Gomez officially earned her first role in 2002 when she was selected to appear on the children's television series Barney and Friends as the recurring character Gianna. She appeared in a total of sixteen episodes, with her final appearance being in 2004. Gomez later stated that her age had led to her departure from the show, with producers feeling she was getting too old. In 2003, Gomez made a cameo in the film Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, making it her film debut. Following this, Gomez began appearing in various commercials. In 2005, she had a cameo role in the television film Walker, Texas Ranger: Trial by Fire as Julie. Gomez later guest starred on an episode of the Disney series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody in 2006.
In 2007, Gomez appeared in three episodes of the Disney series Hannah Montana. Gomez portrayed the character Mikayla, the rival of the series' title character. During this time, Gomez filmed two pilot episodes for potential Disney Channel series'; the first, titled Arwin!, was a spin-off to the Suite Life series, while the second was a spin-off to the series Lizzie McGuire. Gomez later starred in the Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place, portraying the lead role of Alex Russo. Gomez's character, along with the rest of her family, were wizards who owned a restaurant in New York; during the course of the series, the characters learn various spells and abilities that are useful to them. The series proved to be an immediate hit, giving Gomez mainstream success. Wizards earned Gomez numerous awards and nominations. The success of the series prompted many critics to compare Gomez to the highly successful Disney star Miley Cyrus. She was later named one of the "Eight Hot Kid Stars To Watch" by Forbes magazine. Gomez recorded the theme song for the series, titled "Everything Is Not What It Seems", making it her first musical release. The series aired for a total of four seasons, lasting until 2012.
In October 2008, Gomez launched her own production company, July Moon Productions, and partnered with XYZ Films. As part of the agreement, Gomez had the opportunity to option articles, hire writers and create talent packages to shop to studios. As part of the deal, Gomez was announced to be working on a film titled What Boys Want, in which her character could hear the thoughts of men. Ultimately, the film was never released. That same year, Gomez began dating fellow Disney star Nick Jonas. This led to Gomez appearing in the music video for the song "Burnin' Up", performed by Nick's band Jonas Brothers.
That same year, Gomez had the lead role in the Direct-to-DVD film Another Cinderella Story alongside Drew Seeley. Gomez portrayed Mary Santiago, a young girl who hoped to someday become a dancer. The film was released to generally positive reviews, and won the 2010 Writers Guild of America Award for Children's script-long form or special.
In 2009, Gomez continued to work on her acting career. She appeared in an episode of The Suite Life on Deck, portraying the character of Alex Russo. Her appearance served as a crossover between the series, Wizards of Waverly Place, and Hannah Montana, with all of the series' main characters appearing in the episode. Gomez later guest starred as herself on an episode of the Disney series Sonny With a Chance, which stars Gomez's good friend Demi Lovato. Gomez later provided the voice of Princess Selenia in the animated film Arthur and the Revenge of Maltazard. Gomez, along with Lovato, starred in the Disney Channel film Princess Protection Program, which aired in June 2009. The film was a critical success, and had a total of 8.5 million viewers during its premiere. For the film, Gomez and Lovato recorded the song "One and the Same", which was later released as a promotional single with a music video. The song had minor success, peaking at number 82 on the Hot 100 chart. On August 28, 2009, Gomez starred in Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie, a television film based on the series. The film premiered to an audience of 11.4 million viewers becoming cable's No. 1 scripted telecast of 2009 and Disney Channel's second most-viewed film premiere after High School Musical 2. The film won the series its second consecutive Emmy for "Outstanding Children's Program" at the 62nd Primetime Emmy Awards.
In 2009, Gomez signed on to star as one of the two female leads in Ramona and Beezus, a film adaption of the children's novel series by Beverly Cleary. Gomez stated that she felt no pressure in taking more adult roles,saying "I think I'm fully aware of my audience and I'm still just a kid myself. I wouldn't do a role I don't feel comfortable doing or that my audience wouldn't feel comfortable seeing." The film premiered on July 23, 2010 and was met with generally positive reviews.
In March 2010, Variety reported that Gomez was set to star as one of the three lead roles in Monte Carlo, a film produced by Nicole Kidman, alongside Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy. In the film, Gomez plays Grace, a girl who's "mistaken for a socialite while on a trip to Paris." To prepare for the role, Gomez learned how to play polo and also took two weeks of vocal training to learn two different British accents. The film was released on July 1, 2011. That same year, Gomez appeared in a cameo role for the film The Muppets, and appeared in the Disney series' So Random! and PrankStars.
In January 2012, Gomez announced that she would put her music career on hold in order to focus on her acting career, and that the band would be taking a hiatus: "my band and I are going our separate ways for a while. This year is all about films and acting and I want my band to play music wherever with whoever. We will be back but, it will be a good while." She first appeared in Hotel Transylvania, an animated film, voicing the character of Mavis, alongside Adam Sandler and Steve Buscemi. The film premiered at the 37th annual Toronto International Film Festival and was released on September 21, 2012. Next, Gomez appeared in the Harmony Korine film Spring Breakers, alongside James Franco. The film premiered at the 69th Venice International Film Festival. It was announced on July 30, 2012, that Gomez would partner with Case-Mate as part of its upcoming "Right Case, Right Occasion" marketing campaign. She will be teaming up with Fergie and Common to create fashionable custom phone cases for a good cause. In early November 2012, it was widely reported that Gomez and Beiber had ended their relationship after approximately two years together. They reconciled later that month. Gomez has numerous films slated for release in 2013. She filmed a cameo role for Aftershock, an upcoming thriller starring Eli Roth which premiered at the 37th Annual Toronto International Film Festival. On April 7, 2012, Gomez posted a video for fans in which she revealed that she would be filming a new movie called Getaway in Bulgaria with Ethan Hawke and Jon Voight. The film wrapped up in May and is scheduled to be released in 2013. Next, Gomez is set to star in the film adaptation of the Ric Browde novel While I'm Dead... Feed the Dog opposite Dylan McDermott and Nat Wolff. The film, titled Behaving Bad, will be directed by Tim Garrick. Gomez also reprised her role as Alex Russo in a one-hour special titled The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex, that began production on October 22, 2012, and finished filming on November 10, 2012. It aired on Disney Channel on March 15, 2013.
In April 2013, Gomez joined William H. Macy's directorial debut Rudderless. Filming began the same month.
During this time, Gomez began to focus more on music. She performed a cover of the song "Cruella de Vil" for the compilation album DisneyMania 6. Gomez later recorded the song "Fly To Your Heart" for the soundtrack of the animated film Tinker Bell. Gomez provided guest vocals on the Forever the Sickest Kids' single "Whoa Oh! (Me vs. Everyone), which serves as Gomez's official debut musical release. The single failed to have much success, though it peaked at number 78 on the Billboard Pop 100 chart in the United States. For the soundtrack, Gomez recorded three songs. The song "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" was released as a promotional single for the album, with Gomez filming a music video for the release. "Tell Me Something I Don't Know" became her first song to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at number 58. Later that year, Gomez had the supporting role of Helga in the animated film Horton Hears a Who!. The film was a commercial success, and went on to gross nearly three-hundred million dollars worldwide. She later appeared in the reality series Jonas Brothers: Living the Dream and Disney Channel Games, as well as the series Studio DC: Almost Live.
Gomez had been working on her debut album since signing with Hollywood Records in 2008, and later announced that she had formed a band known as Selena Gomez & the Scene. In August 2009, the band released their debut studio album Kiss & Tell. The album proved to be an immediate hit, debuting inside the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. Kiss & Tell went on to receive a Gold certification from the RIAA, and spawned the Platinum certified single "Naturally". While the band began working on their second studio album, Gomez continued to work in film.
Gomez and her band released their second studio album, A Year Without Rain, on September 17, 2010. The album continued the success of their previous effort, becoming their first album to reach the Top 5 of the Billboard 200. A Year Without Rain spawned two singles, both of which entered the Top 40 on the Hot 100 chart. It became the band's second album to receive a Gold certification from the RIAA. On June 28, 2011 Gomez and her band released their third and final studio album When the Sun Goes Down. The album became their highest peaking album on the Billboard 200, and went on to receive a Gold certification from the RIAA. The album's second single, "Love You Like a Love Song", went on to become the band's most successful single, receiving a 4x Platinum certification from the RIAA.
Despite her earlier statements, Gomez confirmed in October 2012 that work had begun on an upcoming album. The album's lead single, "Come & Get It", was released on April 8, 2013. Gomez later confirmed that the album would be her solo debut album, rather than her band's fourth album. Gomez's debut album, Stars Dance, is slated for release on July 23, 2013. Gomez has since confirmed that she plans to take another musical hiatus following the release of the album, and hopes to focus on her acting career.
Gomez was part of Sears' back-to-school fashion ad campaign. As part of the campaign Gomez was featured in the television commercials. In August 2009, Gomez also hosted the "Sears Arrive Air Band Casting Call" – to select five people for the first-ever "Sears Air Band", which performed at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. Gomez was a spokesperson for Borden Milk, and was featured in the campaign's print and television ads. She was also a spokesperson for State Farm Insurance and appeared in numerous television commercials, which air on the Disney Channel, to raise awareness of being a safe driver.
In October 2009, Gomez announced her plan to launch her own fashion line, called "Dream Out Loud by Selena Gomez". The clothing line launched in the fall of 2010. The collection consisted of and featured bohemian dresses, floral tops, jeans, skirts, jackets, scarves and hats, all made from recycled or eco-friendly materials. Gomez said that the line reflected her own personal style and described the clothing as being "pretty, feminine, and bohemian." She was later quoted as saying, "With my line, I really want to give the customer options on how they can put their own looks together [...] I want the pieces that can be easy to dress up or down, and the fabrics being eco-friendly and organic is super important [...] Also, the tags will all have some of my inspirational quotes on them. I'm just looking to send a good message." Gomez teamed up with designers Tony Melillo and Sandra Campos, both who have worked with big-name fashion houses. Gomez said of the partnering, "When I met Tony and Sandra, I was instantly comfortable with them and now they are just like family to me ... They are so creative and I love how I can just call them up whenever and talk to them about everything, even if it's just about changing a button ... They've been so cool about everything." The brand was manufactured by, Melillo and Campos teamed with New York-based Adjmi Apparel and formed by Adjmi CH Brands LLC, the holding company for the brand.
That same year, Gomez began dating fellow Disney star Nick Jonas. The couple later broke up in 2009. Gomez later began dating film star Taylor Lautner, though the couple broke up after a few months of dating. On February 27, 2011, Gomez attended the 2011 Vanity Fair Oscar party with Canadian singer Justin Bieber, confirming several months of media speculation about a romantic relationship between the pair. The couple quickly gained much media attention, and were labeled "Jelena" by online sites.