Is The Weeknd’s new romance with Selena Gomez the real deal or shameless self-promotion?

On Tuesday evening, while most of America was glued to Obama’s farewell address, Selena Gomez and Abel Tesfaye—a.k.a. noted Scarberian The Weeknd—were glued to each other. The next day, TMZ published photos of their lusty makeout sesh, and the Internet has been desperately seeking details on #Abelena (we prefer #TheSleeknd) ever since. But was the steamy PDA-fest a sign of a genuine romance or just (another) shameless publicity ploy? We investigated.

Exhibit A
The smoking shots

In the 46 snaps that TMZ published, Gomez and Tesfaye are canoodling beside what appears to be a dumpster—proof that Selena truly can’t keep her hands to herself. (And if The Weeknd can’t feel his face when he’s with her, she’s certainly feeling it for him). At first glance, the pics suggest the type of early relationship lust wherein even dumpster fumes can’t kill the mood, but a closer inspection shows something more calculated could be afoot. Look at the way Gomez appears to be vamping for an unseen third party (i.e., the camera). The verdict: Fake! We’re supposed to believe they have been “caught in the act,” and yet she’s posing and smizing like they’re at a magazine cover shoot.


Exhibit B
Great ex-pectations

Two months ago, The Weeknd broke up with his longtime girlfriend, Bella Hadid, the model and younger sis of Gigi Hadid, a member of Taylor Swift’s inner squad. And while a celeb breakup isn’t notable, this is: following the TMZ photo dump, Bella pulled a Rihanna and unfollowed Selena on Instagram. The verdict: Real! A pissed ex is always reliable proof of a legit relationship. Speaking of exes, Selena’s old flame Justin Bieber has yet to weigh in/lash out/buy an illegal exotic pet in response to the situation, but we’re waiting.


Exhibit C
Timing is everything

Yesterday, The Weeknd released the video for “Party Monster,” which stars a Selena lookalike and includes the lyric, “Oh, she mine, oh girl, bump a line / Angelina, lips like Angelina / like Selena, ass shaped like Selena.” Clearly, he wants us to think that Selena is the woman to fill the triple-cactus-dreadlock-sized hole in his heart. The verdict: Fake! The timing is just too perfect, and a buzzy relationship is good for business.



Exhibit D
Fake couples are trending

Mutually beneficial faux celebrity relationships aren’t a new thing, but they do seem to be having a moment: #Hiddleswift, #DraLo, whatever’s going on between Donald and Melania. In this case, both players are enjoying tremendous independent success (Starboy is a Billboard record breaker, she has more Instagram followers than anyone on the planet), but you don’t need a degree in Brangelina to understand that the power of a power couple can be greater than the sum of its parts. The verdict: Fake! Because it’s 2017.


Exhibit E
Butts about it

Yesterday, a photo popped up on Instagram featuring Gomez’ bare butt in a barely there thong. Selena didn’t post the salacious shot herself (that would be soooooooo basic). Instead, it came from the fashion photographer Mert Alas, who tagged The Weeknd in the comments. As of last night, the snap had been taken down, but not before it got screen-grabbed and shared all over the place. The timing is too perfect not to interpret it as a wink at the “Selena’s ass” lyric. The verdict: Real! There’s no rule that says you can’t be both in love and an incurable narcissist.


Exhibit F
Musical boyfriends

Bella and Selena (and the Biebs and T Swift) are all part of the same extended circle. And despite what you may infer from the “Bad Blood” video, it’s a circle in which dating each other’s exes is encouraged. The verdict: Real! Like Selena’s towel, the idea that the relationship is phoney because she wouldn’t betray a gal pal doesn’t quite hold up.


Final verdict

As discussed in this new GQ profile, The Weeknd spent the first chunk of his career actively trying to fly under the radar and let his music do the talking. Unlike Drake or Bieber, he has steered clear of the spotlight—he doesn’t seem like a guy who would stage a romance to get attention. Meanwhile, Selena spent much of 2016 dealing with mental health issues associated with living in the spotlight, so would she really court the paparazzi so blatantly? Celebrity is a competitive sport and makes people do crazy things. But so is young love, so, for now, we’re hedging our bets on the real deal.


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