Demi Lovato's rep says she's entering rehab for "emotional and physical issues." But is it really the Disney curse?
Lovato is reportedly struggling with an eating disorder and cutting, and she's quit touring with Joe Jonas in order to seek help. Touring with your ex can't be any fun, and Lovato would be far from the first eighteen-year-old to suffer from psychological issues, famous or no. But since her fame comes from the same Disney factory that chewed up and spit out Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, media outlets are now speculating about a "Disney curse."
The NY Post takes the most credulous view, lumping Lovato together not just with Spears and Lohan, but also with "Vanessa Hudgens, whose nude photos scandalized her fans" and "Miley Cyrus, who started gyrating like a stripper before she was even legal." Nude photos and pole-dancing aren't really on the same level as drug addiction and psychiatric illness, but the Post presses ahead, quoting "longtime artist manager" Jeffrey Rabhan:
Being part of the Disney machine can be a dream and a nightmare. There are so many cross-platform promo opportunities that even new artists can find themselves working as hard as seasoned superstars from the beginning: between the network, touring, theme parks and film, it's like graduating fifth grade and jumping to an 80-hour-a-week job.
Holding up the banner of skepticism is Joal Ryan of E! Online, who writes, "Are Magic Kingdom stars cursed? The same basic question has been asked of Brat Packers and garden-variety child stars, and the answer is [sic] the always no." Ryan quotes former child star Kevin Corcoran, who says, "if you don't have a good solid background, there's all sort of ways you can get into trouble, and it's not just from Disney, it's at any studio." However, he also notes that "because the company [Disney] represents wholesomeness…there may be a little more scrutiny then if it's a child that's at a different company that's not just in the G[-rated] product area."
Being a child star of any sort can be a strain on a kid's mental health. And according to the Post, "those close to the Lovato camp are upset that she's being lumped in with other problem starlets, saying that her issues are psychological and longstanding and have nothing to do with Disney." Still, Disney kids are under even more pressure than most to be squeaky-clean — the very fact that Cyrus's seductive dancing landed her on the Post's "cursed" list illustrates the somewhat ridiculous expectations the media has of the Children of the Mouse. Like all child stars, these kids are a product — but they're a specific kind of product, one whose angelic perfection is totally at odds not just with real life, but with the sexualized self-presentation that America expects of girls when they turn fifteen or so. Young women like Lovato face equal and opposing pressures to be hot and to be wholesome. Were these pressures the only factors that led her to rehab? Almost certainly no. But they can't have made things any easier.