It’s really hard to be a mom of a recently turned tween these days. I’m sure it wasn’t much different when I was a kid (sorry mom), but let me tell you, this new stage we’ve entered is exciting, fun, and also … terrifying.
If I’m being honest, it isn’t the newfound attitude that worries me, or even her sudden curiosity about bras, makeup, and what relationships are about. No, what worries me the most is that suddenly her decisions, likes, and goals are influenced by social media, television, and music personalities — not all of whom I necessarily want her to look up to.
It’s especially hard these days to find good role models for Latina girls that exemplify strength and ambition, as well as promote sisterhood and a strong sense of self. That is, unless we’re talking about Selena Gomez.
My daughter and I got the chance to interview her during a recent press day in Miami for Hotel Transylvania 2. Now, living in L.A., meeting celebrities is something that happens pretty frequently, BUT giving her the opportunity to meet a successful, level headed, talented young woman that happens to share a background with her? As a Latina mom, that was an enormous opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
The big day came and Sofia not only got to sit right next to her idol, but she asked some pretty amazing questions. Gomez gave the most genuine replies to her, and all the other kids, no matter what was asked. From “what’s your favorite monster?” (The Mummy, by the way) to “do you whip nae nae?” (yes, she showed us), no question was unanswered and I was elated that my daughter has such a great role model to look up to.
Sofia definitely soaked in the day, for more than just meeting Gomez, but also because she saw someone who looks like her (“Mommy, we’re both Latina!”) and who gave her a few valuable replies that she will remember.
Here are a few of those words:
1. She is open about learning Spanish.
Like many 2nd generation, multi-cultural (my husband is Caucasian) kids, my daughter isn’t bilingual. Truth be told, Sofia didn’t show any interest in learning either. That is, until she heard a Spanish track on one of Selena’s albums. Gomez said that she always includes at least one track on her albums in Spanish and is public about the fact that she’s constantly working on the language, two facts I love.
2. She also embraces the fact that many Latina girls look up to her.
While the kids asked most of the questions, I had one I really wanted my daughter hear: how being Latina has affected her career. She could have easily danced around the question, instead she reflected on experiences with other Latina moms, who like myself, searched for a role model for their daughter. “I’ve had moms come up to me and they say ‘I’m so thrilled that my daughters can reach for everything that they want to reach because of you’,” says Gomez. “I was overwhelmed by it because I didn’t realize that responsibility. Half of my fanbase is Latin and the fact that I get to be a voice for them, is the best feeling.”
3. She respects her kid fan base while transitioning to more adult roles.
My daughter definitely embraces being a kid in the digital age. While social media isn’t a part of her life quite yet, things like YouTube and Netflix are. I am pretty proactive about what she watches, but even so, a lot of the former child stars that she sees in her favorite (re-run) shows have grown up and gone on to more interesting career paths. It’s been hard to get her to understand at times, but overall I tell her that the shows are older, the kids are grown-ups now and making adult decisions that may not be good for kids her age to see.
Sometimes, it’s a little disheartening for her to love a show, or an actor so much, then not be able to continue being a fan because their new content is much too adult for her. But Gomez still loves her younger fans and respects that age group while delicately navigating the transition to more complex roles for a young woman. Getting to voice a character in a family film is just one of the things she loves doing because it helps her stay connected with her young fans, something which gives me ease as a mom who can finally say, “Yes, you can watch a newer Selena Gomez movie.”
4. She loves playing confident girls because confidence is important.
My daughter is a pretty confident kid, thankfully. We have filled her with the knowledge that she is amazing and as long as she loves herself, no one’s opinion of what she looks like, or what she says or does, matters as long as she is happy. But unfortunately, I know as time goes on, she will be faced with more challenges and things will try to chip away at the confidence. So it’s pretty important for me to have her see characters that face challenges and keep their confidence much like Mavis, Gomez’s character in Hotel Transylvania 2.
When asked about what message she hopes her character sends out, Gomez talked about Mavis’ ability to be herself. “[I] learned from that, I think I need more of that in my life. I think it’s extremely important to be confident in yourself because with social media, with guys, with so much that happens to young women specifically, it gets very difficult to remain who you are and confident, and I think that is something that is very important.”
5. She will always daydream.
Kids are natural daydreamers and love to use their imaginations. My daughter is a huge daydreamer, often filling her notebook with stories and songs that she wrote herself. She asked Gomez if she likes using her imagination, to which she gave a beautiful reply, “ALL THE TIME! That’s how I come up with my songs, that’s how I come up with my music videos — I’m constantly daydreaming. I love it, I never want to lose that.”
I could tell this stuck with my daughter on the plane ride home. Instead of pulling out her iPad to watch a movie, she asked me for my notebook and a pencil because she had a great idea for a story, and said “it’s because I am always daydreaming and that makes me special, just like Selena Gomez!”
It may have only been a few minutes, but meeting her idol inspired my daughter, and gave her the knowledge that being herself is really all she needs to reach for the stars.More On