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‘My Mind and Me’: A heartbreaking look behind the curtain of stardom

“Let me make you a promise. I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets.”

Selena Gomez does just that in her groundbreaking new documentary, “My Mind and Me,” baring herself to the world in a way which few celebrities have. Gomez does not paint herself as a person unsullied by her struggles, nor does she shy away from the sometimes grim reality she exists in. She fulfills that promise made in the opening scenes of the documentary, sacrificing her image for the sake of her message, one of promoting mental health.

However, it was not this message that initiated the project. In fact, when Gomez first approached Alek Keshishian, the filmmaker behind the 1991 documentary “Madonna: Truth or Dare,” she had no idea it would evolve into its current state. Originally, Gomez intended for him to capture the actuality of her 2016 “Revival” tour, shining a light behind the curtain of production and encompass her transition from a young pop-star fresh out of Disney to a true artist. To truly encapsulate the experience, Keshishian told Gomez that he would have to be witness to all parts of her life, both the highest peaks and lowest troughs.

Gomez gave him all of herself and more. When the tour was canceled in 2016, the young artist entered a psychiatric facility after an episode of psychosis, at the end of which she received her diagnosis for bipolar disorder. Instead of scrapping the film entirely, Gomez told the director that there was more to her story than being a star, and she was ready to share it, if he was willing to film it.

And film it Keshishian did. Picking back up in 2019, the team followed her through her return to the limelight leading up to the release of her 2020 album “Rare,” particularly emphasizing a trip to Kenya in collaboration with the now-controversial WE Charity. There is a distinct tension between who Gomez is in Kenya and who she feels she needs to be when she returns to Europe to do press for her then-upcoming album.

The film is particularly revealing in what it does not cover, as much as in what it does. There is no mention of the star’s return to TV with the show “Only Murders in the Building,” or her involvement in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” Most notably, there is a lack of attention given to her very public on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Bieber. The lack of these moments in the documentary speaks louder than their inclusion. Gomez does not want to be defined by her accomplishments in entertainment, or even her past love life. The focus of the documentary is solely on her battle with her mental health and subsequent philanthropic efforts.

In the single, released in tandem with the documentary, Gomez sings, “My mind and me, we don’t get along sometimes and it gets hard to breathe but I wouldn’t change my life… if somebody sees me like this, then they won’t feel alone.” With those words, the artist perfectly encompasses this relative sacrifice of herself that she makes in order to promote change and awareness.

In the end, the documentary showcases the pieces of Gomez’s life that make up her journey through pain and strife. It highlights the complexity of her battle with her own mind, resolving with the poignant conclusion of her befriending it rather than triumphing over it. Once again, Gomez shows that she is not perfect, and she is all the more powerful for that fact.

Contact Ashley at @ahedge@nd.edu.

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