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Redefining Demi

Demi Lovato’s docuseries follows the reworking of her album and reveals her troubled, young life in the industry up until the moment her life almost ended. But the darkness doesn’t define Demi, and here’s how she’s turning it around.

We all know Demi from her days on Disney Channel, maybe some of us even remember her from Barney & Friends (did I watch Barney until the 3rd grade? Yes. Am I embarrassed? No). We have seen her as all these characters, in music videos, and performing live on stage, but like all stars -- we know very little about what really goes on when the cameras aren’t rolling or what they leave off their Instagram feed.

Demi Lovato’s YouTube docuseries gives us a glimpse into her life in the spotlight battling addiction and eating disorders, and coping with sexual assault. The first episode of “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil,” aired March 23 and each Tuesday, a new installment has premiered. The series comes more than two years after her almost fatal overdose on July 24, 2018, after which doctors said she only had 5 to 10 minutes to live, had paramedics not arrived on the scene. Her assistant found her unconscious in bed and when she couldn’t wake her, she called Demi’s security and 9-1-1. Had her assistant not found her, she wouldn’t be here today.

While hospitalized, Demi had a heart attack and 3 strokes, from which she suffered brain damage. She also lost her vision for some time before slowly regaining it.

In the third episode of the series, and to my shock, Demi revealed that she used again, post-overdose. The night she returned home from a week-long trauma retreat, she picked up the very drug that had almost taken her life away. This relapse occurred through the process of signing to a new management team with Scooter Braun, with whom Demi was heartset on working.

Demi’s team prior to Braun controlled what she ate; they gave her ‘watermelon cakes’ for her birthdays, and even monitored and restricted what the people around her ate as well. The former team also forced her to get sober at the age of eighteen, but Demi and her close friends and family explained throughout the documentary that in order to maintain a successful, long lasting sobriety, it must be the addict’s decision.

Demi explained while she believes the control was not completely uncalled for, it didn’t give her the help she really needed or the space for growth.

She was worried her relapse would cause Braun and his team to reconsider signing her, but instead he told her, “as long as you tell me the truth, we’ll work through it.” While Demi was grateful for Braun’s compassion and the compassion of her friends and family, she was mortified that she allowed herself to go back to drugs.

The series revealed more of Demi’s complicated life in the spotlight. She divulged, “I know what I’m going to say is going to shock people too. I lost my virginity in a rape.” She hinted that the person who raped her was a co-star or someone who worked closely on the same project set with her. As she was explaining the situation, clips and pictures of her on the set of Camp Rock and Camp Rock 2 flickered across the screen.

After the rape, she still had to see the individual, who never faced consequences for their actions, every day at work. This stress and anxiety left her unable to eat, which initiated her anorexia and bulimia, and self-harm. She never felt like she could come forward because of the ‘good girl’ image she felt obligated to uphold during her Disney Channel days, and so she quietly processed the assault alone.

But the final installment of the series reminds us that Demi is more than her trauma and struggles. Her past and present battles do not define her.

The final episode featured industry titans like Christina Aguilera, Will Ferrell, and Elton John, who recalled the first time he met Demi. He had invited her to sing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” with him at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles. John gushed over Demi and explained, “when you’re young and you’re famous… my God it’s tough… you’re not supposed to be human.”

Demi battled sexual trauma, eating disorders, self-harm, and drug use at such a young age, all the while in the public eye. There was no room for mistakes, no space for darkness. Drugs aren’t ‘Disney.’ Disney doesn’t do sexual assault.

As Demi began her recovery, performed at the Grammys, and absolutely crushed the national anthem on Super Bowl Sunday, the coronavirus pandemic hit. While initially concerning those close to the star, quarantine turned into an extremely beneficial experience for Demi. She was able to truly stop, slow down, and focus on her mental health.

The series also disclosed details about her relationship and engagement with actor, Max Ehrich, as well as its heart wrenching demise. In personal home footage, Demi tearily explained, “I don’t know how to give my heart to someone after this.” Without diving deeper into the reasons she broke off her engagement, headlines flashed across the screen about Ehrich’s ingenuine intentions with Demi, hinting that his intentions were only a piece of a more crucial problem in their relationship. But Demi explained she wants to explore her sexuality and her queerness before ever marrying anyone again.

At the conclusion of the documentary, Demi discloses her journey with sobriety.

“Recovery isn’t a one size fits all solution.”

She warns viewers that her method might not be for everyone, but right now, it is what’s working for her. As opposed to going sober 'cold turkey,' Demi is trying a form of moderation sobriety. She allows herself to drink occasionally and smoke weed. Though some are doubtful of this method, her friends, family, and team remain hopeful that this choice is successful for Demi.

This fresh start allowed her to untangle and grapple with the roots of her issues to really ‘get clean.’ The star designed her own house, a safe haven, that is a reflection of her truest self. And she continues to do what she loves -- make music.

Demi’s latest album “Dancing with the Devil… The Art of Starting Over” released April 2, and is one of her most authentic releases of which she is most proud.


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