How do 10 years of friendship shape the people in it? Selena Gomez sat down with her longtime close friends Raquelle Stevens and Ashley Cook to discuss their dynamic through the pandemic and beyond on the second season of Stevens’ TaTaTu show, Giving Back Generation. Gomez, Cook, and Stevens poignantly touched on the greatest lessons they’ve learned so far, the impact friendship has on mental health, and their Enneagram types and love languages.
Altogether, the interview gives a very intimate portrait into Gomez’s closest circle. It also shows how powerful it is to have people stick with you on your journey and help you through the easy and hard moments, whether you’re famous or not.
As Gomez put it, “I just needed people in my life that were going to look at me and unconditionally say, ‘Hey, you may not have made the right choice, but we love you, and we don’t think any less of you. We don’t think you’re a bad person. We just care, and this is kind of where you are.’ And that has been the biggest gift of my friendship from you, including Courtney [Lopez], who’s one of our best friends. I think it’s a huge part of who I am. I’m just incredibly lucky. And I know, and I want to say this too because this is important, a lot of people don’t get the chance to have friends like we do and I am considered one of the luckiest people in the world because I have three instead of just one. And I get to live life with those people.”
Stevens opened up to ELLE.com about creating season 2 of Giving Back Generation, which also features interviews with author Jay Shetty, vegan chef Radhi Devlukia-Shetty, TV personality Giulia De Lellis, Team USA heptathlete Chari Hawkins, and more.
“After filming season 1 of Giving Back Generation, I was looking forward to continuing the series in 2020, then the pandemic hit,” she said. “It was a time of a lot of uncertainty and reflection. As life started to somewhat normalize again, I was having so many conversations with friends who were feeling anxious and unsure about what was ahead. I was reading articles with staggering statistics about people struggling with their mental health. Through all of these conversations and research, I wanted to keep the series the same where I talk to people about their life journeys and how they use their life to give back, but I thought it was extremely important for seasons 2 and 3 to focus specifically on talking to individuals that use their platforms to make a difference in the mental health space. All of the conversations in both seasons are uplifting and inspiring, but also offer practical ways to better our mental health in these uncertain times we are living in. My hope is always that people will be encouraged and know that they are not alone.”
Below, find the most revealing quotes Gomez, Cook, and Stevens shared about their friendship. You can watch the full episode on TaTaTu.
On writing letters versus texting:
Selena Gomez: “Texts really don’t mean that much. I always misspell mine. Everybody looks bad. I don’t care. I’m just writing something to tell someone something, but it means so much more when it comes from someone that needs help with words. I always ask Ashley for advice about things I have, like speaking engagements or stuff that I want to get across but I don’t know how to do it. I think Ashley’s the first person I call to ask for advice and stuff because she uses her words in an impactful way and a meaningful way.”
On the impact of friendship on her mental health:
Gomez: “I think what I’ve learned over my journey specifically—and by the way, it’s been up and down—you guys have been my friends for over a decade now so you understand those moments in my life, and I have to say that my friendships really did save me in a huge way and it was because, A, I was aware of who I’m surrounding myself with. So the people in my life are lovely people, people who have substance, who live normal lives and have priorities and responsibilities that I might not have. I have different sets of responsibilities, and it’s so wonderful and so important to be able to pick up the phone and call someone who you respect, that you honor their opinion and that aren’t just going to tell you the things you want to hear. They’re going to tell you the things that—you know, they’re going to hear you, of course. They’re going to tell you how much they love you, but at the end of the day, if I make a mistake or I feel like I’m going down a wrong path mentally, it’s really important for me to pick up the phone and call someone that I know and trust. And it’s truly changed my life through this whole pandemic. I think we got so close and all we had was each other, and that was enough for me, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh, life is a lot, you know,’ and you have to have the people that you live it with be good for you.”
On maintaining authentic, real friendships despite fame and shallowness in the industry:
Gomez: “Well, I go extreme. If anybody knows me, I’m an extremist, so it’s either one way or the other way. I actually got rid of Instagram on my phone. …I don’t even know my password [my assistant does]. It’s been purposeful. I get excited when I see you guys because I didn’t look at Instagram and I don’t know how you are. That’s like real time we can gain together. Instead of just like, ‘Did you see my story?’ ‘Yeah,’ and that’s it.”
“I give people the advice to just maybe take the weekend off or just start with a day where you don’t pay attention to it and really be present for what’s around you. I think that’s so crucial and a part of our mental health.”
“Social media, I will say this, it’s not bad. I just know I have to be responsible for what I’m feeling, and I need to take care of my emotions because I’m not going to get that from strangers who are giving me their opinion.”
On how they’ve been able to sustain their friendship for over a decade:
Ashley Cook: “I think one of the things is we’ve really allowed each other to change and to grow. We’ve been friends for such a long time. We’ve become so many different versions of ourselves. You really have to let people become who they’re becoming, and I think meeting people exactly where they’re at and not having expectations for them to be anything different. Not needing them to be less or more than who they are in a season, and you know, every season is different. The third thing I would say is empathy, which really goes hand in hand with what I said last, but I think if you can consider where somebody is in a season, you can have grace, you can have compassion if they need more of it. Empathy is one of the biggest things that allows me to stick with people.”
Gomez: “What is so important for your mental health and being able to communicate with people is finding people who are like-minded, and I think that’s a huge part of why I am close to you guys because you are the people that will be honest and who will be there.”
“One time I was looking for something online because I was having a hard time, and I found this chat board, and it was all these other people who were writing stories exactly like mine. And I remember for an hour I felt so much relief. I was like, I’m not the only one who feels this way. This is so cool. Nobody knew it was me on the chat site. No one knew anything. It was just a board of people talking about something they walked through mentally, and I did too and that made me feel incredible. It’s also just about centering yourself around things that will give you life instead of take life from you.”
Gomez: “Physical touch.”
Raquelle Stevens: “You don’t even let me hug you sometimes.”
Gomez: “I love you to the moon back. I want a husband. I want that kind of physical touch. [Laughing] No…physical touch and acts of service. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve really appreciated that. I do believe your love languages change, and we are a little bit of every single one of them, but I went and hung out with somebody who was a bit older and it was just so wonderful. It was being taken care of in a way. It was like, ‘Are you comfortable? Do you want a blanket?’ Just very sweet things. I thought I didn’t need any of it but it was just so kind and I don’t feel like a lot of people are like that anymore.”
On their Enneagram personality types:
Gomez: “It’s the Enneagram test. It’s pretty accurate a lot. It’s not spiritual. It’s not anything. It’s actually just a common test that people take. It’s honestly a very important tool.”
Stevens: “The more that we can learn about each other, even the annoying traits we each have, we can meet each other where we’re at.”
On their advice to people feeling lonely and isolated given everything that has happened during COVID:
Gomez: “Learning about what’s going on with your own mental health is really important. Am I having anxiety over something? Am I staying up too late? Maybe it’s a sign of depression. Whatever it is, having an open communication with yourself is so important.”
Cook: “I think it’s helpful to say loneliness is normal. Only you know your deepest thoughts. Only you know everything. So I think to some degree, feeling lonely in a thought or experience is somewhat normal. And I think that’s important to keep in mind. Again, feeling alone in something is different. But feeling loneliness is something that just happens.”
On giving back through friendship:
Gomez: “I just try to show up. We’re all getting older. Our lives are going pretty quickly now, but I’m always ahead of the curve by thinking when am I going to have my people around me? And I think that is important…It’s about catching those things before they happen for me. It’s like, ‘oh, I think this is going to be a hard week because I have been feeling x, y, and z,’ so let me just see if I can have Anna [Collins] or you [pointing to Stevens] just come for that weekend because I feel like it’s going to be a bad one or something.”
On who has been a rainbow in Gomez’s cloud:
Gomez: “I’ll say my little sister [Gracie] and my family. She’s eight years old, and she puts things in perspective. I have to basically watch this little person grow into a human being and there’s no better feeling in the world. I kind of feel like I’m a parent in a way even though I’m not. It’s so rewarding to see that life was so simple at one point, and I want to enjoy life sometimes the way she enjoys life. And my fans. I haven’t been able to perform in a really long time. It’s been really, really hard because I feel so disconnected from people, but they keep me going. Even when I’ve been in tough moments on tour, they definitely keep me going, and they make me so happy, and I feel like I never know what I did to deserve it, but I’m so lucky.”
On dreams for the future:
Gomez: “I hope to be married and to be a mom. Eventually, I’m going to be tired of all this so I’m probably just going to devote most of my life to philanthropy before I peace out. Just keeping it real.”
On the greatest lesson learned in life so far:
Gomez: “The greatest lesson I’ve learned is it’s not all about me. When I am in some kind of distressful moment, I remove myself out of it and just say that person had stuff that they were dealing with. That’s why I feel hurt or that’s why I feel this way. It actually isn’t always about me. And I shouldn’t take a lot of things personally, especially in my line of work. I should take it with a grain of salt, and I just feel like reminding myself that, you know, the world is such a big place, and you think sometimes the littlest things in your life, you think they will ruin us but in reality, it’s like, no. Sometimes it’s not about you. You’ve got to love people the way you love people.”
On a non-negotiable dealbreaker in friendship:
Gomez: “Ego. I can’t deal with an egotistical person. I just can’t. I have zero patience. We are all the same people.”
On advice for making friends:
Gomez: “You know, I have an eight-year-old sister, and she’s in school, and I get an insight into her life in it when I pick her up or her friends come over for a play date, and it starts when you’re young. My sister will go and sit down with a girl who nobody’s sitting with and she’ll just sit down with her and ask her how she is. And there are moments that seem like they’re so crippling. Like, I would get so nervous talking to people. I was extremely shy in middle school. I was very shy. And I would just sweat. Yeah, [I was shy], and I was not good at school either. I don’t know what happened. I just feel like taking small moments like that even though they take a lot of courage is really special. I try to find people who live life the way I want to live my life because you are who you surround yourself with, and you want to be proud of that. Don’t try to conform or fit in because it won’t work and even if it does, you can only keep up a facade for so long, and that will end up only hurting you.”
On not comparing yourself to other women or competing with them:
Gomez: “When I was younger, I was terrible at it. Oh my gosh, I could not control it. I would compare myself to every person who existed for a while. I have no idea why. I guess I just wanted to be someone other than myself. Obviously I’ve done a lot of work on myself, and that isn’t necessarily what takes me down but I have to say, I believe there is this new wave, a generation where it’s not about competing with another woman. I find people like Doja Cat who’s an artist and one of her songs, the entire thing is talking about how she encourages women and how she loves women and how they should be who they want to be. And I see a lot of people who are in my vicinity of pop culture, and it’s slowly changing. I feel like it is. It’s been really great to see. And I have only received support from women in the industry. I have never felt attacked or like I was up against anyone so I’m really lucky. But when I was younger, that’s when people were a bit more mean and careless, so I think I was yeah, a little bit more when I was younger.”
Watch the full episode here on TaTaTu.
Alyssa Bailey is the senior news and strategy editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage of celebrities and royals (particularly Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton). She previously held positions at InStyle and Cosmopolitan. When she’s not working, she loves running around Central Park, making people take #ootd pics of her, and exploring New York City.