The Spring Breakers actress, 20, may be a huge Hollywood star now, but her life might have taken a very different turn had she not gotten her big break on the Disney Channel, first as a recurring character on Miley Cyrus' Hannah Montana, and later as the star of her own series, The Wizards of Waverly Place. In the December issue of Glamour, she opens up about her childhood and reflects on what might have been if she weren't famous.
"I definitely didn't appreciate [my upbringing] when I was little. I was frustrated that my parents weren't together and never saw the light at the end of the tunnel where my mom was working hard to provide a better life for me," she tells the magazine of growing up in Texas as the only daughter of a single parent. (Gomez was raised by her mother, Mandy, after her parents divorced when she was 5.) "I'm terrified of what I would have become if I'd stayed there. I'm sure I'd have two children by now."
Which is not to say the UNICEF ambassador isn't proud of her Lone Star roots.
"I love the people, and I'm glad I grew up there," she continues. "It's because of [my mom] that I can do things on my own. I like being professional. I like showing up on time. I like being good to people, and I know that I'm reflecting her at the end of the day."
No doubt her mother is proud of the person her daughter has become. Gracing the cover of the magazine's annual Woman of the Year issue, Gomez appears confident and classy in a cream-colored strapless Zac Posen gown and ruby-red lips. But she wasn't always so comfortable in her own skin.
"I was so scared and so shy back then," the star says of her 15-year-old self. "I mean, I grew up in one of the biggest high schools in the world, and that's the Disney Channel. Everybody was falling in love with each other or not liking each other, and it was exhausting. I was the shy one in the corner."
Not so anymore. "Now I'm so opinionated, and I don't have time for the cattiness," she adds. "I have good people around me, and I'm glad I'm at the place I'm in. I wish I was there back then."
Among those "good people," of course, are boyfriend Justin Bieber, 18, and close friend and country superstar Taylor Swift, 22.
"I actually did talk to Taylor last week, and we were like, 'I don't even remember the last time I saw you,' which is really unfortunate," the "Love You Like a Love Song" singer says of her pal, whose new album Red sold a staggering 1.21 million copies in its first week. "But if [life] gets too dire, I fly to Taylor or I fly home or I fly to Justin."