Demi Lovato: ‘I don’t blame my 17-year-old self for being so miserable’

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.”

[From The NY Times]

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.

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12 Responses to “Demi Lovato: ‘I don’t blame my 17-year-old self for being so miserable’”

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  1. escondista says:

    Hollywood destroys children. I would never, ever want my child to be a star.

    • Noodle says:

      I live close enough to LA that a lot of moms I know try to break their kids into acting and modeling. It’s exhausting watching them shuttle their kids to auditions every day; it becomes their full time job. One girl who was friends with my daughter had moderate success, but everything stopped when her mom insisted on being with her all the time. And that’s the rub; kids who are very successful often are handed off to a minder to allow for the scheduling ease that offers. And that’s when so much abuse and awful things happen to kids.

    • Granger says:

      My friend is a screenwriter and producer and once invited my 8-year-old daughter and I to be extras on a TV show episode. My daughter had so much fun (she was a little more pampered than the average extra, because of who my friend was), that she immediately started asking if she could go to auditions and become an actor. When I mentioned this to my friend, who had worked on a show about (and with) teens, he didn’t mince words: “Hollywood chews up child actors and spits them out when it’s done with them. They’re has-beens at 17 years old. Most of them are never the same. Tell your daughter to finish high school and get a university degree, and then go into acting.” I think this is advice a lot of crazy show-biz parents need to hear, but they probably wouldn’t listen anyway.

      • Noodle says:

        @granger, I totally agree. Not to mention the amount of school missed to go to all these auditions. My daughter’s friend (who had the moderate success in commercials) was missing the last hour or two of school every day so she could drive up to LA. Someone on set suggested a tutor for her so she could continue to pursue “her” (really, her mother’s) dream, and that was a bit too much for this mom. Eventually she tired of driving 4 hours every day for an audition where she had maybe a 1/10 chance of being cast. It was the best thing to happen to this little girl.

  2. Watson says:

    I love Demi. She deserved a better childhood

    • Otaku fairy says:

      Agreed. On top of the problems in her family, a lot of toxic things were put on her at an early age. She discussed how seeing Rihanna blamed for Chris Brown’s assault of her and focus on her purity as a teen ‘role model’ for young girls negatively impacted her when she was abused. “Women are typically more repressed than men, especially at 15 years old, and especially as a little child star role model who’s supposed to be perfect, who had a promise ring! So what—I’m supposed to come out to the public after saying I have a promise ring? Six months later, I’m supposed to say, well I had sex—even though it was rape! Some people aren’t going to see it that way.”
      There were good things about the aughts/2010′s, but they were also shitty in some of the ways that are being re-examined. The way girls and women were treated was pushed as a protection and character builder at best, a mild annoyance not to complain or explain about at worst. Sometimes already dangerous situations women or girls are dealing with can be made worse by outside misogyny.

  3. Annie says:

    Demi has been drinking long before summer of 2019, or way before her overdose, she just wasn’t open about it. I know this because I follow people who hung out with her at the time, and I distinctly remember a photo of her holding a glass of liquor at a party when she still claimed she was sober. Photos and sightings like this had been worrying her fans long before her overdose. They immediately knew she was off the wagon. Fans feared that she would relapse because Demi can’t control *any* substance, or anything basically. There’s nothing that she won’t binge on. There is nothing called “self control” in Demi’s life, for example rage control or impulse control. That relationship and engagement to a total stranger is proof that she has no control whatsoever. By the time she overdosed, her fans were sadly not shocked because she had been partying in Hollywood again for a long time.

    I’m not saying this to be a party pooper but Demi’s approach is not really good news to her fans who know her. All or nothing is HARD, I can’t imagine, but she has proved before that alcohol and weed will eventually bore her. Eventually she moves on to something else and she can’t control herself. I really hope she has a sober coach and is ready to go to rehab whenever she needs it. She puts her career first all the time and the added pressure is just too much.

  4. Otaku fairy says:

    It’s scary that she relapsed after the overdose. But it’s good that she’s honest about just how much of a struggle the addiction has been for her. It’s good that she broke off that engagement- it was going nowhere healthy for her.

  5. Lipreng says:

    She says that she used heroin again after her overdose. She is going to end up dead.

  6. Alexandria says:

    I wish her well.

  7. Amando says:

    So young and talented. I truly hope she finds recovery some day.