Selena Gomez says it was ‘violating’ to be followed and photographed as a teenager on Disney Channel

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Selena Gomez photographed on set in New York City on February 23, 2021. Gotham/GC Images
  • Selena Gomez spoke to Vogue about growing up in the spotlight as a teenager on Disney Channel.
  • She said she was 15 when paparazzi began showing up on set for “Wizards of Waverly Place.”
  • She also remembers men taking photos of her on the beach in a bikini: “That is a violating feeling.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Selena Gomez recently opened up to Vogue about the “violating” experience of growing up in the spotlight.

The “Rare” singer was just 10 when she began acting and 13 when she was cast as Alex Russo on “Wizards of Waverly Place.” She told Jia Tolentino that she was 15 when she first remembers paparazzi showing up on set.

“I remember going to the beach with some family members who were visiting, and we saw, far away, grown men with cameras – taking pictures of a 15-year-old in her swimsuit,” Gomez said. “That is a violating feeling.”

When Tolentino asked if she felt the situation was invasive in the moment, Gomez said she coped by always “trying to say the right thing” because she’s “such a people-pleaser.”

“It seems almost impossible not to be, as a performer,” Tolentino said.

Gomez agreed, saying unless you’re “a man.”

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Selena Gomez as Alex Russo on ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ in 2010. Ron Tom/Disney Channel via Getty Images

Gomez also reflected on the restrictive nature of her breakout role on Disney Channel.

“That was my job in a way – to be perfect,” she said. “You’re considered a figure kids look up to, and they take that seriously there.”

Invasive tabloid culture, particularly as it pertains to young female celebrities, has recently become a hot discussion topic. The New York Times documentary “Framing Britney Spears” has compelled many to reckon with the damaging effects of fame, misogyny, and strict expectations for young stars.

Fellow Disney alum Bella Thorne told Insider that she felt like a “shell, this mask of a person” while starring on “Shake It Up” as a teenager.

“You have to teach kids good things. And I understand setting something good for young kids to follow,” she explained. “But then I think that good thing gets slowly turned into something dark.”

Gomez told Vogue that her on-screen brothers, David Henrie and Jake T. Austin, were very protective of her in those days, and that her early memories of the show still feel tender and uncomplicated.

“They were there before any of it,” she said. “They loved me for me, and they still do. I can’t say that I have that anymore. I can’t meet someone and know if they like me for me.”

“To be honest, I just want to start over,” she added. “I want everything to be brand-new. I want someone to love me like I’m brand-new.”