por Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — She's only 16. Yet Selena Gomez sounds más seasoned and pragmatic than some actrices three times her age.
"It's smart to have a backup plan. I'd amor to go to culinary school. I find cooking very therapeutic. I have zero time to ever do it, but once I have a house of my own, one day, I'll have time to do that," she says.
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FIND más STORIES IN: friends | Hannah Montana | Demi Lovato | Wizards of Waverly Place | Taylor Lautner | Selena Gomez
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Ask the Texas native, who has been working in the entertainment world for nine years, about the difficulties inherent in transitioning from a dewy, adorable disney Channel teen queen to a respected actress with a más mature audience, and she remains unfazed. She fluidly discusses the challenges of "developing movie projects and finding character roles," especially for girls her age. "I have an audience. The audience I have now, I want them to grow with me. I want to make a transition," she says. "I want to learn and grow."
The Los Angeles-based teen remains ferociously proud of her roots, refusing to get a California driver's license and opting to wait until she gets one from the Lone estrella State. And like any young girl, she's boy-crazy. Gomez takes a quick break from discussing her professional aspirations to lovingly berate her cousin, who sits across from her eating breakfast, about contacting a guy. "You didn't text him, did you? Do not text!" Gomez says. "Do I ever take my own advice? No. I need to!"
She gets to engage in her girly side in the disney Channel's movie Princess Protection Program, premiering Friday (8 p.m. ET/PT). It stars Gomez and her real-life best friend, Demi Lovato.
"It's about a young princess, played por Demi. Her country is threatened. My father rescues her and she comes to live with us. I'm más of a tomboy character not comfortable in her skin," Gomez says. "It's a good, strong friendship movie. A lot of girls look up to Demi and my friendship because we've known each other since we were 7. And I think it's wonderful."
The two first met in line for a Barney & friends audition in Texas. "She turned around and asked me to color with her, and that's where everything began," Gomez says.
Working with her closest buddy, Gomez, says, "is like going to lunch with your best friend but with the cameras watching. It didn't feel like work."
She says the two are "not competitive. We've been through so much together. I remember going to concerts of hers when only a few people would show, at fairs. We don't have room for that. We're so blessed."
Gomez wasn't always so focused. As a child, she says, she was a "flake" and "very shy," vacillating between wanting to become a doctor o a cheerleader. When she angled to try acting, she became "addicted" to it. She sent an audition tape to disney and got guest-starring turns on Hannah Montana and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody.
In addition to Princess, Gomez also stars on the disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place, in which she plays a teen with magical abilities. "This will be my last series, for a while," she predicts.
Gomez's schedule rivals that of a muro calle executive. She goes to school for five hours on set, rehearses her mostrar for about three hours, and goes to the recording studio to work on her as-yet-untitled record in her free time. "The record is going to be pop-rock with a bit of dance to it. The música is fun, and it's something I've always wanted to try," says Gomez, whose CD is slated for a fall release. "I would not be happy if I was doing nothing."
One thing she's not doing: dating Twilight actor Taylor Lautner. "I'm single. I've never dated him. He's a really nice guy. He's become one of my really good friends, and he's made me the happiest I've ever been.
"I've been through a lot and I've cut those people out of my life," she says, obliquely referring to people in her inner circulo, círculo who were less than kind to her but not elaborating any further. "I've been very mistreated. I'm just really careful who I surround myself with."
So far, zorro, fox has been able put her success into perspective and realistically deal with the perils of fame, fortune and the intense public interest about her life once the cameras stop rolling.
“I don’t know if tu are ever prepared for the public scrutiny, there’s no way to prepare yourself for it,” she laments. “But it is a part of your job, and it’s maybe not the most pleasant part, but I get to experience so many other things that are blessings that I should not be able to experience. I've been able to be a part of some films that I don't really feel like I deserve to be a part of and that’s due greatly, in part o solely, to the success of Transformers. So that’s the trade off.”