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While Camila Cabello may not be a committed football obsession, she’s looking forward to her upcoming appearance at the opening ceremony of the UEFA Champions League final in France – for one reason in particular.
“I’m not as big a football fan as a lot of people who go to watch, of course, but I do consider myself a football fan. It’s my favorite sport to watch,” the 25-year-old musician told PEOPLE. † “I’m super excited. There will be nice football boys, so all the wins are real.”
On May 28, the performance presented by Pepsi will take place ahead of the UEFA Champions League final, where Liverpool and Real Madrid will face each other at the Stade de France in Paris in hopes of winning the coveted European Champion Clubs’ Cup. Between the two teams, who is Cabello advocating?
“I think English guys are cute,” she says with a grin, “and I think Spanish guys are cute.”
Cabello is a little more focused on planning her extravagant five-minute set, which is one of the pop star’s first major live appearances since she released her. Family album last month. Featuring singles “Don’t Go Yet” and Ed Sheeran collaboration “Bam Bam”, the wall-to-wall 12-track set is filled with layered instrumentation produced in the studio with a live band – a rare case in the largely electronic pop landscape.
“There’s something so primal about real instruments. Hearing a guitar, horns and live percussion just feels like something we need more than ever in this super-digital, tech era,” says the former member of Fifth Harmony. “It felt really earthy to me. That was such a big part of the music I listened to growing up, and I think that’s definitely something that’s part of the [Opening Ceremony] performance too.”
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Beneath the album’s intricate production lay fragile lyrics about mental health and relationships, and after endured a very public breakup last year, Cabello has been open about feeling dejected as he began to create Family† Now that the album is out in the world, she looks back on the writing process as a therapeutic “journey” to accept the highs and lows life has to offer.
“I can hear the journey from the first song written, a song like ‘Quiet’, that’s like ‘Oh my God, I’m scared, but also in a fun way’, to the last song we wrote for [Familia], ‘Bam Bam’, which means ‘Life comes alive. It has its ups and downs… but we’re moving forward and trying to have a good time,” she recalls. “I remember the journey and this album was medicine for me.”
Cabello feels a lot more grounded these days, but she still faces difficult moments. Last month, she posted a lengthy note to social media about being photographed by paparazzi on private beach trips in her native Miami and the uncomfortable toll it takes on her mental health and body image. Fans responded positively, although the message was difficult for the musician to share.
“I was hesitant because I think it’s vulnerable to post stuff like that behind the scenes,” Cabello explains. “I also recognize the immense privilege I have and the life I live, so there’s always a risk of me thinking, ‘Are people just going to think I’m whining?'”
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“People can often look at these photos of celebrities and want to change or strive to change their diet,” she continues. “I thought it was important for me to say, ‘Hey, this isn’t necessarily something to aim for. I may look a certain way, but I really had a good time, and that’s not a good way to be.”
Cabello is also aware that openness about such hardships won’t wipe them out, but she hopes to help others by letting them know what a celebrity on the red carpet when she really feels behind closed doors. “I don’t have a solution for it and I struggle with it all the time, even after that post. At the Met [Gala]”I struggled with it too,” she says. “It’s an ever-present struggle, and I think a lot of women feel that way.”
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It is always helpful to have a trusted circle of friends to chat with during difficult times. For Cabello, one of those friends is Selena Gomez, who has long been open about her experiences with depression and anxiety and recently launched the Wondermind brand to end the stigma surrounding mental health and spark conversations. “She is someone who has always been so supportive, a very good friend and a person of great values. She is super empathetic, loyal and honest,” she says. “We have our own little group and we hang out, and all our conversations are real.”
RELATED: Camila Cabello tells Selena Gomez she was once hesitant to talk about mental health: ‘My brain is broken’
“I feel like she never pretends, and I don’t feel like I have to pretend to her. Those are the most precious friendships,” continues Cabello, who is inspired by Gomez’s authentic approach to celebrities. “Women like her, being so vulnerable and honest with their feelings is such a guiding light for me, and I think it will enlighten a lot of people who come after her, after me, in the industry, who feel like they’re perfect must be .”
Kevin Mazur/Getty Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello
Trying to completely stop negative feelings is unrealistic, especially with societal pressures and the constant influence of social media, but just as Gomez allowed assistants to post on her behalf, Cabello found ways to strike a healthy balance.
“When I start comparing myself to people I see on Instagram, which was literally a few days ago, I had the same kind of thought cycle,” she says. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to delete Instagram and TikTok,’ the apps from my phone, and that helps me.”
In addition to the sources of stress at your fingertips, Cabello is a strong believer in taking the time to rest and seek professional help when needed. In fact, she had a therapy session just hours before talking to PEOPLE.
“As long as there’s some sauce at the bottom of my brain and it’s damn shaky in there, I’m just cleaning up and figuring it out,” she explains. “If you’re struggling with mental health, treating it like a broken arm or leg and saying, ‘I need X, Y, and Z to feel better,’ I think that’s important.”