By Brianne Tracy, People
Mandy Teefey was a vision of happiness while shooting the December cover of Entrepreneur magazine with daughter Selena Gomez and Newsette founder Daniella Pierson in support of their new mental health company, Wondermind.
But behind her big smile, she was struggling.
“I almost passed out doing the shoot,” Teefey, 45, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday. “We had to break so many times, but all my friends and loved ones around me helped me get through it. I was smiling and laughing most of the time because I was going to faint. Don’t judge how someone looks because you don’t know what’s underneath that picture.”
Less than a month before the shoot, Teefey had been hospitalized with life-threatening double pneumonia that she says had been “exacerbated” when she caught COVID-19.
“I got pneumonia in February in New York, and I guess the doctor didn’t really clear it up as much as it needed to be,” she says. “I had gotten IV vitamin therapy, which I think helped me get through the times I did.”
“Then a week before I was going to get my first COVID shot, I got COVID,” she continues. “I was at home the whole time. When my fever broke, my oxygen went to 69, and I was rushed to the hospital. The first hospital was pretty badgering, like, ‘Why didn’t you get your shot?’ I’m like, ‘I literally can’t breathe right now. Can we talk about this later? I will explain why.'”
Teefey says she was then transferred to Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles, where they gave her steroids and antibiotics, as well as breathing exercises to do.
“They said that had my body not responded as quickly as it did, I had two days [to live],” she says. “They said, ‘We don’t know how you’ve been breathing this whole time.’ I had, like, half a lung. I made it through COVID and didn’t lose my taste or smell or anything, but it beat up my lungs pretty hardcore.”
The silver lining of it all, Teefey says, is that she was able to come up with the name Wondermind for her new company while in the hospital.
“Something positive came out of it,” she says. “It was definitely an experience, and it wasn’t scary until I got home. When I got home, I was like, ‘Wow, I may not have ever come back here.’ I was a lucky one.”
Though the shoot was so soon after her hospitalization, Teefey pushed herself to do it. But when the photos came out, she felt the need to speak out about her hospitalization after she was criticized for her weight gain from it.
In a Nov. 19 Instagram, Teefey posted a screenshot of a DM she had gotten offering her a weight-loss program for $5,000 and explained that her hospitalization caused her to gain 60 pounds.
“I posted because I wanted to be like, ‘Guys, this is why you don’t judge people,'” she says. “I did not expect it to get picked up at all by anybody because I’m like, ‘Nobody cares about my Instagram.’ I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m embarrassed. It’s scrolling on CNN.’ It’s really hard for me to have that kind of attention. But Selena was like, ‘No mom, I’m proud of you.'”
Ever since Gomez, 29, became an international star in her early teens, Teefey says she’s learned to stop paying attention to comments on social media.
“I used to read DMs for entertainment because some of them are pretty creative,” she says. “There are some really creative writers out there! I’ve stopped reading them, and I debate on whether turning my comments off or not because I sometimes reply, and I’m not mean, but I’m kind of a smart-ass. The comments will be like, ‘Do you know what you’ve done?’ And I’m like, ‘Can’t wait for you to tell me!'”
“I hate wasting my time on social media,” she adds. “That’s why I only have Instagram. It’s the smartest thing for me because I had Facebook for two months and was arguing with people who made no sense. I’d rather just talk to them in person, have a drink of an old-fashioned and get into the deep conversations.”
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