happiest… my husband, Selena, and [my other daughter] Gracie. That’s when I feel at peace. We’ve been through so much as a family that we can be together and not say a word, and it just feels calm to me. It takes a tribe for me to be happy.
Selena: Definitely. For me, it’s necessary for me to take a rest and be on my own. I feel calm, so I’m always hearing music, I’m writing music… I just close my eyes, breathe, and don’t hear anything for a bit. But I don’t stay in that mindset too long, because I love my family time. It’s so nice to be so close to them. I’m just a girl with a regular family… people fighting over something, someone yelling, someone playing games… it just feels good. I’m definitely most at peace right now, just being with people that I love that don’t want anything from me.
For more information on mental health resources and awareness, please visit United for Global Mental Health, the Crisis Text Line, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and The Trevor Project for LGBTQ+ Health.