It was nine days after the Kmart shoot, and she’d been working nonstop, having gone home to Los Angeles for the first time in four months, where she shot the cover for her second album, due out September 21, and recorded a few songs. (“Feels so good to be home! Shot my album artwork for the next record today! Ah, I can’t wait for yall to see/hear all the new stuff!” she enthused via Twitter.) She had also sung “Round & Round” on America’s Got Talent, wearing stilettos and a cocktail dress in what was likely a bid for the non–Mouse House viewer. That same night she’d hopped the red-eye to Miami to attend a Hispanic awards show and do an all-day press junket for Ramona and Beezus with 10-year-old costar Joey King. She even found time to join Kim Kardashian at the Beach Bunny Swimwear fashion show, and photos of the pair in conversation quickly made their way online. “When I hear people say things about her in the press, they’re like, ‘she doesn’t really do anything and that’s so not true,’” Gomez said of Kardashian. “She’s one of the most loving, hardworking people I’ve ever met. She signs for all her fans and I really look up to that. She came to my Sweet 16. She’s just a really nice person. That whole family is.”
For all the demands of fans and business, Gomez is strikingly grounded and warm in person, with an easy, raspy laugh and preternatural poise. Her artistic output, like the girl herself, is upbeat, accessible, and, above all, winsome. “What blows me away about Selena is her uncanny ability to be both 40 years old and seven years old,” says Swift, a close pal and fellow traveler on the supernova circuit, who met Gomez two years ago, when they were double-dating Jonas Brothers. “She has this button she can push for which age she wants to be. One minute she’s in a meeting with people three times her age making career decisions and holding her own, and the next she’ll go to Disneyland and get cotton candy.” Gomez may be “loud and fun,” Swift adds, “but that should never be confused with someone who is not in complete control. She knows exactly what she wants and what she wants to come next.”
If Miley Cyrus has decamped for a more knowing milieu, Gomez is clearly her fresh-faced heir. (My daughter, for one, has soured on Cyrus, confused by her newfangled edginess. And like any parent who worries about her kid falling in with the wrong crowd, I’m happy to discourage the friendship.) Gomez is actually older than Cyrus, but she seems younger, owing as much to her heart-shaped face, wide chocolate eyes, and purity ring as to her references to her curfew and her Christian homeschooling near the Wizards set. There are no pole dances on Gomez’s résumé, and she is determined to bring her fans along with her as she navigates the path to a post-Disney world.