Best known for Truth or Dare (1991), the intimate and groundbreaking backstage portrait of Madonna during her 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour, Alek Keshishian returns 30 years later to deliver his Selena Gomez documentary, My Mind and Me. Having first worked together on Gomez’s “Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself” music video in 2015, Gomez approached Keshishian about doing a documentary the following year.
My Mind and Me begins during Gomez’s Revival Tour in 2016. While in her dressing room, a then-23-year-old Gomez nears an emotional breakdown as she battles exhaustion and worries she isn’t good enough. “I want nothing more than to not be my past,” she says, obsessing over how her stage outfits fit her figure. “My body is very young,” she says, wanting to look like a woman and not a “12-year-old boy.” The pressure was constant, and after 55 performances, the Revival Tour was cancelled, and filming was put on hold due to Gomez’s declining health. Many fans will already know that the star struggles with anxiety, depression, and Lupus, a stress-triggered autoimmune disease for which she had chemotherapy for years prior.
When filming resumed in 2019, significant events were glossed over, such as Gomez’s kidney transplant, its traumatic aftermath, and her breakup with Justin Bieber. Her stay in a mental health facility is explored through talking heads via her mother, Mandy Teefay, her former assistant, Theresa Marie Mingus, and her close friend, Raquelle Stevens (who you may recognize from Selena + Chef). Experiencing psychosis and suicidal ideation, this was when Gomez received her bipolar disorder diagnosis. Stevens said, “If anyone saw what I saw and the state she was in at the mental hospital, they wouldn’t have recognized her at all.” Gomez’s family and friends never gave up on her, which she appreciates, though she says at certain times, “they probably should have.” Gomez is apologetic over how she treated those close to her.
Gomez has kept a more private life than her peers, and while she has been more open about her physical and mental health problems in recent years, she has remained largely private. She hasn’t even had access to her Instagram account in four or five years. “I don’t know my passwords,” she told Vogue. Keshishian proclaims to be “intrusive” in his filmmaking, preferring to have “access to everything,” which has allowed us to see a side of Gomez that we haven’t seen before — one that is raw, messy, and emotional. We learn some of Gomez’s deepest fears and insecurities, see her be unable to get out of bed, react poorly to concerns from friends, and witness her be short and snappy with interviewers during boring press tours that understandably make her feel “like a product.”
At the start of the documentary, Gomez says, “I’ll only tell you my darkest secrets,” but there is a sense of intentional restraint, carefully curated secrets, and words left unsaid. At one point, Gomez says, “I think my past and my mistakes is what drives me into depression,” but there isn’t a lot of insight into this, though her desire to shed her Disney star past and stand in her light seems to cover it. It’s understandable for Gomez to retain some privacy, especially during more difficult moments. Still, the documentary doesn’t even make any mention of Only Murders in the Building or Selena + Chef, projects Gomez seems proud of. Plenty of difficult moments are still on display as we watch Gomez do her best to manage her overwhelming emotions, often switching between dissociation and lashing out in anger, frustration, and even defeat. There’s a particularly upsetting but striking scene later in the documentary when Gomez’s lupus flares up, and she reveals she cries every morning when she wakes up because she’s in pain all over her body.
In an interview with Vulture, Keshishian revealed that the initial cut was two-and-a-half-hours and, when speaking to Vanity Fair, he added, “there’s easily a 10-hour docuseries from this material we could have done, but I wasn’t making this just for her fans. I was trying to tell a story.” While there is a coherent and poignant narrative throughout that makes it easy to understand why certain things weren’t explored, it often feels lacking and incomplete. This is perhaps because My Mind and Me unfolds in a series of vignettes that capture certain moments of Gomez’s life — the Revival Tour and its cancellation, visiting her middle school and old friends in Texas, a trip to Kenya to see the schools and colleges built by WE Charity (which Gomez helped to fund herself), surviving a seemingly meaningless press tour, using her fame for mental health advocacy, preparing to release her second solo album, “Rare,” and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic as she still battles her past, as well as her physical and mental health. The documentary also includes some adorable home-video footage from a better time dotted throughout and some genuinely touching voiceovers featuring quotes from Gomez’s personal diaries.
My Mind and Me’s focus is Gomez finding her true purpose in philanthropy and the confidence to pursue it while in recovery. “The truth is, I’ve never felt good enough,” Gomez says. “Even when I’m on stage in front of a crowd, I’ll always find the one person who doesn’t like me, and I’ll believe them.” Instead, Gomez wants to believe in herself, and by the end of the documentary, she does, despite her personal journey being ongoing. After the WE Charity scandal, Gomez decides she will do it independently with the Rare Impact Fund.
Speaking to Vulture, Keshishian said, “That was the moment where she finally stares down that earlier statement she makes — that she always grew up not feeling good enough. The courage it took for her to get to that place, where she went, ‘Maybe I am good enough. Not only personally, but to make a difference in the world, without necessarily needing other people to do this with me.’ This movie’s message is one of hope and to show people that Selena doesn’t claim to not be broken. We are all broken. When we stay in our brokenness, we can’t see all the good we can do.”
Selena Gomez: My Mind and Me is available to stream on Apple TV+ on 4th November.
by Toni Stanger