I am gutted. Dropping my shoulders, shaking my head and struggling to find the right words to say on my radio show later today about the news that Selena Gomez has struggled with lupus. It'd be the same reaction if anyone sat in front of me and told me they had been suffering with a life altering illness, had gone through chemotherapy and had been badmouthed throughout the entire experience.
I heard a story whilst at school from a representative at a teenage cancer charity, about a young person going through chemotherapy that made her so sick that she could barely lift her head. She'd lost her hair, her health and her ordinary life had disintegrated leaving a daily fight tainted by the consistent and unrelenting taste of bile. This meant that she hadn't replied to texts of support from her school mates for weeks. She couldn't face it, didn't have the physical strength, let alone the mental. When she finally started to win the fight and the acidic taste of life was no longer so overwhelming, she turned back towards her old life that she had known and loved and found the door closed. Her old friends had abandoned her because she hadn't appeared grateful for their support. She hadn't texted back for weeks because she had the audacity to focus her energy on fighting for her life and this was enough to punish her.
News has now broken that pop sensation, Hollywood actress and teen idol Selena Gomez has been suffering with lupus and has been treating it with chemotherapy. This is another bit of evidence that you needed to believe that celebrities, even at the dizziest heights of fame, are real people. They are just as susceptible to the human condition of existent as you and I. Selena could easily be your sister, your friend, your friend's sister because sadly we see this story repeated time and time again. Humans are not invincible.
My best wishes are with Selena, I have had the pleasure of interviewing her a couple of times and both times she was very polite, warm and real. Despite being almost exactly a year younger than me, she has already stared in over 20 films, had her own Disney TV show and released a few of her own chart topping albums. Writing that is enough to make me doubt my own life choices however my point is that despite the differences in the lives we have lead, she made the effort to find our common ground and if I'm very honest with myself, her career wouldn't have even been damaged slightly if she hadn't.
What is important to learn from this is how we treat people in the public eye and by that I mean you and I as consumers. Every time someone writes a sensationalist, gossip driven headline, think before you click. That click puts money in their pocket and only encourages them to keep writing. In 2013/14 it wasn't uncommon to find articles written about Selena and drug addiction. Just search Selena drug addiction online and a whole load of articles appear in less than a second, I'm not going to share them with you because it would be contradicting what I just told you but I reassure you, they are there. (Most of them report that someone else reported it but that really doesn't clear you of responsibility, you are still spreading that rumour.) In 2013 Selena first fell ill.
Selena has said in her interview with Billboard magazine,
"I wanted so badly to say: 'You guys have no idea. I'm in chemotherapy. You're assholes'."
"I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again."
"I've been working since I was seven. I've been a Unicef ambassador since I was 17. It's so disappointing that I've become a tabloid story," she said.
The most cynical of us can recognise that this is convenient timing, with a world tour, new album and single dropping from Selena in the next couple of weeks but it's the chicken and the egg argument with this one. When artists have new material coming out, they go out and talk to as many people as possible because they need to put themselves in the minds of the public. That's when people, like me, start to ask questions and sometimes their answers happen to be headline material. I don't believe Selena's PR team sat there with Selena and said to her "can you save the whole 'life changing illness story' until we've written the PR for your new single?" If you think she should have come out sooner and said what she was going through at the time that she was actually going through it, can I bring you back to the story of the young person going through chemotherapy, not strong enough to text her mates back. Fighting her life. Just because that person lives an anonymous life, when it comes to something as life threatening, how can you not provide Selena that same respect?
I wish that no one had to go through chemotherapy or the thousands of other painful but necessary treatments when it comes to our health. For me, this has made it ever more obvious in a gossip conscious 2015 to think before you click and for me as a radio presenter, to think before I speak.