The Return Of Selena

Selena Gomez’s favorite place to chill is her glam room. A small space on the ground floor of her new L.A.-area house, it opens onto a stone patio surrounding an amoeba-shaped pool. Inside, there’s a hair and makeup station stocked with products from her Rare Beauty line; racks of clothes for her cooking show, Selena + Chef; a selection of shoes on a shoebox dais; a green velvet couch; a couple of salon chairs; a large-screen TV; a mini-fridge; and a snack station. Gomez meets me there dressed in a fuzzy light gray sweater, black leggings, and white sneakers, her hair pulled back into a ponytail. She, her roommates, and her maternal grandparents—who lived with her prior to quarantine—spend a lot of time down here watching basketball and hanging out.

Gomez moved into the house shortly before the pandemic, having recently sold two previous homes. “I tried out a bunch of different neighborhoods because I wanted to know what was going to make me feel comfortable in a city that doesn’t make me feel that comfortable,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll try West Hollywood,’ but I was like, ‘No, that’s not my vibe.’ Then I moved to Calabasas, and I thought that would be nice and family-oriented, but it’s actually very overwhelming and trendy now. It took me a while to figure out what was best for me.”

The house she finally settled on has a cozy, eclectic, collective vibe—kind of like a ski chalet, or a sorority. “I’m a very communal person,” Gomez says. “I find happiness when I’m with people I love.” Considering the challenges she has faced in the past decade, it’s hardly surprising that she feels most at home surrounded by close family and friends. “My lupus, my kidney transplant, chemotherapy, having a mental illness, going through very public heartbreaks—these were all things that honestly should have taken me down,” she says. Gomez speaks slowly and calmly, in a surprisingly low and uninflected register. “Every time I went through something, I was like, ‘What else? What else am I going to have to deal with?’ ” “ ‘You’re going to help people,’ ” she told herself. “That’s really what kept me going. There could have been a time when I wasn’t strong enough, and would have done something to hurt myself.”

To say the past decade has been hard for Gomez is a massive understatement. But it’s also been incredibly generative. During the pandemic, while most of us were eating Double Stuf Oreos all day in our pajamas, Gomez was busy shooting the new Hulu show Only Murders in the Building (her first series-regular role since Wizards of Waverly Place). Starring alongside Steve Martin and Martin Short, Gomez, who is also an executive producer, plays Mabel, a lonely young woman who lives in a luxury Upper West Side apartment building. When a resident is found murdered, she meets her neighbors and fellow true-crime fans Charles and Oliver (Martin and Short), and the three of them decide to investigate and create their own podcast, mostly as an excuse to spend time together.

When Only Murders started shooting last November, Gomez was excited, but COVID protocols made it stressful. “No one was allowed to be on set. Everybody wore masks and shields. If I touched a prop, they cleaned it,” she says. For a kissing scene, she was required to wash her mouth out with Listerine after each take—7 to 10 of them. “It burned my mouth. I was like, ‘I want to throw up.’ I’ve never experienced a set like that.”

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