Selena Gomez needn’t do much to keep her 157 million Instagram followers happy.
Once the platform’s most-followed celebrity, she remains squarely in fourth place despite extended social media breaks and an admission that she long ago deleted the app from her phone.
Gone are the days where she would readily engage with fans. “I think it’s just become really unhealthy,” she shared on LIVE With Kelly and Ryan this June. “I think, personally, for young people, including myself, to spend all of their time fixating on all these comments and letting this stuff in. It was affecting me. It would make me depressed. It would make me feel not good about myself and look at my body differently and all kinds of stuff.”
But she hasn’t entirely abandoned ship. Should the mood strike, she relies on a bit of help from a friend. “I have it on someone else’s phone,” she explained. “And when I feel like I want to share something with my fans or just mess around with it, I do it then.”
Such was the case this past Monday when she shared a fresh-faced and snuggled up selfie that garnered some seven-and-a-half million double-taps for the caption, “Me, all the time.”
The post veered into vague territory. Was it the lack of makeup that defined her? Her sleepiness? A propensity to be wrapped in blankets? But the essence of who Selena Gomez is these days can best be boiled down to a single word: happy.
One year after seeking treatment to help with her ongoing anxiety and depression the 27-year-old multi-hyphenate feels confident that she’s living her best life. That started with the type of definitive diagnosis that had long eluded her. Calling the moments before she sought help “one of the scariest moments of my life,” she told the crowd gathered last month to watch her receive the 2019 McLean Award about the clarity that followed.
“The doctors were able to give me a clear diagnosis,” she shared while accepting the honor, bestowed upon those that help further the public’s understanding of mental illness. “The moment I received that information, I actually felt equal parts of terrified and relieved. Terrified, obviously, because the veil was lifted, but relieved that I had the knowledge of why I had suffered for so many years.”
But her palpable contentment is about more than just getting answers.
Her 2018 involved a thorough cleanse, from social media, from sources of negativity, from friendships that simply weren’t authentic. “I think everything in my life is being majorly downsized, in a very good way,” she told Elle last year. “I’m going back to simplicity. That’s always who I’ve been. It’s not me saying, ‘I feel the best I’ve ever felt.’ It’s me saying, ‘I’m exactly where I am. And I’m so happy I’m in this place.'”
As for what has remained alongside her, it all brings her joy. “Selena has truly had a transformative year,” an insider tells E! News. “She feels more stable and healthy than she has in the last couple of years and has been on a great path.”
That starts with her health, both physical—the insider notes that she hasn’t had many lupus flare-ups of late—and mental. “I’m just fortunate enough to be able to work with some of the greatest doctors and psychiatrists and amazing people to help guide me personally through my journey,” she shared in her September speech. “Although this does not mean that it has all gone away, I can say that after a year of a lot of intense work, that I am happier, I am healthier and I’m in control of my emotions and thoughts more than I’ve ever been.”
She also holds the reins on her social calendar, preferring to fill it with quiet evenings at the Orange County home she purchased following her escape from L.A., a place she’s labeled as “claustrophobic.” (And, okay, a few enviable jaunts to Mexico and Italy.)
“She has a new approach to every aspect of her life,” the source explains. “She has a really good group of friends that she hangs out with regularly and loves to do low-key activities like an early dinner, hang out at home or hang outside in her backyard chatting.”
The lucky few on her speed dial include Taylor Swift, Francia Raisa, who notably donated a kidney to Gomez in 2017, producer Andrea Iervolino and, yes, former One Directioner Niall Horan, though the source insists theirs is a platonic friendship.
If it were to grow into something more, though, don’t expect to see him plastered across her social media accounts. The new Selena, the source says, “really enjoys staying out of the spotlight and focusing on what matters most.”
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In other words, she’s not venturing onto a step-and-repeat without some thoughtful consideration. Of the handful of public events Gomez has ventured out for, four were in connection with her zombie fantasy film The Dead Don’t Die, three to promote causes near to her heart and one was a brief cameo on the Coachella stage to perform alongside Cardi B and Ozuna because a girl’s still got to live.
Her most recent appearance was an Oct. 2 screening for Netflix’s Living Undocumented, a project she co-produced and championed with a recent Time essay she wrote, opening up about her aunt crossed over from Mexico while “hidden in the back of the truck.”
Her grandparents followed, giving birth to her dad in Texas soon after, and on July 22, 1992 future actress-singer-producer-world changer Selena Gomez entered the world as a United States citizen. “Over the past four decades, members of my family have worked hard to gain United States citizenship,” she shared. “Undocumented immigration is an issue I think about every day and I never forget how blessed I am to have been born in this country thanks to my family and the grace of circumstance.”
Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Netflix
Not one to claim an understanding of the complexities of the country’s immigration system, something that was messy and complex even before the current crisis, her goal was to put human faces to the cause. “It’s time to listen to the people whose lives are being directly affected by immigration policies,” she continued. “It’s time to get to know the individuals whose complex stories have been reduced to basic headlines.”
Far from simple lip service, her dedication to human rights also led her to take on a five-day-a-week internship (save for the times she’s tied up in the studio or honoring commitments for brand partnerships such as Puma and Coach) with A21, a global anti-human-trafficking nonprofit. “I had been working for so long, and I don’t like taking things in my life,” she told Elle. “I just wanted to serve.”
The move came from her internal drive to be part of things that matter more than platinum records and Billboard chart toppers.
“I’ve been wanting something I could contribute most of my time to because I love what I do, but I feel a little selfish sometimes and I’ve always said that…I take it extremely serious and my friends are heavily involved with me because it’s not something happening a million miles away. It’s actually happening here,” she told E! News’ Jason Kennedy. “I would love to do everything I can, along with one of my heroes [A21 founder Christine Caine], to just be a part of it and learn. So I am honored to be a part of it.”
Though, having toiled in this business since she was a 9-year-old on Barney & Friends, she’s better at balancing than most. So she’s spent the past year of her life juggling philanthropy with her roles as a producer, brand ambassador and an in-demand pop star. Having teased new music for several months now and released a series of one-offs, including “Wolves” and “Bad Liar”, a source says she’s this close to filling the gaping hole that’s existed since the 2015 release of Revival.
“I have to do, like, a few finishing things with it, but I’m just relieved,” she said during a June appearance on The Tonight Show. “It took me four years now to even feel at a good place with this album, and it’s just because I had such huge moments that happened in my life personally that [it was like] how was I going to capture that and how was I actually going to feel good about what I was saying? So, I kept going and I’m relieved now.”
The goal is for an early 2020 drop, and having received a sneak peek, Raisa swears it’s worth the wait, telling ET the bops had her “shaking my ass a lot.”
Though Gomez has promised “a sense of strong pop,” expect a touch of guitar, both electric and acoustic, and some soulful jams, the amalgamation of which represent the a woman who knows exactly who she is.
“It’s peaceful. It’s weird. The moment I turned 26, I felt 26,” she told Elle. “Right now, I feel very sure of where I am. I don’t feel erratic or emotionally unstable. Or like I can’t handle my emotions, like I used to. It’s kind of understanding myself a little more. By all means I don’t have myself figured out. But it feels good.”