Dubbed "the next Miley Cyrus" in 2008, singer and actress Selena Gomez vaulted to the top of tween stardom thanks to her starring role as a New York teenager with magical powers on the hit Disney Channel series, "Wizards of Waverly Place" (2007- ). While fame came at a young age, Gomez had already been working in the entertainment business for several years, having started her acting career at seven years old with a role on "Barney and Friends" (PBS, 1992- ). Following her feature debut with a bit part in "Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over" (2003), she was discovered by the Disney Channel after a nationwide scouting search and subsequently cast in a couple of unaired pilots before landing "Waverly." Because of the program's immense popularity, Gomez was able to branch out into a singing career, releasing her debut album Kiss & Tell
(2009) with her band Selena Gomez & the Scene. All this was precursor to other ventures like endorsement deals and launching a fashion line. Because of her multifaceted success unhinged by controversy, Gomez was poised to surpass the likes of Cyrus and Hilary Duff as the next top tween star.
Selena Marie Gomez was born on July 22, 1992 in New York, but grew up an only child in Grand Prairie, TX. Her mother, Mandy Teefy, was a former stage actress who inspired her daughter to pursue a career in entertainment. Gomez's first acting job was "Barney & Friends" (PBS, 1992- ), where she played Gianna, one of the purple dinosaur's singing and dancing sidekicks. It was while auditioning for "Barney" that Gomez met her best friend and co-star Demi Lovato. Years later, Lovato herself became a Disney darling when she was cast in the starring role alongside the Jonas Brothers in the 2008 TV movie "Camp Rock" (Disney Channel). When she was only 10, Gomez attended a Disney nationwide talent search and not surprisingly, the Mouse House fell in love with her instantly. She appeared in an episode of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody" (Disney Channel, 2005-07), followed by a recurring role on the mouse network's hit series "Hannah Montana" (2006- ). Gomez played Mikayla, a rival pop star to Cyrus' Hannah. Playing enemies on the show as well as a YouTube video Cyrus posted in 2008 that seemed to mock Gomez (and her friend Lovato) had fans wondering whether the two actresses were feuding in real life. Gomez laughed off the rumor, saying "I think (Miley's) a wonderful performer. It's all good."
Her memorable appearances on the Disney Channel were enough for the network to give Gomez a starring role in the sitcom "Wizards of Waverly Place." The Texan teen was hilarious as middle child Alex Russo in the magic-themed series. It also gave the star an opportunity to grow with Disney, and they were more than willing to market her as one of the channel's biggest stars. Gomez recorded a cover of "Cruella de Vil" for the "101 Dalmatians" (1961) DVD release and the album, DisneyMania6 (2008). She also reunited professionally with her pal Lovato in "Princess Protection Program" (Disney Channel, 2009) a movie about a princess who is taken into custody by the Princess Protection Program. Gomez also appeared in the Jonas Brothers' music video for the song "Burnin' Up" in July 2008 as youngest brother Nick's onscreen girlfriend. In September 2008, the teen queen crown passed from Duff to Gomez, when the latter starred in "Another Cinderella Story" as a shy, aspiring dancer who falls in love with a pop singer, played by Drew Seeley. The DVD release was a sequel to the film "A Cinderella Story" (2004), which starred Duff. Gomez not only trained in dance for the movie, she also performed four songs for the soundtrack.