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Reaching a Fever Pitch: The Hailey Bieber-Selena Gomez Drama

Published on April 10, 2023, at 11:06 p.m.
by Alaina McDuffie. 

Kanye West versus Taylor Swift. Lea Michele versus the entire cast of “Glee.” Amber Heard versus Johnny Depp.

It should come as no surprise that celebrity feuds have been a staple of the entertainment industry for decades. From social media clashes to physical altercations, these star-studded conflicts garner an inordinate amount of publicity, proving that the drama of the silver screen isn’t always enough to keep fans entertained.

Photo by Fatma Jarghon via Unsplash

While most of these feuds have boiled down to personal differences or clashing egos, it’s imperative to take note of the significant impact they’ve had on the lives and careers of those involved.

Moreover, these pop culture frenzies have demonstrated the power of fan loyalty to public relations practitioners everywhere.

Will we ever know peace?

From the 2020 SugarBearHair debacle between social media influencers Tati Westbrook and James Charles to the current Selena Gomez and Hailey Bieber social media controversy, fans have consistently displayed their willingness to take sides, oftentimes using social media to voice their opinions.

That said, fan loyalty frequently surpasses tense comment sections and fluctuating follower counts to become overwhelming fan hostility.

In fact, this hostility is apparent in the way fans have reacted to the “drama” between Bieber and Gomez.

All this fuss over eyebrows?

Photo by @selenagomez via Instagram

Following allegations that Bieber and Kylie Jenner shaded Gomez about her laminated eyebrows in an Instagram story, Bieber immediately received backlash from Gomez’s fans, with many calling her a “bully.”

In fact, fans of Gomez were quick to point out that this isn’t the first time Bieber has earned that title. In a 2020 TikTok from one of her former classmates, Bieber was called out for being a middle school bully. Additionally, Bieber further perpetuated rumors of a feud between her and Gomez after she seemingly insulted Gomez’s best friend, singer Taylor Swift. The insult came in a 2018 clip from the show “Drop the Mic,” in which Bieber made a gagging motion in response to comments made about Swift’s album.

While some fans solely focused on supporting Gomez, others chose to defend the singer by embarrassing and berating Bieber, even going so far as to send her death threats.

The worst part of it all? The drama between Gomez and Bieber seems to be based on speculation and rumors, rather than any concrete evidence of bad blood between the two. In fact, Gomez recently released an official statement defending the supermodel.

“Hailey Bieber reached out to me and let me know that she has been receiving death threats and such hateful negativity,” the “Bad Liar” singer said. “This isn’t what I stand for. No one should have to experience hate or bullying. I’ve always advocated for kindness and really want this all to stop.”

However, it appears that the statement and Bieber’s PR team were not enough to prevent a devastating hit to her reputation. Since the shading rumors began, she’s lost 1 million followers on Instagram, while Gomez has received a staggering 10 million more. Additionally, searches for Gomez’s makeup line Rare Beauty have more than tripled since the feud began.

What can PR practitioners take away?

While Bieber has been heralded for her smart PR moves in the past, it appears that her involvement in previous bullying scandals has finally caught up to her. To make matters worse, it seems that many fans are waiting for a formal apology statement from Bieber that may never come.

Photo by @haileybeiber via Instagram

Although many would consider celebrity drama trivial, it undoubtedly elicits strong reactions from celebrity supporters, and, in some cases, irrevocably damages an individual’s reputation.

This drama also leaves PR practitioners with questions to answer: How should a client address a feud that is based on speculation and rumors? What crisis plan should be in place to combat this level of negative publicity? Is a formal apology even the most effective form of damage control in this scenario?

By studying the Bieber-Gomez feud, PR practitioners can learn from PR mishaps, identify best practices and determine a best course of action for their clients to take if ever in a similar situation. If nothing else, they’ll learn that fan loyalty is not something to take lightly.

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