If the world is just like high school and Instagram is how we know who the popular kids are, then Selena Gomez is currently the coolest kid in the cafeteria. And what worries her is the responsibility that comes with having 62 million—"71 million," she corrects me (72 by the time I'm writing this and definitely more by the time you're reading this)—followers. What should she post? When? More? Less? Or, shudder, should she just quit forever?
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Deleting her account would be just the latest in a series of baller moves in her evolution. Or more apt, revolution—one rooted in child stardom at 7 on Barney & Friends, after her mother (who became her first manager) found a flyer for an open casting call for the show while they were living in Grand Prairie, Texas. (Gomez's parents, who had her at 16, weren't married. They married other people, which is how she has two toddler half sisters on each side.)
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Gomez, 23, wears her auburn-streaked brown hair in a messy ponytail and gold-hoop earrings that sway as she studies a menu on the top-floor patio of the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. She's dressed in a faded Metallica T-shirt (borrowed from her roommate, Courtney, who lives with her in her Los Angeles home), Vetements jeans, and her favorite Vuitton sneakers.
With barely any makeup, she could almost pass for the 14-year-old the world first really got to know on her second TV show, Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place. (Before that, she also guest-starred on Hannah Montana.) Gomez was one of a generation of Disney stars—Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, Demi Lovato, et al.—who each became famous and then had to grow up and figure out, exactly, what she was famous for.
Here, a few highlights from her interview, in our June issue on newsstands May 17:
On dating: "I've been dating. I've been having the best time. But I don't trust anybody, so dating can only be fun if I know I'm going to have fun."
On how she deals with agents and managers: "Authenticity is my life. They make great choices, but I make the decisions."
On being known for who she dates with not who she is: "I would try to promote something that I loved, and the entire interview would be about my personal life. I would leave a room feeling defeated, feeling embarrassed, but I would always make sure to put that smile on my face because I wasn't going to let them get to me."
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On taking control of her career: "I had to not be afraid to ask dumb questions, which means I asked a million things about every single step that I was making."
On her upcoming tour and film: "I finally just wanted to go for it. I wanted to do things that I knew were going to be me. I don't want people to look at me as someone who is just this celebrity person."
Read the full interview and see more pics in the June issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands May 17. And for a little behind-the-scenes action to hold you over, see Gomez at her cover shoot here: