The end of February saw an explosion of celebrity and fan feuding as Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber’s long-rumored rivalry came to a messy head.
The pair have been subjected to feud speculation ever since the latter married Justin Bieber in 2018, who famously dated Gomez on and off for seven years.
But after an Instagram post where Bieber and her friend Kylie Jenner were accused of mocking Gomez’s eyebrows, fans began an Internet deep dive and claimed Bieber is obsessed with Gomez and continually copies her social media posts, interviews and business endeavors.
“I think Hailey Bieber probably looks up to Selena Gomez in a few ways, from what it sounds like in her past,” international relations and history sophomore Paige Lawson said. “Some of it seems like she takes her talking points from her sometimes. I don’t think it’s a huge deal, but I do think it’s a little interesting that she’s doing it and married to Selena’s ex.”
Lawson said she thinks the feud is very fan generated and that beyond a little animosity, Gomez and Bieber probably don’t have ill will towards each other.
“I think the (eyebrow post) could be correlated, but I don’t think (Bieber and Jenner) were maliciously intentional,” Lawson said. “Selena is a huge celebrity, so she’s probably somewhat of a celebrity to celebrities. ... (The post) was more like being ridiculous on social media, which is kind of the Kardashians’ brand.”
Human biology junior Ellen Kim said she thinks the evidence of Bieber copying Gomez that TikTok videos have produced is too much to be a coincidence. Copying specific phrases Gomez uses in interviews, getting similar tattoos, wearing the same clothing — it seems intentional, Kim said.
Like Lawson, Kim noted that people generally make invasive assumptions about strangers and their lives, but she said it still seems to her that this is a case of online bullying.
When fans attacked Bieber and Jenner over the Instagram post, Gomez commented on a TikTok post that fans were reaching and denied any sort of feud. Shortly after, however, a video of Bieber dissing Taylor Swift at an award show resurfaced, prompting Gomez to defend the singer.
Lawson said this reflects on Gomez’s character and shows that she is a good friend.
“She backs up her best friends … it makes it seem like she cares more about her friends and her friend’s image than she cares about her own,” Lawson said. “She defended her friend in the public eye from people she knows rather than let it slide.”
Similarly, games and interactive media design freshman Samantha Cissne said Bieber insulting Swift was unnecessary.
“Maybe if (this feud) was something between PR teams like between Selena and Hailey, but bringing Taylor Swift into it, that’s too far,” Cissne said. “Everyone knows how much Selena loves Taylor. ... It’s one of those things where they’re definitely best friends outside of any drama. … Something like that may have triggered Selena outside of false drama.”
Cissne added that though fans have a habit of scrutinizing celebrity lives without much basis, celebrities should anticipate this and act on social media accordingly.
“Everyone’s going to involve themselves in other people's business, that’s a part of the fame life, I guess,” Cissne said. “(Lack of privacy) is truly a problem. ... It's one of those things where you have to remember that sometimes this isn’t a problem that (Gomez and Beiber) have to address publicly, … it’s none of your business if (they) decide to do it at all.”
Amidst all the drama, Gomez announced that she will be taking a break from social media. Bieber has not spoken out further.
Justin Bieber has also refrained from acknowledging any feud between his wife and ex girlfriend; subsequently, fans criticized him for not defending his wife. Kim said this could show that he doesn't want to speak on the drama, but it still comes across that he's less invested in the relationship than his wife.
Lawson said she thinks Justin Bieber’s decision to stay quiet on social media reflects poorly on him because of his extensive previous involvement with Gomez. The fact that he hasn’t said anything after marrying Bieber, she said, implies he would rather protect his own image than defend the woman who’s supposed to be his partner in life.
She pointed out, however, that the focus of fans on creating this type of drama takes away from other important things in media.
“But I also can see that there’s a certain amount of escapism that people like to partake in, especially surrounding celebrities,” Lawson said. “But I don't think that shipping real life people is the way to do it because obviously that can create a lot of tension and make a lot of people really uncomfortable.”