Why Selena Gomez’s ‘Living Undocumented’ Was Personal: ‘I Related To That in So Many Ways’

When Selena Gomez’s fans think of the multi-hyphenate star, they may think first of her hit songs and popular on-screen roles. But Gomez’s last name and family history are also important to her, as a celebrity and just as a person. Discover why executive producing one project hit close to home.

Selena Gomez is a Latinx star

Selena Gomez attends ACLU SoCal's Annual Bill of Rights dinner on November 17, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California.
Selena Gomez attends ACLU SoCal’s Annual Bill of Rights dinner on November 17, 2019 in Beverly Hills, California. | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Gomez began her career in her native Texas, starring in the PBS children’s series Barney & Friends. Both she and co-star Demi Lovato, who also has Mexican ancestry, auditioned for the Disney Channel as young teens. Gomez was the first of the two to be cast, moving to Los Angeles to star in Wizards of Waverly Place.

On the popular series, Gomez portrayed Alex Russo, a half-Italian, half-Mexican teenager who competes with her siblings to become the family wizard. In subsequent roles, such as films like Ramona and Beezus and Spring Breakers, the actor’s ethnicity has rarely come into play.

She produced Netflix’s ‘Living Undocumented’

RELATED: Selena Gomez Comments On the Netflix Documentary Series, ‘Living Undocumented’

Over the past decade, Gomez has gone from a star of the screen to working behind-the-scenes on numerous projects. She first dived into executive producing with the Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex and has continued in this position on other projects.

The past couple of years have been significant for Gomez’s producing career. In addition to 2020 films This Is The Year and The Broken Hearts Gallery, she has also worked in TV, specifically with Netflix. Gomez executive produced Living Undocumented for the streaming service, a docuseries about undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Gomez witnessed racial discrimination at a young age

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Gomez is the daughter of Mandy Teefey and Ricardo Gomez. “I’m a proud third-generation American-Mexican,” she told immigrant graduates in a Define American video in May 2020. “And my family’s journey and their sacrifices helped me get where I am today.”

On the topic of hardship due to race, Gomez told Allure that she saw discrimination against her dad as a child. “It was back in Texas,” she said in her September 2020 cover story. “They used a derogatory term [to refer to] my father, and I just remember him being like, ‘Don’t say anything, don’t do anything.'”

Why working on the docuseries was significant for her

Moments like that are part of what led Gomez to work on Living Undocumented. “It made me mad,” she said of seeing what undocumented immigrants went through. “I knew I related to that in so many ways. A lot of my family were immigrants, and created lives for themselves here.”

“I’m just once removed from being an [immigrant],” she continued. “I’m proud of that side of who I am.” Gomez added, “I wanted to do something that would make people uncomfortable, that would force people to watch something that maybe they just don’t want to see, or don’t understand.”