Demi Lovato is sharing more details of her past traumas, following the release of “29,” a single from her new album, HOLY FVCK, in which she reflects angrily on her relationship with ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama (who is 12 years older than her). In a video appearance on the podcast Call Her Daddy on Thursday, Lovato spoke at length about how a controlling person on her Disney management team worsened her eating disorder and drove her to drug relapse as a teen.
The former Disney star, who turned 30 just a few days ago, has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction over the years, and most recently left rehab in December 2021. While Lovato admits that these issues preceded her time on the network—she began experimenting with drugs at age 12—she said that they were exacerbated by her controlling management team when she was a Disney star. Lovato described extreme pressure to behave a certain way in the public eye during that time in her life. “There were expectations of you to be a role model, because all of a sudden you’re thrust into that position whether you want it or not,” she told CHD host Alexandra Cooper. Lovato and her co-stars at the time—including Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, and the Jonas Brothers—lived “in fear” of a website that posted “all scandalous things happening to Disney actors” in an effort to taint their good boy/good girl branding.
But the image regulation didn’t stop there. Lovato’s team also sought to ensure that she remained thin. “For someone in recovery for an eating disorder, that’s so dangerous,” she said. Lovato said that efforts to control her eating (which led to her bulimia relapse from 2016 to 2018), worsened when one particular individual (whom she did not name) joined her team. Lovato recalled being barricaded in her hotel room—where the phones had already been removed so she couldn’t order room service—after admitting to her team that she had binged and purged earlier that night. They also isolated Lovato from anyone who tried to look out for her: After her chef alerted Lovato to the fact that her team was monitoring her bank statements to make sure that she wasn’t buying “cookies” or “pastries” when she went to Starbucks, they talked her into replacing that chef.
Lovato also recounted the way this man reacted when she threw up blood. “This was in, like, 2017, and this person looked at me and said, ‘You’re not sick enough,’” she said. “And I think that was his way of saying, ‘No, you’re not going back to treatment, because if you do, this will look bad on me.’ And so I didn’t, I didn’t go back into treatment. And less than a year later, I ended up overdosing.”
Turning to substances was the only way Lovato felt she could escape her team’s control. “My way of blowing everything up was relapsing on drugs and alcohol. Because they always said ‘If you use, you’re out.’ And I was like, ‘Time to get out, bye.’” But at least now, she seems to understand the extent of the manipulation that she underwent. “I just put all of my trust and faith into people around me that didn’t have my best interest at heart.”
The stories Lovato told about being a child actor felt shockingly similar to those former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy recounts in her memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, which came out earlier this month. McCurdy describes the abuse she suffered from her mother (who was also her manager) and a TV executive she refers to throughout the book as “The Creator.”
Former teen stars breaking their silence about being mistreated is certainly a trend that we can get behind—and it’s one that is set to continue, especially if Lovato has anything to do with it. She told Cooper, “I do have a project in the works where I want to talk to some of [my old Disney co-stars] about their experiences and other child stars.”