Demi Lovato talks to SuChin Pak at the Demi Lovato: Stay Strong’ After Show live on MTV.
“I never thought that I’d be a role model. Everyone kind of just made me a role model, and I hated that,” Demi Lovato said in the trailer to her uncommonly honest MTV special “Stay Strong: Demi Lovato,” a documentary that gave fans not just an inside look at her life but an intimate, unveiled look at her very real journey into understanding her bipolar disorder, self-medicating, self-harming and insidious eating disorder, and beginning the long, sometimes bumpy road to recovery. “I cannot tell you that I have not thrown up since treatment,” she said during a chillingly honest moment early on in the documentary. “I cannot tell you that I have not cut myself since treatment. I’m not perfect. This is a daily battle that I will face the rest of my life.”
By now, her fans know the story of her surrender. The very public singer quit Twitter. She quit her tour. She quit living a lie. She started the painful process of starting over and examining what drove her to starve and to cut and to look in the mirror and not see the gorgeous girl her fans exulted, and to stop loving herself. She entered a rehab center — Timberline Knolls, which she revisited in the documentary to share her story and encouragement with the treatment center’s patients. And she came to MTV in New York City tonight to face her fans not just on television but in person during the live “Stay Strong” After Show.
But Demi Lovato’s name is now synonymous not just with Disney or “Camp Rock” or “pop star.” Her name will forever be inextricably interwoven with her demons: eating disorders; cutting; mental illness. And she’s not alone. As many as 10 million females in the United States alone suffer from eating disorders. Eating disorders cause more deaths than any other mental illness. Over 121 million people in the world suffer from depression. Now, by sharing dark moments worlds away from the surreal glitz of red carpet — moments where there’s no glamour and only the very real threat of a very deadly disease — with the millions of fans suffering from the exact same issues that befall us indeterminately without discrimination, Demi Lovato’s name has become synonymous with role model.
Get an inside look at Demi Lovato’s “Stay Strong” After Show live at MTV in New York City, including videos and photos after the jump.
Demi Lovato didn’t take up an hour of MTV airtime to promote a new blockbuster movie, or do some kind of provocative, pseudo-sexy dance to an Auto-Tuned track. She didn’t come here to hawk zit cream. This was no infomercial. Demi Lovato opened up her life and her wounds to save lives. And by doing so, she helped erase the ingrained, institutional, highly destructive shame that surrounds these very real issues. Shame that’s as deadly as not eating, swallowing pills or drawing a razor across your veins.
But Demi Lovato revealing her darkest moments does not make her the new poster child for problems. The beauty of her bravery makes her a role model for recovery. “I’m not fixed. This is a daily battle,” Demi said in the special. “But I continue to work my butt off because now I wanna be a legitimate role model.”
“I just remember being 12, 13 and going through these issues alone. I didn’t really have a celebrity or anybody in the public eye to look at and say well, ‘If she got through this, then so can I,’” Demi told host SuChin Pak during the “Stay Strong” After Show.
But by openly and vulnerably admitting to suffering from, well, being human, she’s given her fans a voice — her voice. And at the taping of the live After Show here at MTV in New York City, every audience member I talked to told me that Demi’s admission of suffering from very problems and her seeking help stripped away their silent shame and caused them to speak up and seek help too.
“She had the strength to be so open and talk about something society’s made taboo. She helped me find strength to get treatment and get help,” 19-year-old fan Dayna Altman, told me, beaming radiantly.
“Her voice is so powerful. I love her for saving my life. I was suffering from depression, and her music saved me. Her words saved me,” Shanize Peralta, also 19, told me with no uncertainty and pure pride when I asked her what she loves about Demi.
“I love the fact that she’s able to be so strong despite everything she’s gone through. I can definitely relate. I’ve been going through depression, and her talking about it made it easier for me to relate to,” audience member Alyssa Berry, 19, told me.
Then, 23-year-old Brittney Hansen, with resplendent Rihanna-red hair, got down to the heart of it: “She’s human. She’s just a real person. A lot of us can relate to her. I can definitely relate.”
And these are just four fans whose names happened to be picked to attend a taping. These girls weren’t cast for their personal stories.
But Demi has created an army of Lovatics, united not just in their shared love for her rocket-launcher voice but in their palpable, resolute willingness to accept, embrace and love a perfectly imperfect heroine and to love the same bravery, beauty and worthiness in themselves that they love in Demi. This isn’t an ordinary singer, and these aren’t just fans. This is a massively famous young girl willing to tell her millions of adoring fans that someone said her arms looked fat in a photo and then step back and offer a shockingly simple rebuttal — “who cares?”
Demi Lovato is living proof that it’s not what happens to you but how you handle what happens to you. Or, in her own words, “It’s about going through hell and coming out as strong as you can.” And not giving a f*** what someone says your arms look like.
+ Watch the “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong” After Show, watch the entire “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong” documentary, check out photos from the After Show, and if you or someone you know is suffering from depression, an eating disorder or is self-injuring, please visit Demi.Halfofus.com.
Photo credit: Scott Gries