In the era of fake news and fabulously noncommittal celebrities, it’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate real relationships from mutually beneficial makeout sessions. Traditionally, rubbing human body parts together can result in affection, love, or procreation. But in Hollywood, mashing one A-list mouth up against another results in endless fame reproduction, as suggestive Instagrams lead to tabloid stories that lend themselves to extended water cooler conversation. This beautiful, salacious circle of life has given us so much, from HiddleSwift to a passing knowledge of Sofia Richie. Whenever life feels meaningless or random, we can remember the single chain of self-serving spit that links Hailey Baldwin to Justin Bieber to Selena Gomez to Orlando Bloom to Miranda Kerr and back to Justin Bieber again. Then we can remember the time that Orlando Bloom punched Justin Bieber at Cipriani Ibiza, and collectively acknowledge that we’ve peaked.
Of course, celebrity fauxmances aren’t all lovely dates and paparazzi shoots pre-planned to capture Taylor Swift’s good side. For every “happy” “couple,” there’s a stable of thwarted exes ready to publish a heartfelt screenshot from their iPhone’s Notes app, or go public with their own opportunistic rebound. Earlier this month, we watched the drama unfold as Drake and J. Lo came out as lovers and/or business partners, only to be promptly unfollowed on Instagram by Drake’s ex, Rihanna. Either RiRi was genuinely pissed off—an unlikely story, given her general apathy towards the lovelorn M.C. formerly known as wheelchair Jimmy—or she was doing two of her pals a solid by generating some social media buzz for their upcoming collaboration.
Last week, a similarly sus coupling captured the hearts of drama lovers worldwide, when singers Selena Gomez and The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye) were spotted locking lips outside a Los Angeles hotspot. The images of Gomez wrapping her arms around Tesfaye and nuzzling his neck inundated the corners of the internet dedicated to Selena, Bieber, the Hadid sisters, and the tangled web they weave. It was the Perez Hilton generation’s Russian pee-pee party. As survivors of previous high-profile relationships, Selena (who was half of Jelena from 2010 to 2015-ish) and The Weeknd (Bella Hadid and The Weeknd, portmanteau pending, 2015 to 2016), were predisposed for scandal. And scandal they got, as Hadid and Bieber proceeded to weigh in on the budding romance.
Let this roundup of the winners and losers in the fallout of Selena Gomez and The Weeknd’s dalliance serve as reassurance that 2017 will be just as petty as its predecessor.
Winner: Bella Hadid
Before Bella Hadid and The Weeknd broke up, she was just the second Hadid sister. Now, she’s an icon in her own right. Anyone can land a major campaign or get a runway gig, but only a select handful of leggy, famished 20-year-olds are deemed meme-worthy. The younger Hadid was added to that elite list last December, when she made her Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show debut strutting alongside her newly minted ex-boyfriend. As The Weeknd crooned, Hadid stomped the runway in a revealing revenge corset, leaving a trail of gossamer and plaintive R&B vocal runs in her wake. Apparently, heroes really do wear capes.
In the shadow of Gomez and The Weeknd’s rising coupledom, Gigi’s sister has only become more iconic. In addition to unfollowing Selena on Instagram, Bella posted a picture of herself giving the camera/Selena Gomez/The Weeknd/invasive paparazzi the middle finger. Apparently, Selena’s new relationship is particularly hurtful, since she runs in the same Taylor Swift-orchestrated circle as the Hadid sisters. While Bella and Selena have never been close, Gigi and Gomez have been photographed together on multiple occasions. Or in the words of a “Bella source” TMZ likely found outside of Sugarfish double-fisting a matcha latte and an acai bowl, “Giving Bella and Gigi a heads up would have been the respectful and honorable thing to do...but I guess that's just Hollywood.” Hadid can act hurt all she wants, but nothing turns a social media model into a household name quite like some high-profile drama.
Loser: Justin Bieber
After a whirlwind 2016 spent dating and dumping increasingly underage celebrity offspring, Justin Bieber is dating himself in 2017. So far, Biebs’s self-care consists of dabbing on the street and going back to bangs. Of course, when it comes to Selena Gomez, Bieber can’t keep his hands or his thoughts to himself. While Bieber has technically declined to comment on recent developments, Justin sources have divulged that the pint-sized pop star believes that Selena is using the Weeknd for some free PR. According to TMZ, Bieber allegedly feels that the relationship is “cookie cutter stuff”—“She did it with him, Nick Jonas, Zedd and now with good ol’ Abel. When Selena wants to push new music, it seems she dates stars with whom she wants to collab.”
Gomez, who hasn’t released an album since 2015’s Revival, has recently posted videos from a recording studio. Since Gomez really does appear to be collaborating with The Weeknd, it follows that she would take a page from the Drake/J. Lo playbook of conscious coupling. Still, Justin Bieber—a man-boy who allegedly drove Gomez to rehab after she contracted literal Bieber fever—has no right to call Gomez out. The Weeknd might be using Selena for publicity and vice versa, but at least he won’t hot box her private plane or egg her house.
Gomez’s exciting new relationship follows a recent stay in a Tennessee treatment facility, where the star was receiving treatment for Lupus-related afflictions, including anxiety, panic attacks and depression. Take that, Lupus!
Mirror mirror on the wall, which social media platform is the pettiest of them all? Twitter is awesome for generating panic attacks and Young Pope memes, and Facebook is great for aunts and dads. But when it comes to break-ups, shade, and thirst traps, Instagram is clearly the superior social medium. The Weeknd and Gomez’s budding relationship is the perfect case study for the app’s undisputed supremacy. First of all, there’s the notion that, at any moment, an unpaid intern is probably trolling celebrities’ followers in search of recent defectors. In 2017, Bella Hadid unfollowing Selena Gomez on Instagram is breaking news.
But more importantly, there’s what came after the unfollowing—a series of not-so-subtle selfies that can only be called a “body-off.” Hadid jumpstarted this sexy cold war by sharing a video of her sideboob on Instagram right around the time that the Selena/Abel pics hit the internet. Not to be outdone, Selena posed for her own scandalous shot—specifically, a thong pic—posted by photographer Mert Alas. Going through a third party, while sneaky, hardly disguises the fact that Gomez was being petty. Alas further weaponized the thirst trap by tagging The Weeknd in his post, captioning it with a heart emoji. Instagram: come for the sideboob, stay for the escalating tensions between A-list celebs.
Winner: Unattainable Body Standards
In the olden days, break-ups called for ice cream, reruns, and a passionate rebound with an excavated pair of Juicy sweatpants. Now, women are expected to dry their tears, throw on a revealing bodysuit, and post revenge pictures on Instagram. Blame the Kardashians and their waist trainers, the Hadids and their ludicrous BMIs, or just blame centuries of patriarchal beauty standards. Whatever the explanation, there’s a reason why people pay money to get their stomach fat injected into their butt cheeks, and these half-nudes of Bella and Selena probably aren’t helping. While it’s too soon to crown a winner of the Gomez/Hadid body-off, it’s clearly another victory for forcing teenage girls to compare themselves to skinny celebrities and lingerie models.
Winner: The Weeknd
Two weeks ago, The Weeknd was just my second least favorite celebrity name to type (looking at you, Chloë Grace Moretz). Now, he’s everywhere. In addition to dodging questions about Gomez, the R&B singer recently scored a GQ cover interview, during which he spoke at length about his sexualized persona. Tesfaye told the magazine, “I’m not gonna walk into the club and be like, ‘Oh shit, I’m the sexiest guy in here.’ The reason why they [women] want to fuck with me is because of what I do [in the studio]. So I’d rather just focus on doing that.” In keeping with that ethos, it seems like The Weeknd’s new relationship is successfully bringing buzz to his music. First, social media blew up with speculation that his new single “Party Monster” references Gomez with the line “ass shaped like Selena.” In turn, Gomez produced her own subtle shoutout by bumping The Weeknd’s latest album on her iPhone last Sunday. The singer was “all smiles” as she supported her new boyfriend and/or fulfilled her contractual obligation.
Winner: Taylor Swift
We should’ve known that Swift had something to do with this. According to a Hollywood Life report, Gomez and her on-again, off-again BFF recently reunited at Swift’s Beverly Hills home, where “they talked about EVERYTHING.” The source further confirmed that “Selena and Taylor talked about The Weeknd,” adding, “They talked about a lot of guys, including current crushes and old flames.” While we don’t know the full extent of Swift’s involvement—or even if this meeting actually happened—it’s always safe to assume that TayTay has a well-thought out long game. Somehow, our favorite country-pop-snake emoji crossover will turn this Gomez/The Weeknd situation to her own advantage.