On Selena Gomez and Her Bikini
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about Selena Gomez.
A few months ago, I noticed that she was looking a little different. She, it seemed, had gotten slightly larger.
Selena Gomez has always been a long lean lanky stick. Like a literal branch that had fallen from a tree. In Wizards of Waverly Place her Free People shirts would just hang on her. And I know she wore a lot of Free People because we had the same six to eight articles of Free People clothing that we both seemed to have repeatedly worn to school in only a way Lizzie McGuire would on her graduation day.
I usually am hyperaware of these things–famous people gaining weight, which is admittedly not a good habit of mine whatsoever but I’ll admit it nonetheless–so I figured I was just being crazy and Selena was just being a normal person.
Then, a month or two went by, and Selena stayed the same. A little “fuller.” Certainly, certainly not “fat.” But healthy.
And then the headlines started. The first one I saw read, “Selena Gomez Shows Off Her Curves in Polka-Dot Bikini After Facing Criticism from Body Shamers.” The second one read, “Selena Gomez ‘Is In a Really Great Place,’ Not Bothered by Body Shamers.” That one went up on the same publication less than 24 hours after the first headline.
Here are some memorable lines from the articles:
“Selena Gomez couldn’t care less what you think of her curves.”
And from another publication: “Looking good, Selena!”
“Taking a dip in the ocean, the 22-year-old “I Want You to Know” singer looked healthy as she enjoyed her day on the beach with a couple of gal pals.”
I thought a lot about what I was seeing but never criticizing, and how it was confirmed by my Facebook news feed. And I started to wonder why we, or the media we feed and consume, have made backhanded body-shaming the new black. Think about it: it used to be all about who’s gaining weight. I mean, it’s still about gaining weight, but it used to be OUT THERE. I think for a solid five years in the earlier 2000s all I did was read about Kirstie Alley and her experiences on Jenny Craig. Now, it’s “in” to write about the body-shaming stars endure and then show how they ward off the evil spirits by going to the beach and still wearing a bikini.
Well, have you ever thought that a celebrity’s life mission isn’t to put their haters to rest, but is instead to live a normal happy life, which may involve going to the beach, especially if you live in California and/or have a lot of money like most celebrities do?
Then came Selena’s Instagrams. First, one captioned with, “I love being happy with me yall #theresmoretolove” and another, from just a few days ago, captioned, “Soul cycle aftermath. I. Want. Tacos.”
Holy shit, I thought. She’s playing into it.
I could have been totally wrong, but I saw a weird game of tic-tac-toe going on. She media is insisting that Selena is fucking the haters by wearing a bikini. Now, Selena has decided to play that role–the role of the young celebrity who doesn’t let the body-shamers bring her down, the celebrity who is real and likes SoulCycle but also tacos, too, goddamnit.
What I’m really thinking, though, is that this new thing is probably just Selena’s natural body. You know, the body she has when she isn’t working out for two and a half hours every day and isn’t on a diet regimented by Gwyneth Paltrow. Doctors, nutritionists, moms, EVERYONE talks about the idea of a “natural body” that you have, which is going to be different from everyone else’s, and is the way your body looks when you are treating it just right with *balance*. It reminds me of the two year period where suddenly, all of my friends from all walks of life became a little thicker, or a little wider. No one got “fat,” but we all just started to have “womanly” bodies. We traded lanky limbs for looking like actual humans. It’s a part of growing up.
The problem with all of this is that it’s really kind of difficult to come to a place where you genuinely love that natural body and are happy in it all of the time. It’s a million gazillion times more difficult to do that if you’re famous. The odds that Selena Gomez has gotten to that place, as someone who is currently 22 and has been famous since she and Demi were on Barney, are slim.
The tabloids patting her on the back? Not saying her body looks great, but saying she’s shutting out the haters… that all just draws more unwanted attention to the issue. This makes her think about it more. That makes her accept her body less. Because if it was totally normal, wouldn’t we be not talking about it at all?
It’s like how sometimes, friends tell me, “You have such a unique body, Han!” or “You really are able to work your body.” That’s like saying, “You aren’t super skinny and you don’t have the ‘in’ body shape right now [that’s basically to be so thin you don’t exist] but you still look great!”
So for a while, I let this train of thought convince me that my body was so unique, but in a bad way–in a way that I had no one to relate to, boob to boob, butt to butt–so I would get obsessive about it and spend a lot of time comparing myself to other people just to see if there was someone else like me out there. That way, I would really know how to work it. I would know what to wear. I would know how to make boys think I was a *dimepiece*, though I doubt in reality I actually want to be one.
I loved finding famous people with my body. It doesn’t happen often. I’d like to think I have the body of Scarlett Johansson, which you’ll know isn’t true within watching the first five minutes of Lost in Translation. A personal trainer once told me that I have the Kim Kardashian/J. Lo shape, which made me happy for a few weeks. But, like always, insecurity creeps back.
Things this experience taught me:
Stars aren’t all magically thin. I used to think that being naturally skinny was a requirement for being famous, and that I could never be famous because I don’t have long legs. I used to wonder if it was sheer coincidence that celebrities are all skinny people. I spent so much of my own life trying to look a way I’m not that I couldn’t process how people who aren’t meant to look like that do, and how they become famous.
Selena Gomez weirdly reminded me that stars are humans, and their weight, like mine, fluctuates, and they probably work too hard to be in the shape they’re expected to be in.
But I didn’t need all of this media attention to tell me that. Really, I came to that conclusion when I saw the first Instagram of her, 12 weeks ago, and wondered–
Hmmm, has Selena gained a little weight? Or is it just me?
Image via my homeslice @SelenaGomez