Selena Gomez redefines what it means to be a 21st century superstar. Like other beloved musicians and actresses, she inspires millions of people with her art, yet Gomez transcends these roles by vulnerably sharing her mental health journey, reminding us that suffering is universal, and empowering each of us to embrace our own struggles that makes us human.
The raw courage and authenticity that Gomez displays in her recent Rolling Stone article and her new documentary, “My Mind and Me,” exemplify the compassion each of us can emulate in our own lives and communities to normalize the reality of mental health. While some of us meet the criteria for clinical diagnoses and some of us don’t, to be human is to know what it is like to experience pain, adversity, shame, and fear. And Gomez has chosen to use her platform to normalize the ups and downs that define the human experience.
To honor Gomez’s contributions to mental health, particularly for her advocacy fighting shame and stigma, as well as her commitment to expanding access to resources as a social entrepreneur and digital mental health pioneer, and the countless lives she has impacted, we were honored to present Selena Marie Gomez with our first ever Mental Health Innovations (“Mentee”) Award for Excellence in Mental Health Advocacy.
Designed by Roksana Ciurysek-Gedir and Kas Galos, the award honors the Japanese tradition of Kintsugi, the art of mending broken pottery with gold. Kintsugi is a philosophy that encourages us to love our imperfections, and see the cracks as what make us uniquely beautiful. Like Selena, Kintsugi teaches each one of us to embrace our rare beauty. As Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
Gomez has courageously utilized her platform of over 350 million followers to share her experience living with bipolar and encourage others to seek care. On November 4th, a documentary, “My Mind & Me,” gives an intimate portrait of Gomez’s mental health struggles and journey over six years. Selena’s candid and humble portrayal of her own struggles stands in stark contrast to the overly-photoshopped reality most teens are exposed to on social media today.
Speaking about how she hopes her documentary will change people’s lives and destigmatize mental health, Gomez said, “I’m really nervous for this project to come out. It’s extremely vulnerable. I do share my story very intimately and it serves a bigger purpose. I am hoping that by releasing this it can start something, it can stir people in a way that has them questioning about taking care of their own mental health. I am scared to put myself out there, and I hope that people get what I’m trying to say in this. It is crucial for me to be a voice for people who don’t have one.”
To combat the shame and stigma often associated with imperfection on social media, Gomez launched Rare Beauty in 2020, a stigma-free beauty brand she founded to promote self-acceptance and celebrate the uniqueness of every individual. A portion of proceeds from Rare Beauty are donated to the Rare Impact Fund, bringing to life Gomez’s dedication to raising $100 million for mental health accessibility and providing resources with a spotlight on underrepresented groups including youth, the LGBT community, and racially and culturally diverse communities around the world.
Leading this effort with Gomez is Elyse Cohen, Vice President of Social Impact and Inclusion at Rare Beauty, and previously the first Deputy Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative. About their approach to supporting mental health, Cohen shared “What’s been really special about what we have built, is that it is an ecosystem. Not just a philanthropic fund where a brand is donating money, but we have a 360 approach to mental health.”
With everything that Gomez has contributed, we were excited to have her join us for a fireside chat with Cohen at the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab’s inaugural Mental Healthcare Innovations Summit.
In a candid moment with Cohen, Gomez emphasized her desire for teaching children at an earlier age more nuanced language around feelings. In elementary school, Gomez said she was often presented with smiley faces and sad faces to measure how she was feeling. During those moments, the smiley face and the sad face were insufficient to convey the subtlety of her feelings. Throughout school, she said, she never saw her emotions listed or even represented.
Gomez and Cohen agreed that there’s so much more we can be teaching children about mental health from an earlier age. This is just one of Gomez and Cohen’s goals with the Rare Impact Fund and with Gomez’s new project, Wondermind, a mental health media platform for people to “explore, discuss, and navigate their feelings” co-founded with her mom Mandy Teefe and Daniella Pierson.
When Cohen asked about her mental health journey and diagnosis with bipolar, Gomez said “it was confusing having everybody talk about what’s wrong with me. And there was nothing wrong with me. I finally realized that it’s okay that I’m going to say I have bipolar or I’m living with bipolar. I think for me, it’s given me strength.”
Header photo: Selena Gomez, center, awarded the Stanford Healthcare Innovation Lab Excellence in Mental Health Advocacy Award by Michael Snyder, PhD, Chair of Genetics and Director of the Stanford Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine, and Ariel Ganz, PhD. Photo credit: Courtesy of Tony Blair Institute for Global Change
Article by Shirley Ma.