Last night, singer, actress, and designer Selena Gomez gave a beautiful and heartfelt performance at the 2014 American Music Awards, with best friend Taylor Swift rooting her on from the audience. Onlookers would not have known anything was wrong with Gomez, other than, perhaps, heartbreak from her on-again, off-again relationship with Justin Bieber. Yet, headlines have been purporting for over a year now that Ms. Selena Gomez may have lupus.
If it’s true, then I have a few thoughts and opinions on the matter. As someone who has been diagnosed with lupus, among other autoimmune conditions, I would absolutely love for someone as young, beautiful, and famous as Selena Gomez to put a pretty face to an ugly disease. It would be amazing if Selena could use her (vast and visible) platform to spread awareness about this sometimes-devastating and disabling disease, and others like it.
It would be nice if celebrities diagnosed with illnesses (think: Paula Abdul with RSD, Toni Braxton with Lupus, Kathleen Turner with RA, Kim Kardashian with psoriasis, etc.) would speak out more about their conditions, and advocate more, on a larger scale, to their built-in audiences of millions. Sure, some do take to the cause: Nick Cannon is open about his Lupus diagnosis; Elizabeth Hasselbeck is an open book when it comes to her Celiac Disease, but not all stars are willing to share their story and their sickness with the world.
Some people get really (and I mean REALLY) annoyed-bordering-angry that Selena Gomez does not wish to confirm or deny her lupus diagnosis, let alone become a spokesperson for the illness. I, however, am not in that camp. My school of thought is a bit different.
While I do wish that Selena would “come out” with it if it’s true, I can totally understand why she wouldn’t want to do so. Many people forget that celebrities are human. Humans, at least humans that are Americans, are entitled to privacy. Sure, stars “sign up” to be in the spotlight. But, I believe that there’s a fine line for allowing your public life to be public and allowing your private life to be made public. While some allow their private lives into the public eye (here’s looking at you, Kardashians,) others simply want to entertain, to make art, to practice their craft, to make people happy, and share their gift with the world. Just because someone performs on stage, glams it up on the red carpet, shines on the silver screen, or grants interviews to talk show hosts or magazines, doesn’t mean that they want to let you in to the innermost workings of their life.
In today’s world of instant-access, all-access, all-the-time, it’s easy to expect that. We want celebrities to share everything with us, all the time. In the days of TMZ, E! News, Instagram, and a 24-hour news cycle, we feel absolutely entitled to be on the inside of these celebrities’ every move. Why do we treat them like a commodity, instead of a person? Ironically, we get mad when stars are held to a different standard, or placed on a platform. But, I ask you — who put them on the platform? We did. And if we want them to NOT be held to a different standard that us, then we can’t pick and choose when that applies, and when it doesn’t. That would be hypocritical. We can’t, on one hand, say that stars like Selena Gomez shouldn’t get special treatment just because they are a celebrity, and then, on the other hand, demand that they get different treatment just because of a rumored illness.
What I mean is, the average, everyday “normal” (non-celebrity) person is entitled to keep a health diagnosis private. That’s part of what the HIPPA privacy laws are for. Why, then, isn’t Selena Gomez entitled to that same amount of privacy? If we want her to be held to a different standard than us, and put on a platform, then, fine, yes, we should demand that she speak out about her alleged lupus diagnosis. But, if we, as a culture, claim that we think that celebrities shouldn’t be treated any differently than us, then, we need to shut up and let her live her life in peace and with privacy. We can’t have it both ways and only believe things when it is convenient for us or our cause. I’m guessing that these stars feel the same.
A health diagnosis, especially one as complicated and scary as SLE (systemic lupus erythematosus) usually takes a while for a newly-diagnosed patient to process. Our health – or lack thereof – is a highly personal matter, that we all have the right to handle however we wish. We can keep it private, or make it public. Just because I choose to blog about my health journey, doesn’t mean that Selena Gomez has to, regardless of the fact that she is a superstar in the public eye. We should respect that she is processing her diagnosis, trying to get well, and dealing with it as best she can — IF she even has the disease. If Selena Gomez needs time to figure out and cope with a potential lupus diagnosis, then let her.
I am sure that, someday, she will speak out about her lupus, IF she has it. If she doesn’t, that stinks, but oh well. Her life is her life. Her face may be famous, but it isn’t any more important than mine or yours. So ,while we wait for Selena to speak out — or not — let’s all do OUR own part to speak out. Let’s ALL give a face to rheumatic and autoimmune illnesses by boding together. She may have a lot of clout and power on her own, but if we work together, then we have even more power. She’s not the only visible person with (alleged) lupus. We’re ALL visible. We all have a voice.
I say that we let her be, whether next statement to the press regards Justin Bieber, a world tour, or, yes, even lupus.