Between her very public whirlwind engagement and messy breakup and, of course, her newfound interest in contacting aliens using meditation, Demi Lovato has had quite a year. Lovato’s next year is looking even busier as she prepares for next week’s release of Dancing With the Devil, the four-part documentary that promises a seriously intimate look into her struggles with addiction and 2018 overdose, and the April release of her upcoming album entitled Dancing With the Devil… The Art of Starting Over. The album, which Lovato told Variety is “kind of actually like the non-official soundtrack to the documentary,” is the singer’s first since her 2017 project Tell Me You Love Me, and comes at a very different time in Lovato’s life.
In an interview with the New York Times, Demi Lovato talked about the film and the album, both of which promise an exceedingly vulnerable and honest look at the singer’s life, while also reflecting on her life and career more broadly.
When discussing her teen stardom, Lovato looks back on her past self through more sympathetic eyes.
“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,” Lovato said. “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.”
After attending rehab at 18, Lovato went public with her bipolar diagnosis (although she now believes she was misdiagnosed) in order to counter mental health stigma. “I could be honest with the world at 18,” she said. “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.”
When her 2011 EP Unbroken didn’t garner the public reaction she’d hoped, Lovato decided to reevaluate her approach to achieving pop stardom.
“So I dove into, all right, what is the formula for a pop star that’s top of the charts?” She counted off the criteria on her right hand: “She shows her skin, she’s a lot fitter, and you know, she wears leotards onstage. So I played that role for a minute. And that didn’t fulfill me at all.
It’s weird to think that I had more sense of identity as a 15, 16-year-old than I did as a 23-year-old.”
When talking about the engagement that she called off in September, Lovato says that the decision to end the relationship affirmed her queerness.
“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,” she said. “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.”
A central part of Lovato’s upcoming documentary and film is looking at her relationship to addiction—which was clearly affected by overdosing in 2018 after six years of strict sobriety. Instead of returning to strict sobriety after her recovery, she decided to allow herself alcohol and weed in moderation. “I haven’t been by-the-book sober since the summer of 2019,” Lovato said. “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.”
Lovato’s approach is unconventional, and not approved of by everyone in her life, but she says it’s working for her at the moment.
“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.”