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Selena Gomez as Silvia Vasquez-Lavado? The groundbreaking gay mountaineer is thrilled

A black-and-white closeup of Selena Gomez's face
Singer and actress Selena Gomez will play Peruvian American mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado in a new biopic.
(Cortesía Photography)

Selena Gomez just scored a rare role.

The pop singer and actress will play the pioneering Peruvian American mountaineer Silvia Vasquez-Lavado in an upcoming biopic written and directed by Elgin James (“Lowriders”) and produced by Oscar winner Donna Gigliotti (“Hidden Figures”). The movie is based on Vasquez-Lavado’s upcoming memoir, “In the Shadow of the Mountain,” to be published in 2022.

The project, which both Gomez and Vasquez-Lavado shared on social media, is already being floated as Oscar material.

“I am so humbled and grateful to share this thrilling news, which has been in the works for the last 10 months, that an all-star team has optioned my upcoming memoir ... for a movie adaptation,” Vasquez-Lavado wrote Wednesday on Instagram, calling Gomez “bold, talented, and brilliant.”

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But the actress’ fans had mixed emotions about her upcoming role. While most voiced excitement for Gomez, some speculation abounded over the fact that the actress will play a lesbian pioneer.

Vasquez-Lavado was the first out gay woman to complete the Seven Summits, climbing the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. She claimed that title in June 2018.

On her new album “Rare,” Gomez deploys a light touch and adventurous sonic spirit to mine her romantic, emotional and physical trials and tribulations.

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“But Selena isn’t gay. I wish they would give unknown LGBTQ actors a chance at playing such a defining role,” one Twitter user wrote. “I love Selena I just wish this casting straight actors in LGBTQ roles phase would end! Love Simon, Brokeback Mountain, and so many more good films using straight actors.”

Representatives for Gomez did not immediately respond to The Times’ request for comment.

Others pointed out, though, that Vasquez-Lavado herself will be helping to executive produce the film, indicating her approval of the casting decision. (The mountain climber also wrote on Instagram that she was “honored and touched for the bold, talented, and brilliant @selenagomez in taking the starring role.”)

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When Between the Lines asked Gomez in 2015 if she had ever questioned her sexuality, the actress responded: “Oh, I think everybody does, no matter who they are. I do, yeah, of course. Absolutely. I think it’s healthy to gain a perspective on who you are deep down, question yourself and challenge yourself; it’s important to do that.”

Gomez and Vasquez-Lavado have also faced their fair share of obstacles.

The singer’s latest album, “Rare,” alluded to some of her fight against depression and anxiety. “Is there a place where I can hide away?” she wonders on “A Sweeter Place”: “There must be a sweeter place — we can sugarcoat the taste.”

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The “13 Reasons Why” executive producer opened up over the summer about living with bipolar disorder during the pandemic lockdown. More recently, Gomez wrote for CNN Style about how beauty can influence mental health.

“We are constantly bombarded with images and social media posts that make people feel like they need to achieve perfection, which is unattainable,” she said. “I think admitting I am a human being, and not perfect — nobody is — was actually more beneficial to the people that looked up to me.”

Vasquez-Lavado, meanwhile, survived sexual abuse during her childhood in Peru. More than 30 years later, she founded Courageous Girls, a nonprofit that works to heal and empower survivors of violence and abuse through nature.

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“Silvia is a force of nature,” Gigliotti told the Hollywood Reporter. “Scott [Budnick] and I are so excited to work with Elgin and Selena to tell this story of resilience, courage, adventure and humanity.”

“The first time seeing Mount Everest gave me a security, a sweetness, a tenderness, a sense of safety I had never felt,” Vasquez-Lavado told the Chicago Tribune. “When you experience trauma, you become detached of your body, of your own persona. I was so moved by the mountains that it rekindled my life.”

“I went from survivor to empowerer,” she said.

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In November 2015, Vasquez-Lavado hiked to the base of Mount Everest with a group of Nepalese girls, all of whom had been trafficked in India.

“My young courageous girls stood stunned gazing up at at Everest. Here they were, their dream had come true, unlike many of their dreams that had been shattered by empty promises,” Vasquez-Lavado wrote on her blog.

“We put together the beautiful prayer flags with all what we wanted to leave behind and for all that we wanted to bring into our lives,” she continued. “A new beginning for many of us; a new way of leaving so much of the painful past behind.”


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