Sunday, June 15, 2014

Stray Thoughts On A Stirring Celebrity

She seemed to fit in the ambience so perfectly. Specifically, whatever she wore – her clothes or ours – she looked like one of us.
As the international media zeroed in on Selena Gomez’s personal travails while covering her recent visit to Nepal, we were happy to find the country on the entertainment pages for a change.
As a UNICEF ambassador, Selena arrived for an in-depth observation of the organization’s work in Nepal focused on education, nutrition, health and protection. “This visit to Nepal was extraordinarily powerful – at times, devastating and heartbreaking, but also incredibly inspiring,” she said in a press release.
For Maila Baje, the visit offered an opportunity to gaze beyond the daily grind. Selena Gomez has grown up into what an earlier Selena might have become, had she not been murdered on a March morning in 1995 by someone who was supposed to have taken care of her.
Some years hence, Selena Gomez popped up in the PBS kids show Barney & Friends. Parents and grandparents who turned to the purple dinosaur for early life lessons for their young ones began bonding with her. It was pleasing to learn later that Selena’s mom had named her daughter after the Tejano singer.
With Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place, we could now identify with Alex Russo’s magical antics as she and her two siblings competed for the slot of Family Wizard of their generation. The carefree, anything-is-possible attitude of children of men and women who wake up every morning and make America work gripped audiences episode after episode.
Much as they delighted adults, kids like Selena, her one-time Barney colleague and fellow Disney star Demi Lovato, and Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus also disturbed parents, especially those with daughters. How would they – and our children – turn out as young adults? And what would that say about us?
Demi began struggling with drug problems, walking in and out of rehab a few times, before speaking publicly about herself with courage. Miley grew into a raunchy entertainer pushing the boundaries of public decency harder than Madonna or Lady Gaga ever dared to.
Selena seemed to have transitioned with much – for lack of a better term – stability. Her side of the relationship with Justin Bieber contained nothing of bawdiness the Canadian heartthrob began showing with the first flush of success. Sure, there were stories of personal distress here and there, but Selena and the family handled them with much dignity and grace. She stands out as one of the few celebrities who are comfortable talking in public about her family values and faith with candor.
Selena’s visit to Nepal brought up troubling aspects of her love and life. Just looking at her pictures while she was here (such as the one above), you wouldn’t know what was – or was not – going on with her. What you did see was how she uplifted the spirits of kids here – even if briefly.
“At first when you witness children living in extreme poverty you wonder how it is possible that they can be deprived of their basic human needs and rights,” Selena said in her press release. “Then you talk to these children and you see hope, promise and a bright future.”
It would have been nice to see more international stories on how Selena Gomez inspired children in Nepal. But, again, that’s not what the entertainment pages are for. To writers and editors on that beat, well, everything comes naturally.