Q&A with Disney Star Selena Gomez

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Kate Turning for TIME

Selena Gomez

Cordelia, one of the characters you play in Monte Carlo, is a tabloid fixture. There's a lot of tabloid interest in you too, especially since you started dating Justin Bieber. Does it limit the way that you live?
Yes. But at the same time I'm only 18. I don't want to be scared or hide because everything that I'm doing now should not be taken seriously.

Can you give me an example of something you can't do?
I try not to ever encounter that question because I feel like I don't want this to live my life for me. I know that there are certain places that maybe I shouldn't attend, but I don't want that to ever stop me.

Many female tween stars moving into adult roles seem to feel pressure to amp up the sex appeal. Do you?
I've never been the kind of person who thought that I needed to be that way. I have a core audience around the ages of 7 to 15. Now that I am getting older — I'm about to be 19 — of course I'm becoming a woman, and I want to explore that side of myself but at the same time, I have to be true to those people that have been with me. I still get awkward if I'm in a bikini so I don't think I'll be doing anything too drastic anytime soon.

Young male stars don't have the same pressure. Do you feel that there's a double standard?
Yeah. But I have it better. Sometimes fans for male pop stars or actors can be a little crazy. I was that way with Jesse McCartney, and N'Sync. But I could probably have lunch with every single one of my fans. I like that I don't seem unapproachable and that they're not trying to get with me.

When you started dating Justin, the Twitterverse went postal. It's got to be weird to have people talking about you that way.
Yes and no. Half of these girls that are saying things [they] would never say to someone's face. I'm human, so of course it hurts my feelings, but ultimately, I got to the point where I laugh at it.

Justin, you, Demi [Lovato] and even Tom Cruise all had single moms. Is there something about single moms that give people more drive to be stars?
I don't know. My mom maybe didn't have the best experience with relationships or growing up, so I feel like that makes [single] parents work hard to get away from all the negativity. Maybe they just really want it to be better for their child.

The other thing that a lot of tween stars seem to have in common is that you all come from Christian families. Do you think there's some kind of connection there?
I am Christian and I was very vocal about that at first until people started using it against me. Now I've learned to keep it to myself. I don't think it has anything to do with my job or how present myself. I feel like it got really twisted.

You're working on 13 Reasons Why, in which your character, who commits suicide, sends tapes to 13 people who have hurt her. Sounds personal.
It'd be really nice to sit down with all the people who have hurt me and tell them all the reasons that they've affected me. I'm sure that would be lovely to do, and my character in the book is a little extreme with how she does that. That's what spoke to me about it — I wish everybody could be able to talk things through, but it's not that easy.

Is it true that raised $700,000 for UNICEF?
That wasn't my doing. That was for the trick-or-treat campaign. That was the power of all of my fans.

Have you actually ever been to Waverly Place?
I went there for the first time about a year and a half ago and I had lunch. I wish we shot the show there.