What’s more, Gomez embodies a new breed of star, one whose success rests on her ability to connect directly with fans on Facebook and Twitter. Where once celebrity would have put them on a pedestal, at a carefully cultivated remove, today’s brand names want to be wherever their fans are. And, increasingly, it’s in cyberspace. Goodbye, Garbo; hello, Google. Via Twitter and Facebook, Gomez and company perpetuate the illusion that they’ve erased the line between official appearances and their personal lives. It’s as if they’ve granted each fan an all-access pass to their real, authentic selves.
“Twitter and Facebook and a clothing line and music videos and personal appearances and autograph sessions all allow you to have a much more intimate relationship with your fans than ever before,” says Abbey Konowitch, executive vice president of Disney-owned Hollywood Records, which has overseen the music careers of Gomez, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, and Demi Lovato, all of whom followed a similarly synergistic path to fame. Gomez’s success, insists Konowitch, is no fluke: “She’s very focused on being a big star. To take six months off, to these kids, is almost like an obscenity.” While Disney insists that it counsels its charges to slow down, “no one wants to,” he says, “because it’s now and it’s competitive, and everyone is afraid that someone will take your slot.”
In July alone, after spending months in Europe shooting her first grown-up movie—Fox 2000’s Monte Carlo (costarring Leighton Meester)—and touring with her band, Gomez was at the center of a media blitz to plug her clothing line; her debut feature film, the family-friendly Ramona and Beezus; her last season on Wizards; and her new single, “Round & Round.” The music video premiered in June on the Disney Channel, during the episode of Wizards my daughter was watching—which is how the song ended up on her iPod 30 minutes later.
When Gomez launched her Facebook page in February 2009, she had 350,000 friends; 18 months later that number had grown to 8 million. More than 2.5 million people follow her on Twitter, among them real-life friends and fellow pop stars Taylor Swift, Khloé Kardashian, and Justin Bieber, who tweeted to his 4 million followers on Gomez’s birthday in July: “HAPPY BDAY to my amazing friend @selenagomez who not only turned 18 but has her movie Ramona & Beezus coming out THIS WEEKEND! Proud of U!!”
“I don’t look at my schedule because I would freak out,” Gomez told me on a rainy July morning in her suite at Manhattan’s London hotel. Her cousin Priscilla was asleep in one adjoining room; her mother and publicist were listening in from another. She was dressed in shredded boyfriend jeans and a shape-hugging white camisole, and her face was makeup- free, save for a touch of pink lip gloss. “It looks like a lot on paper,” she went on. “And it really is a lot. But it’s a whole lot of what I love. I just did a tour in Europe and it was really hectic. Every time I got in the car, I would ask my mom, ‘What’s next—fans or business?’”