Selena Gomez: Breaking Away From the Pack

It's easy to consider the Disney and Nickelodeon singing starlets -- Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miranda Cosgrove and Victoria Justice -- all cut from the same glittery cloth, but one of them is breaking from the pack. With her singing and acting success, and smart personal choices, 18-year-old Selena Gomez has put herself far ahead in the race for grown-up stardom. Check out her accomplishments that may soon have people saying, "Miley who?" 

Selena Gomez, Singer

Gomez is the lead singer and founder of Selena Gomez & the Scene, which has two hit albums, Kiss & Tell -- featuring the megahit "Naturally" -- and A Year Without Rain (for which she worked with Katy Perry, among others). My kids and I have been listening to Gomez and -- as compared to Demi, Miranda, even Miley -- feel she's got the most vocal talent by far. The band's third album comes out in June. 

Selena Gomez, Actor

Headlining a Nick or Disney comedy is no big deal these days, but in addition to playing Alex Russo in the Emmy-winning Wizards of Waverly Place, Gomez starred in the 2010 movie Ramona and Beezus, featuring John Corbett and Josh Duhamel. In 2011, the one-time Barney & Friends cast member will appear in Monte Carlo alongside Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy, Cory Monteith and Andie MacDowell.

Gomez has also recently signed on to star in Thirteen Reasons Why, based on a young adult novel about a high school girl who explains her suicide in a series of notes. While clearly looking to put Mickey Mouse in her rearview mirror, Gomez is still managing her film life cautiously. "I think I'm fully aware of my audience and I'm still just a kid myself," Gomez told The Boston Globe last summer. "I wouldn't do a role I don't feel comfortable doing or that my audience wouldn't feel comfortable seeing." 

Selena Gomez, Humanitarian and Role Model

In 2009, Gomez became the youngest UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador ever, and has been spokesperson for the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF campaign for the past two years. She's expressed particular concern about needy children in Ghana, a country she's visited personally.

Unlike Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, her only "scandal" is whether or not she's dating Justin Bieber. That said, Justin Bieber is no Russell BrandJoshua Bowman or even Joe Jonas in the "bad boy" department.

Gomez has a 2011 fashion line exclusively with Kmart called "Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez," which uses only recycled or eco-friendly materials. The tags will also have inspirational quotations.

So why does any of this matter? Well, if you have kids who idolize Disney and Nickelodeon stars, you can ignore them altogether, or align with the one who not only has the best shot at career longevity, but is also the best role model. That's Selena Gomez, by a mile.

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