Selena Gomez Says Her ‘Disney Girl’ Past Haunts Her

Selena Gomez rose to fame as a Disney Channel star. Now 28, the “Lose You to Love Me” singer, feels she can’t shake her Disney image. Although she’s released multiple solo albums and taken on decidedly more grown-up acting roles since her Disney days, Gomez can’t help but think people still see her as a “Disney girl.” 

Selena Gomez became famous starring on ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’

Selena Gomez stands on the set of 'Only Murders in the Building'
Selena Gomez | Gotham/GC Images

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At the age of 13, Gomez got cast as the lead on Wizards of Waverly Place. Her character? Alex Russo, a teenage girl with magical powers. Prior to landing the starring role on what would become a popular Disney Channel original series, Gomez appeared on the PBS show, Barney & Friends, for three years.

By 14, the then-child actor had moved from Texas to California to film Wizards of Waverly Place Season 1. Gomez starred in the series alongside David Henrie (Justin Russo), Jennifer Stone (Harper Finkle), Gregg Sulkin (Mason Greyback), and more. On the air from 2007-2012 with a TV movie in 2013, the show served as the launching pad for Gomez’s music and acting careers. 

Gomez was 19 when Wizards of Waverly Place ended. She’d spent the majority of her teenage years on the series. From there she had to figure out where to go in the post-Disney Channel era of her career.

Selena Gomez has a ‘haunting feeling’ she’s still seen as a ‘Disney girl’

Vogue’s April 2021 cover star, Gomez opened up about Wizards of Waverly Place. Specifically, how people may forever view her as a “Disney girl” because of her time on the series. 

“I still live with this haunting feeling that people still view me as this Disney girl,” she said. 

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The actor and singer continued, sharing she had “to be perfect” as the star of a popular Disney series. 

“That was my job in a way—to be perfect,” she said. “You’re considered a figure kids look up to, and they take that seriously there.”

“I think I spent so many years just trying to say the right thing to people for the sake of keeping myself sane,” she added, referring to herself as “such a people-pleaser.” “It seems almost impossible not to be, as a performer,” she said. “Unless you’re like … a man? Yeah.”

‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ served as Selena Gomez’s ‘high school’ where she learned how to be ‘a better actress’

Nearly a decade since the last Wizards of Waverly Place episode aired, Gomez still wonders whether or not people see her as a “Disney girl.” That thought aside, she learned a lot from the experience. It made Gomez a better actor, she told Allure in 2020.

“It was my high school,” she said before later adding, “My comedic timing, my improv skills, everything I experienced made me a better actress.”

She also made lifelong friends on the show in addition to getting better at her craft. The singer and actor, who may someday retire from music, told Vogue in 2021, Wizards of Waverly Place was the last time she knew people really loved her for her.

“They were there before any of it,” she said of her co-stars. “They loved me for me, and they still do. I can’t say that I have that anymore. I can’t meet someone and know if they like me for me.”