By Alice Harrison, Second year, Classics
‘It just sucks. All of it.’ These are the first words of proper dialogue we hear from a 23-year-old, baby-faced Selena Gomez as she prepares for her 2016 Revival tour. The Disney star turned pop sensation is struggling with the pressure of stardom and it is made clear throughout her Apple TV+ documentary, My Mind and Me (2022), that this is a never-ending tale of pain, sacrifice and chaos in Gomez’s life.
My Mind and Me follows Gomez from the year 2016 until 2021. It starts with Gomez preparing for her Revival tour which was cancelled after 55 shows and resulting in Gomez subsequently entering a psychiatric facility. This documentary is less about a Disney princess, and more like A Star is Born (2018).
Cut to 2019, and Gomez is seen recovering from her kidney transplant, which occurred in 2017, due to complications with her autoimmune disease lupus and conveniently brushing past her tabloid cat-nip relationship with Justin Bieber, as well as dealing with a bipolar disorder diagnosis.
The rest of the documentary details the pop singer’s journey to recover mentally and physically. However, many of Gomez’s fans will be disappointed as she chooses not to mention her relationship with Bieber in any way, shape or form. However, it is crucial that she does not. This heartbreaking story of stardom is not related to in any way losing a lover but to losing herself.
My Mind and Me is directed by Alek Keshishian, most known for his sensational pop documentary; Truth or Dare (1991), following Madonna on her Blond Ambition Tour. This documentary undoubtedly set the gold standard for pop documentaries, detailing the hilarious journey of Madonna and her entourage across the globe, showing a side of the pop star no one had seen before.
Keshishian is notably a fan of emulating cinéma verité, as he did in Truth or Dare, a style of documentary filmmaking which represents the truth as objectively as possible and, most importantly, frees the viewer from previous misconceptions about the subject.
However, My Mind and Me takes a different cinematic approach. Instead of feeling like a fly on the wall of Gomez’s hotel room, you feel like a friend as she takes you to places from her past, such as her hometown of Grand Prairie in Texas to Maasai Mara in Kenya, where she spends a week volunteering at a primary school. This is the documentary’s best technical trait.
My Mind and Me is not without its faults. One of the few moments where Gomez’s documentary seems not fully explored is her week-long volunteering trip to a primary school in Maasai Mara, Kenya. Although Gomez’s drive to help others is clear, the actions are not as much.
A large part of the documentary is focused on the said trip which she went on with the WE charity, which has recently been embroiled in a scandal with Canadian politics. Gomez’s work with the children she meets is heart-warming to watch as she is moved by the strength and passion of the young Kenyan women - one begins to think that these children are saving Gomez rather than the other way around.
Yet, the pop stars' drive for philanthropy does have its hollow moments. Gomez claims in Kenya that what she has wanted to do for six years is to ‘find a curriculum that could be taught in schools focusing on mental health’. This subject lacked focus, and despite what Gomez claims are her one true passion, it appears like a throwaway comment and is not revisited in sincerity.
My Mind and Me is at its most beautiful when Gomez is not being a holier-than-thou perfect celebrity. Keshishian’s main skill is showing the audience Gomez’s snaps and faults which we do not see in your average pop doc, such as Taylor Swift’s Miss Americana (2020), or Katy Perry’s Part of Me (2012).
Watching teen sensation Selena Gomez snap at an interviewer or have a tiff with her friend reminds us that she too, is, as cheesy as it sounds, human. It is a raw portrait of a complex and challenged woman, who also just happens to be the biggest pop star in the world.
Featured Image: Apple Tv+ on IMDB
Did you find My Mind and Me distinctive to other pop star documentaries?