By Erica Sabino
Demi Lovato has come a long way from her days acting and singing on the Disney screen. Though she made her debut at the young age of 8 on the show Barney and Friends, it wasn’t until 2008 when she nabbed the lead role in the Disney Channel original movie, Camp Rock, that her career skyrocketed. On the same year of the movie’s premier, she signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records that helped her release her first album, Don’t Forget, which went up to No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100.
Her rise to stardom did not come undeserved. With the success of the movie and her music, Lovato’s popularity saw a tremendous increase, paving the way to cementing her place among other big-named stars in young Hollywood.
Even with all her success, her journey wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Having amassed quite a following on her social media profiles like Twitter and Instagram, the Sorry Not Sorry singer has made it a point to be open about the struggles she has faced and is still facing on an everyday basis.
On October 2011, Lovato entered an inpatient treatment center where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. “Getting a diagnosis was kind of a relief,” Lovato admitted in an interview. “It helped me start to make sense of the harmful things I was doing to cope with what I was experiencing.”
Her admittance to the rehab facility was not only brought about by the state of her mental health, but also because of her struggles with bulimia, substance abuse, and cutting. Lovato learned to accept her issues and worked hard to find ways to overcome them. She worked with professionals to find a treatment plan that would work for her. “Living well with bipolar disorder is possible,” Lovato says, “but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process.”
She understands how hard it is to bounce back from setbacks in life and how some people find it difficult to ask for help. But for Lovato, “asking for help is a sign of strength.” She wants those struggling with mental illness to know that there is always someone who can help and that there will always be a silver lining if they first learn to be strong for themselves.
Lovato has gone through a lot, but instead of letting these obstacles hinder her, she used them to build her strength and has found ways to capitalize on her experiences, so she can help people who are going through the same struggles she continues to go through each day.
Making a big effort to support individuals with mental health, Demi Lovato became the spokesperson for the Be Vocal: Speak Up For Mental Health initiative. Led by Sunovion Pharmaceuticals Inc., this campaign also partnered with five leading advocacy organizations namely, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, The JED Foundation, Mental Health America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
This initiative calls people to speak up for the support of mental health. It urges them to “be vocal” in an effort to spread awareness and erase the stigma usually associated with this topic. As a strong advocate, Lovato wants to be a voice not only for herself, but also for others. “It’s important to speak up about the things you believe in, because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” Lovato said in an interview with Elvis Duran for iHeartRadio’s Label Defiers podcast. “I just happen to be in a position where more people would hear my voice than they would have 10 to 15 years ago, so I use my voice to do more than just sing.”
The pop singer has taken big steps to making her voice heard and pushing forward with her advocacy. In an interview with Tracy Smith for CBS Sunday Morning in 2016, Lovato revealed that she bought into the CAST Centers, a clinic in L.A. where she had undergone treatment. When asked why she did it, Lovato simply said that “it just feels good.”
With her passion for her cause only growing stronger, Lovato took on another project and co-produced Beyond Silence, a documentary which premiered in early 2017 that chronicles the experiences of three individuals living with mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. In her interview with Variety, Lovato said that she “hope[s] that this film will show people that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition.” It has become another stepping stone for her to inspire people to share their stories and encourage others to do the same. “There’s something about when you speak out and are vocal about your story, it’s very inviting to others who are dealing with the same thing. And if you can make that impact on somebody’s life, it does something for you spiritually that makes you want to tell the story again and again and again.”
Lovato’s reach is not limited to the United States alone. With fans all over the world, she is a global figure who is a living inspiration to many. Talking about mental health on a global scale, Lovato had spoken to Syrian refugee, Muzoon Almellehan, in a video chat about how important education and mental health is especially to people who are living in conflict and suffering. Lovato says “I want to be able to help people have access to mental health care, no matter where they’re from or what they’ve been through… I think it’s very important that someday, we have a curriculum in school where it’s based on mental health.” In their conversation, Lovato also offered Almellehan her help in ensuring that adequate monetary resources are set aside for the promotion of education through humanitarian efforts.
Taking another step forward in her efforts to being heard, Lovato revealed that she would be releasing I Am: Demi Lovato, a documentary about her life and the experiences she had undergone to get where she is now. “This past year has been one of the most transformative years of my life, and I’m looking forward to bringing my fans on this journey of continued growth and self-discovery in both my music and my personal experiences,” the singer said.
Aside from being an advocate for mental health, Lovato is also a big supporter of female empowerment. In collaboration with Fabletics, an activewear brand co-founded by Kate Hudson, the star helped launch the Demi Lovato for Fabletics collection. With designs inspired by her style and strength, the collection remains in line with supporting the brand’s partnership with the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, which is a movement to raise funds and awareness for the empowerment of women everywhere, especially those in marginalized countries.
Lovato’s accomplishments in her crusade for mental health have not gone unnoticed. Because of her passion, leadership, and campaign to promote and raise awareness on this issue, Lovato was presented with the Artistic Award of Courage on March 2017 at the Open Mind Gala hosted by UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior.
Demi Lovato has gone through and experienced so much at her age. Today, we all need to recognize that not all disabilities are physical. For the singer, her disability was a brain disorder that was hindering her growth as an individual. Although she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, she does not want this to be the only thing that defines her. Using her powerful voice, she wants the world to know that she is more than just what she struggles from. She wants people to look at her and see someone they want to emulate: strong, confident, and courageously honest. Through her experiences, she has crafted herself into an inspiring image of what anyone should strive to become, no matter what’s hidden underneath the surface.
“I think what inspires me is remembering that I deserve to be the best that I can be and also knowing people look at me as a role model,” Lovato tells Entertainment Tonight. “It gives me the fire to continue to be strong and try to show people that there’s so much more to life when you take care of yourself and when you are able to be all that you can be.”