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Becoming a household name as a young teen didn't insulate Selena Gomez from the trials and tribulations of high school. Instead, it amplified them.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, Gomez discussed how the issues at the heart of her latest passion project—suicide, depression, and emotional abuse—hit very close to home. The young singer-actress is an executive producer on the upcoming Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which is based on Jay Asher's book of the same name. Like the novel, the series tells the story of a teenage girl named Hannah Baker who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes explaining the reasons why. Each of the tapes focuses on a different person that Baker knew and the very real impact that they had on her life.
Gomez says she felt strongly about adapting the book into a show because she related so strongly to the main character.
"I think [Asher] understood that I knew what it meant to be bullied," Gomez tells the Times. "I went to the biggest high school in the world, which is the Disney Channel. And my mum had a lot of history dealing with [bullying]. I heard her stories growing up. She's very open about it."
Gomez's mother, Mandy Teefy, was actually the one who introduced Gomez to Asher's book.
"When I was growing up, I was always bullied because I was the outsider, the weird girl with the purple hair and combat boots. Then I was a teen mum. You get really judged," Teefy reveals. "I had counselors telling me how I'd ruined my life, Selena's life and how I ruined the father's life, even though he participated."
Times have changed since Teefy was in high school, and mother and daughter both agree that social media has only made bullying more dangerous. Despite her dominance on the popular photo sharing app, Gomez says she often finds herself removing Instagram from her phone.
"You can't avoid it sometimes. I delete the app from my phone at least once a week," Gomez confesses. "You fixate on the negative [comments]. They're not like, 'You're ugly.' It's like they want to cut to your soul. Imagine all the insecurities that you already feel about yourself and having someone write a paragraph pointing out every little thing—even if it's just physical."
Catch 13 Reasons Why when it hits Netflix March 31.