Demi Lovato’s consistent transparency about her mental health, struggles with addiction, and eating disorder history has always been inspiring. Her ability to be extremely open about such taboo subjects is a rare thing in celebrity culture. In a recent interview with American Way, Demi has allowed herself to be exposed even more.
In the article, Demi talks about how she began competing in beauty pageants at the tender age of seven which led to a role in Barney and Friends along with Selena Gomez. As a young child working in the industry, Demi had already been secretly dealing with such serious issues as depression, suicidal thoughts, body image insecurity, and self-harming tendencies. “When I was gaining weight because I was becoming a woman,” Demi said, “I would look at those images and say to myself, ‘Wait, this is not what I look like. I’m getting fat on the hips and on my butt.’ ” This caused the young star to begin cutting and purging.
Not long after, Demi won a role in Camp Rock. At the same time the movie was filming, fellow Disney child stars Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan had begun to experiencing their own troubles. Demi saw this as a foreshadowing to her own life: “I was definitely like, ‘Oh crap. In three years, that’s going to be me.’” By the time the movie aired, Demi had released her debut album, was touring with the Jonas Brothers, and had her own Disney show, Sonny with a Chance — but she was already self-medicating with alcohol, cocaine, and OxyContin. “I lived fast and I was going to die young,” Demi said. “I didn’t think I would make it to 21.” She also lashed out at her parents’ attempts to discipline her. “I put my parents in an uncomfortable position,” she admitted. “There’s no manual on how to parent a pop star.”
During another tour with the Jonas Brothers, Demi’s alcohol and drug abuse came to a head after she punched one of her backup dancers in the face. She left, entered a Midwestern rehab to get treatment for bulimia and was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Oh great, now the world thinks I’m just another stereotype,” Demi said she thought at the time. However, she still had to conquer her addiction problems and eventually checked into a sober house and has been in recovery since 2012.
Now, the 23-year-old is an advocate for mental illness, working with the initiative Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health. “The more you talk about mental illness, the less of a taboo it becomes,” explained Demi. “As a pop star, I can say, ‘Hey, I’ve got bipolar disorder — it’s nothing that anyone can be ashamed of.’” Fans have looked to Demi during trying times in their own lives. “When I have meet-and-greets, I can’t tell you the amount of times that girls will show me their arms covered in scars or cuts,” she said. “They’ll tell me, ‘You helped me get through this. Because of you, I stopped self-harming,’ or ‘I got sober.’”
While Demi said she didn’t enter treatment in order to inspire others, she realizes how important her role is now. “At times I was resentful for having that kind of responsibility, but now, it’s really become a part of my life. It holds me accountable,” she said.