Philadelphia girl gets to meet idol Selena Gomez

Some of the fashions from Selena Gomez's new Dream Out Loud line are displayed on mannequins at Kmart.
Some of the fashions from Selena Gomez's new Dream Out Loud line are displayed on mannequins at Kmart. (RON TARVER / Staff Photographer)
Posted: August 24, 2011

Hazel Day fidgeted with her iPhone. She was remarkably quiet.

If an out-of-body experience had a look, the Mount Airy teen had it in spades.

No wonder: She was about to meet Selena Gomez face-to-face, one-on-one, in person and in private. Gomez, perhaps best known for her Disney TV show, Wizards of Waverly Place, was in town on a sunny Friday morning to introduce her affordable fashion line, Dream Out Loud, with a meet and greet at the Center City Kmart before taking the stage for her evening show at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Outside, a buzzing, laughing, cackling, singing, screaming line of nearly 500 fans, predominantly teenage girls, wound its way down the block and around the corner. A store employee said they began showing up hours before Gomez's 11:30 a.m. appearance. (Some were there by 9 the night before.)

Before coming out to meet the throngs, Gomez received media in a small room deep, deep in the outer reaches of the store's first floor, behind the shoe department.

The 12-year-old Hazel (she'll be 13 in October, she makes sure to add) had been recruited as a reporter for the day to provide insight into that most inscrutable of all cosmic events, a teenager's meeting with her celebrity idol.

An idol, indeed: Hazel's stepfather, Joe Black, said Gomez posters and photos are plastered all over Hazel's room.

Hazel is not just a fan, but an aspiring singer-songwriter in her own right. She has had lessons with a piano teacher and voice coach since she was 6. After an audition, she was admitted in fifth grade to Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP), the prestigious magnet school for musicians at 22d and Ritner Streets.

Hazel had been told she would be shown pieces from Gomez's line, not that the star would be there in person or that they were to meet. But she wasn't exactly in the dark.

"When my mom told me I was going, I started going through Google," the eighth grader later admitted. "I had a feeling [Gomez] would be there."

Adds Hazel, "When I found out that it was definitely going to happen, I started freaking out and screaming and stuff."

Anticipated breathlessly, dreamed and fantasized about for days, Hazel's Gomez encounter was all too brief.

Hazel, her older sister, Tulia, 15, and their mother, Eleanor Day, waited outside Gomez's improvised green room for nearly an hour. Reporters and camera crews filed into the room one by one, coming out mere minutes later. A group of teens who had won a radio contest filed past the family and into the unseen room - by now it had been imbued with such mystical energy, such mystery.

Hazel recognized a classmate, a young girl carrying a single red rose - no doubt meant for Gomez.

Finally, Hazel and a reporter were ushered in. (Tulia and Eleanor had to wait outside.)

Two minutes and forty-two seconds later, it was over.

Oh, it was - totally - worth it, Hazel later said.

Even her aging journalist chaperone had to admit he enjoyed the buzz, that peculiar, woozy, mild drunk a celeb encounter induces. (Something to do with the pheromones-rich magnetic field around the rich and famous and its effect on serotonin levels, no doubt.)

Hazel kept her cool inside Gomez's tiny receiving room, already crowded by a retinue of PR reps.

The fan was flushed but calm.

For her part, Gomez, who stood in the center of the room, was a study in composure, perfect posture, courtesy, and charm.

She had remarkably fine features - impossibly fine, one might think. Like a doll's, but without a hint of artifice. Her makeup was sparse, classic. Unlike so many teen stars, the 19-year-old Gomez looks her age.

Hazel asked and received an autograph and had her picture taken with Gomez, then stood still, studying Gomez's every gesture, having perhaps forgotten that she was there to ask reportorial questions.

After a little prodding, she asked Gomez how she was inspired to create a new line of tween outfits.

"I wanted something that was very fashionable, really simple and classic, but that was also affordable," said Gomez. "I just know that when I was younger, all those lines that my friends were wearing . . . sometimes I couldn't really afford, so I wanted something that was really cute that you could make your own."

In keeping with Gomez's low-key style, she has not burdened the pieces with signage. Her name doesn't appear on the outfits at all, except on the label.

Hazel's true passion, however, wasn't the clothes. After listening to Gomez's pitch about her forthcoming Australia clothing line, Hazel asked what she had come to find out.

"Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a singer?"

"You have to love it. If you don't love it," Gomez told her gently, before trailing off. After a second, she added, "it's a lot of work, a lot of rejection, [which is] really hard sometimes. But it's also really fun."

There it was, what Hazel's mom describes as her reigning passion and obsession - to make it as a star.

By Selena Gomez standards, Hazel is already way behind.

Born in Grand Prairie, Texas, to a Mexican American father and a mother of Italian descent, Gomez was a professional actor - on Barney & Friends - by the time she was 7. Guest roles on other TV shows led to a contract with the Disney Channel and roles on The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and Miley Cyrus' breakout show, Hannah Montana. In 2009, the teen star formed a band, Selena Gomez & the Scene, which released its third album, When the Sun Goes Down, in June.

Recently, Gomez has even become a gossip-page mainstay because of her reported relationship with fellow teen star Justin Bieber. (Reporters at the Kmart event were forbidden to ask Gomez about her personal life. The star was photographed later in the day at Liberty Place holding hands with Bieber.)

Gomez's is quite a resumé to contend with. Hazel, who counts Bieber, Demi Lovato, and Kate Nash among her favorite stars, knows it.

As does her mom.

"Yep, she wants to be a pop star," Eleanor said about her daughter, "much to my chagrin."

Eleanor, 48, a Philly native who studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, said she doesn't fault Hazel's artistic yearnings or ambitions, given that she makes her own living as a painter.

She does worry, however, that there's more value put on fame in our culture than on artistic achievement.

"What is the most attractive aspect of being a singer," she wondered, "to become famous or to become a singer?"

Hazel, she said, isn't able to answer that.

"But then again," added Eleanor, "when I was her age, I didn't just want to be a painter, I wanted to be the world's most famous painter. So maybe it's just her age."

After the interviews, the girls checked out the pieces in the Dream Out Loud line, which were prominently displayed at the store. The overall look of the collection is a fusion of preppy, girly-girl, and skater styles. It includes a lot of plaid in pinks and purples, simple tanks and scoop-neck tops, vests, and the occasional touch of lace or ruffles.

The girls approved. Hazel was partial to a pair of khaki capris with multiple zippers. Tulia said she dug a pair of black suede ankle boots with a festive ruffle at the heel. She also liked a button-down shirt with delicate lacework on the shoulders.

"The tops aren't cut too low, which is good," Eleanor said, adding that she's pleased the fashion line - and Gomez's personal style - isn't overly sexualized.

Soon, it was finally time for Gomez to take the stage - or, in this case, a table - and begin signing autographs for 100 of the lucky fans in line. Hazel and Tulia watched and chatted as the eager fans piled into the store.

Eleanor listened patiently as Hazel continued to detail her encounter with Gomez.

"You know, she's already been texting her friends about it," she said.

Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or


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