Selena Gomez on self-acceptance and reshaping the beauty industry

The actor, musician and beauty entrepreneur talks mental health advocacy and the Australian launch of her beauty brand.

Article by Victoria Pearson

Rare Beauty’s Australian launch at Sephora is set for August 5. Photography courtesy Rare Beauty.

Selena Gomez stands out in a crowd. The 28-year-old Texan-born, Mexican-American multi-hyphenate is physically striking, of course, but she is also capital “F” Famous – courtesy of a Disney Channel childhood, Hollywood adulthood, partnerships with luxury fashion powerhouses Louis Vuitton and Coach, and a career-defining turn to pop music stardom.

As glittery as the gig sounds, Gomez is vocal about the drawbacks of such unrelenting public exposure. At one stage the most followed person on Instagram, she talks candidly about her struggles with anxiety, depression, heartbreak and health scares, and is a passionate advocate for mental health awareness and support. “Too often, we are all guilty of comparing ourselves to others and not feeling good enough,” she describes. “I saw from my own personal experience how these impossible beauty standards were having such an effect on my mental health, and I know a lot of people that felt the same way.”

So, in late 2020 (in what felt like a full-circle kind of moment) Gomez took things into her own hands, announcing the launch of her debut cosmetics range, Rare Beauty. “Makeup to feel good in,” the brand asserted, “without hiding what makes you unique – because Rare Beauty is not about being someone else, but being who you are.”

Rare’s 14-product category range is formulated for everyday self-expression, celebrating what makes its users unique, and enhancing, rather than masking, one’s natural beauty. Divided neatly into “Face”, “Eye” and “Lip” collections, its product names echo the brand’s inclusive, feel-good vibes – for example, Always an Optimist 4-1 mist, Stay Vulnerable Melting blush and With Gratitude Dewy Lip balm. “Makeup shouldn’t be something you need, but rather something to have fun with that enhances your natural features,” says Gomez. “Once I let go of all that pressure and started experimenting more, I found so much joy in playing with makeup. I love that we could all use the same products but end up with completely different looks.”

As is usually the way with Gomez, there’s much more to Rare Beauty than simply makeup. “When I started Rare Beauty, I wanted it to be more than a beauty brand,” she explains of her desire to use the platform for tangible and positive change. “I launched the “Rare Impact Fund” to raise money and distribute funding to organisations that make mental health services more accessible. Particularly in educational settings, because that’s where we spend our time in developmental stages of life.”

Here, in the lead-up to Rare Beauty’s Australian launch at Sephora on August 5, Gomez discusses with T Australia the brand’s origins, her early experiences with makeup and where she finds inspiration for her creativity.

Selena Gomez wearing Lip Souffle in the shade, Inspire, from Rare Beauty. Photography courtesy Rare Beauty.

Can you recall your earliest memory with makeup, or beauty in general?

“When I was young, I used to go to photoshoots with my mum and watch her do makeup on models. I would actually sneak into her makeup bag and try to do the looks on myself. I am happy to say I’ve gotten a lot better at makeup since then!”

Was makeup something you always took an active interest in, or did this develop over time?

“I’ve always loved makeup, but I now look at makeup as something to have fun with and create interesting looks with. I’ve gotten a lot more confident in my abilities over time, but now I love trying out new techniques and I even love doing makeup on my friends.”

Tell me a little about the origins of Rare Beauty – how did the concept come to you and what did you set out to achieve?

“I knew when I started Rare that it was important to not only to have great products – but to have a strong message as well. My main purpose when I started Rare Beauty was to break down the unrealistic standards of beauty we see in society today… Through our Rare Impact and Rare Impact Fund we are raising money for organisations that make mental health services more accessible.”

What was most important to you when starting Rare Beauty, and how would you have defined its success?

“It was important for me to create a brand that embraced everyone exactly as they are.  Rare Beauty is makeup made to feel good in, without hiding what makes you unique. I’m extremely proud that we’ve stayed true to that message since launch.”

You’ve been vocal about the importance of mental health awareness and self-acceptance over the years. How has your advocacy informed Rare Beauty and its products?

“Mental health is very personal and important to me, which is why we created the Rare Impact Fund to help connect more people to more resources that support their mental health. Rare Beauty donates one percent of all sales to the Rare Impact Fund to increase access to mental health services in educational settings. Because of our community, we launched – it shares wonderful resources and features everything from articles on how to support a friend in need, to learning about the different kinds of mental health care professionals, to where to turn if someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.”

What are your favourite Rare Beauty products that celebrate your own uniqueness?

“I have so many lip products – from the Lip Souffle Matte Lip Cream, to the With Gratitude Dewy Lip Balm, to the Stay Vulnerable Glossy Lip Balm. I love experimenting with all the different shades and finishes to express myself. One day I can wear the Lip Souffle in the shade Inspire – a bright red – and the next, the Stay Vulnerable Glossy Lip Balm, which leaves a beautiful shine.”

Describe one of your favourite makeup looks and the products you use to achieve it …

“My makeup artist, Hung Vanngo, and I have collaborated on so many fun looks! I think my favourite is my signature red lip and winged eyeliner using the Lip Souffle Matte Lip Cream in the shade Inspire, along with the Perfect Strokes Matte Liquid Liner.”

Where do you find inspiration for both the Rare Beauty product range and your own creativity?

“I find so much inspiration from the Rare Community. I love reading and hearing their comments on what they’re loving and what products and shades they would love to see Rare Beauty create next. Our community ranges from people who are brand new to makeup all the way to professional makeup artists – so it’s amazing to hear how they are using and loving the products.”

What does it mean to you to have your brand now available in Australian Sephora stores?

“It means so much, and I’m so excited to be partnering with Sephora Australia to bring Rare to stores. Sephora is such an amazing partner.”

What’s on the horizon for Rare Beauty – what can we expect for the rest of 2021 and beyond?

“We are just getting started and have so many exciting launches coming up—products that we’ve been working on for years. I can’t share too much yet but stay tuned for hints on the @rarebeauty Instagram feed.”