ELizabeth Taylor vs Debbie Reynolds. Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis. Paris Hilton vs Lindsay Lohan. Rumors of celebrity feuds have stood the test of time, but no one is more invested than Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber.
For those who weren’t born in the late 90s to early 2000s, and haven’t had a signed Justin Bieber poster since Tiger beat magazine pinned to the wall of their childhood bedroom, the so-called “feud” between the sweetheart of Disney Channel and the final boss of the children’s nepotism can come as a surprise. But maybe the reason our social media feeds are abuzz with makeover videos, tattoo comparisons, and close-up pictures is because this renewed Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber drama is a dream come true for those of us who are nostalgic . .
To begin with, we must go back to the glory days of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, or “Jelena” – a preteen girl version of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. The “Baby” singer and the Wizards of Waverly Place There was a star on a match made between heaven. The two made their red carpet debut at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in February 2011. That same month, Hailey and Justin posed for a photo together at the premiere of their movie, Don’t Say No – along with her little-known father, Stephen Baldwin.
In fact, the first photo of Hailey and Justin together goes all the way back to 2009, proving that Hailey Bieber is the queen of posing.
Over the next two years, Selena and Justin were on-again, off-again, and he asked to quit smoking again in 2015. That same year, Justin was seen kissing Hailey on New Year’s Eve in Turks and Caicos. and Selena partying together. Kendall Jenner’s ex-girlfriend in Dubai. Just normal, famous things.
Both had their fair share of flings – Justin with Sofia Richie, Selena with The Weeknd – before they got together in 2017. But by May 2018, they were over. Two months later, Justin proposed to Hailey and they married that September.
It’s been almost five years, which means all of this should say and do. But the internet will never forget, especially now that we have TikTok.
The alleged 10-year-old prank found new life on the video-sharing platform recently after Hailey’s since-deleted TikTok posted what many saw as a dig at Selena’s appearance. Hailey quickly denied this, responding to fans on TikTok that the video was “not aimed at anyone”.
Even Selena left a comment on the video, adding that “these things don’t let me down!”
Days later, the “Wolves” singer posted a video of herself on Instagram, where she shared that she accidentally over-laminated her eyebrows. As part of events, Kylie Jenner posted a picture of herself and Hailey’s eyes on her Instagram story the same day, in case fans needed more drama to speculate about.
The founder of Kylie Cosmetics also quickly denied the “shady” claims, when she said on a viral TikTok post: “This is reaching. There was never any shade towards Selena and I never saw her eyebrow posts! You guys are making something out of nothing. This is silly.”
There was also that video of Hailey apparently throwing shade at Selena’s best friend Taylor Swift, followed by Selena dissing Kylie as the most demanding woman on Instagram, and then Selena deleting social media entirely. It is a tremor.
Over the past week, everyone’s lives have seemingly been flooded with TikTok videos due to the alleged hoax. Even Selena Gomez fans are asking their boyfriends to take sides by forcing them to follow her on Instagram. But why so much care on the internet? Well, the TikTokers seem to have a few theories behind the viral videos.
Amanda is a 28 year old pop culture enthusiast with a career background in influencer marketing. On TikTok, Amanda has over 23,000 followers on her Let’s Talk Pop Culture account, where her Selena/Hailey Gate videos have garnered millions of views. As someone who grew up during the #Jelena holidays, Amanda believes people are so invested because it reminds us of the good old days.
“I think a lot of people, at least for this generation, were the first young couple in Hollywood,” Amanda says. The Independent. “Justin Bieber had so many die-hard fans, I don’t think anyone was going to let the guy who dated Justin Bieber get away with it. But for some reason when it came to talking to Selena Gomez – who was considered America’s sweetheart – I think people were okay with it.”
Gomez – who got her start on the children’s show Barney and his friends when she was just 10 years old – fans loved Disney Channel’s rebellious wizard, Alex Russo, on Wizards of Waverly Place. Meanwhile, Justin Bieber represented the modern day American (or in this case, Canadian) dream, which of course can be found on YouTube. Together, with their similar backgrounds – Selena and Justin were both raised by single mothers – the two seemed like a perfect match.
“I think so many of us have grown up with Selena Gomez on the Disney Channel, that we’ve seen her as someone relatable or someone who is like a friend to us. There’s an invested interest in it,” says Cami Twomey, a pop culture and entertainment TikToker with 591,000 followers. “But there was also so much attention on Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez’s relationship, when it was at its peak. It’s something people bring up all the time these days, and I think people feel protective of Selena Gomez.”
Then, we have people who are just a mess and live for the drama full of nostalgia.
“I think the reason everyone is so interested is because you always want to know: Are Justin and Hailey going to get together? Will they love each other as much as we thought Justin loved Selena?” says Jennifer Kowalski, a licensed professional counselor at Thriveworks who specializes in relationships, behavioral issues and trauma.
“It’s almost like watching a car crash,” she jokes.
To many, Selena was like the cool older sister who would promise not to tell you when you snuck out of the house, but would make sure you came home at a reasonable hour. After leaving her show, as many former Disney Channel stars do, she pursued a career in music. She has been open about her mental health journey, most recently with her Apple TV+ documentary, My Mind and Me. In 2015, she revealed that she has lupus – a long-term, incurable condition that affects the immune system. Two years later, she underwent a kidney transplant aged just 24 due to lupus-related organ damage.
Selena’s openness with her fans is why the internet is so taken with this supposed ordeal. And if you need proof of who’s taking sides, scroll through Hailey’s Instagram comments. It is brutal. However, Selena’s vulnerability – although it’s a positive thing to be open with your fans – may be the reason for this inevitable parasocial conflict.
A parasocial relationship is a type of one-sided friendship that an audience has with media figures or personalities. The concept was first coined by sociologists Donald Horton and Richard Wohl in 1956 to describe the way mass media consumers interact with people in the media. The term “parasocial relationship” has since become the internet’s favorite buzzword, being used to describe everything from reactions to John Mulaney’s divorce from his wife of six years, to a defamation trial Johnny Depp and Amber Heard.
According to Elizabeth Perse, professor emeritus of communication at the University of Delaware, parasocial relationships are formed much like actual friendships—but the two are definitely not the same.
“A parasocial relationship is a form of pseudo-friendship that audiences have with media personalities. I use the word ‘personality’ because what viewers see through the media is definitely not the same as the personality in real life,” she says. The Independent.
Before the invention of social media, parasocial relationships could be established based on the amount of exposure a person had to a personality on their television screen. Like actual friendships, the more you interact with someone, the deeper your friendship (or parasocial relationship) grows.
“The second thing is that there’s a sense of similarity that people feel with the personality,” Perse says of how these fake friendships are created. “There may be similarities because the personality seems to reveal itself through a medium. You learn about them, you feel some sort of kinship with them.”
The similarities between Selena and any other “girl next door” who dreams of making it big one day are not far off, according to Jess Lucero – an entertainment reporter with 362,000 followers on TikTok. “Selena was never known as a friendly girl next door. When they saw her relationship with Justin, it’s almost like these fans saw themselves in Selena, and I think that’s why they grew so attached to her.”
That’s not to say that people who form a parasocial relationship with their favorite fitness tracker or mommy blogger are wrong. With the flood of content coming from social media, it is inevitable that one will become invested in a stranger’s life. Social media platforms have become breeding grounds for parasocial relationships, and it’s never been easier to access our favorite celebrities.
“There could only be so many new tabloids a month but now with social media, it goes on every minute of every day,” says Lucero. “The second news comes out, TikTokers like me are posting: ‘Look what Selena commented on this video of Hailey.’ You are posting all these news publications about it. You have people who don’t even follow pop culture posting about it now.
“The reach is much longer, because when it was just tables, you could easily get them at the grocery store. But now you don’t even have to look to find out what’s going on between Selena, Hailey, and Kylie.”
The internet’s investment in a decades-long feud between three famous people may not be parasocial at all, but with social media, something much more. “It could even be taking parasocial to another level, where you can communicate face-to-face with the personality. Not with the person, but with the personality that is being created or the person that is running their social media site,” says Perse. “There is that illusion of interaction.”
It’s been more than 10 years since Selena and Justin broke up, and almost five years since he tied the knot with Hailey. One can only imagine how long this alleged feud will last, or how it will end. A duel for Justin’s hand in marriage? A TV interview with Oprah with Harry and Meghan? Both parties deleting all social media?
If the past decade is any indication that old wounds die hard, there may be no end to the Selena and Hailey drama scene – as long as social media lasts, that is. But there is one constant among all the mess: the internet will be invested with popcorn on standby.