As TIME Firsts recognizes Selena Gomez’s status as a trailblazing woman, the multihyphenate is honoring the woman who made it all possible: her mother.
“When I started working, my mom was the person in my life that helped guide me through most of that,” Gomez says of her mom, Mandy Teefey. “She was 16 [when she gave birth to me], so we kind of grew up together. Everything that I am has become a little bit of what my mom’s gone through.”
With the support of her mother, 11-year-old Gomez kicked off her career on the children’s series Barney & Friends in 2002. The mother-daughter bond has withstood Gomez’s meteoric rise, as the duo went on to produce Netflix’s massive hit series 13 Reasons Why together in 2017.
Reflecting on the responsibility that comes with being the most-followed person on Instagram — the 25-year-old “Fetish” singer has a whopping 126.3 million followers and was the first person to reach the 100-million mark — Gomez highlights the importance of authenticity in the digital age.
“It’s already difficult to get up every day and just feel good about yourself without seeing the highlights of everyone else,” says Gomez. “Strength doesn’t mean that you have to put on a façade. I think strength is being vulnerable. I hope my fans learn that who they are is beautiful [and] how they can connect with people by sharing what they’re feeling.”
Watch more of Gomez’s TIME Firsts profile in the video above.