Trigger warning: sexual assault
Demi Lovato’s documentary, Dancing With The Devil, premiered at SXSW and will be released in four parts on YouTube starting March 23. People Magazine has advance details and they’re harrowing. Demi was raped by someone she considered a friend when she was just 15 and struggled to come to terms with what happened to her. She was sexually assaulted by her heroin dealer on the night of her July, 2018 overdose, after he gave her heroin mixed with fentanyl. Demi’s medical condition was touch and go. She suffered three strokes and a heart attack and was temporarily blind when she woke up. She now has permanent blind spots.
The trailer for Dancing With The Devil is out, and it’s hard to watch. It made me get weepy for Demi and all that she’s been through. I have to say that the song she recorded for it is incredible. (Her new full album, Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over, is coming April 2.) Watching the trailer, I kept thinking how lucky Demi is that she had people around her that night and was able to get medical help quickly. I’m not going to excerpt People’s recap, you can read it there.
I wanted to talk about the NY Times’s profile of Demi, in which she opens up about some of the things revealed in the documentary. It’s well worth reading, and here are some key parts:
Details on the documentary
“Dancing With the Devil” is filled with fresh admissions that betray previous obfuscations. Her overdose came after six years of sobriety, during which Lovato felt increasingly hemmed in by the measures her longtime managers took to help her stay on track. It caused three strokes, a heart attack and organ failure. She had pneumonia from asphyxiating on her vomit; she suffered brain damage from the strokes, and has lasting vision problems. (She can no longer drive and described the lingering effects as resembling sunspots.) The drug dealer who brought her heroin that night sexually assaulted her, then left her close to death.
On being honest about what she’s going through
“I did definitely look up to [Amy Winehouse] and I valued her vulnerability and transparency with her audience because it bred that connection that I felt to her. And that’s ultimately what my fans feel with me.”
“I could be honest with the world at 18. I could tell the world my dirty, dark secrets. I didn’t care. Because if I told you my secrets, you had nothing on me.”
On her reputation for being difficult
“In hindsight, I don’t blame my 17-year-old self for being so miserable. When I’m angry, it means that I’m actually hurting. Young women in the industry who get labeled with ‘difficult to work with’ — it’s like, hey, maybe just for a second, consider that it’s not that I’m a bad person. It’s just that nobody’s listening to me and I’m hungry, and I’m tired and overworked and doing the best I can for an unmedicated 17-year-old.”
On her breakup with Max Ehrich
“I feel like I dodged a bullet because I wouldn’t have been living my truth for the rest of my life had I confined myself into that box of heteronormativity and monogamy. And it took getting that close to shake me up and be like, wow, you really got to live your life for who you really are.”
She allows herself weed and alcohol in moderation
“I haven’t been by-the-book sober since the summer of 2019. I realized if I don’t allow myself some wiggle room, I go to the hard [expletive]. And that will be the death of me.”
“Allowing myself to eat a Mexican pizza from Taco Bell, I found freedom in my eating disorder,” she said. “But it was so all-or-nothing and dogmatic with sobriety that I was just like, I don’t know how to live in total balance of my life.”
There’s a lot in the piece about how she tried to fit into the pop star mold and it just wasn’t what she was comfortable with. She found Billie Eilish refreshing in that she wears baggy clothes and is herself. That helped Demi realize that she didn’t need to try to be someone she wasn’t. I like how she framed her breakup with Max Ehrich. The guy was a creep and a stalker who targeted her and she’s not giving him any air. She’s just saying she didn’t fit into that box as a queer woman, essentially.
We talked about Demi partaking in moderation after she told Glamour magazine about it. As an alcoholic, I cannot drink at all but I understand this approach. She’s smoking and drinking a little because those are the substances she can control. It makes sense to me. The all or nothing approach can be self-defeating for people.
There’s also a bit about her spirituality and how it’s helped her get through everything. She reveals that she has a spiritual advisor, which isn’t surprising to me.
Demi has been through so much and my heart goes out to her. I like her and find her genuine. Plus she can really sing and perform. Her songs are true bops. I look forward to this documentary and to her new album.
Here’s the trailer.