In 2010, former Disney star and current X Factor judge Demi Lovato hit bottom amid reports of bipolar disorder, cutting, and drug use. Now 21, Lovato makes good use of the struggles she experienced in her new book Staying Strong (out today), a book of daily inspirational thoughts. Lovato stopped by the EW offices to give a no-holds-barred interview about her book, Taylor Swift, and the advice she’d give Miley Cyrus.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: A lot of your peers like to say, ”I’m not a role model.” But with a book of advice like this, you’re saying the opposite.
DEMI LOVATO: I used to say that too. That was my excuse to do whatever the f— I wanted and not give a s— about what other people thought. Then I ended up going through some stuff. I realized I’m never going to escape the fact that I’m in the public eye, so I might as well do the best I can.
You’ve been quite open about your personal struggles ever since they came to light.
When I went to rehab, I was still on the Disney Channel — I think I might be the first person who can say that! [Laughs] It wasn’t like I could discreetly make the choice to go into treatment. My actions were very public. My manager told me, “You can decide not to talk about anything, or you can be completely honest.” Now, at night, I can rest on my pillow easy because there’s nothing I’m hiding.
Was it scary making that decision?
When I was in treatment, I honestly thought my career was over. But when I came out of treatment, I had more supportive fans than ever. There are lots of artists who aren’t honest — they put on a face. Nobody can relate to that face. Growing up, I needed someone in the public eye to look up to. At the time, it was starlets clubbing and getting really, really thin. That’s what I thought was cool and glamorous. But now I want to inspire that young girl who thinks she’s overweight, or too thin, or not pretty enough.
How do the people around you help you stay on the right path?
I have my manager, who will sit me down. He’ll tell me, “Some days I can tell you’re doing really, really well,” and other days he’s like, “What’s wrong? Something’s off. What’s going on?” There’s my day-to-day manager, and sometimes I unintentionally sound like I’m barking at her. I get into business woman mode, and I say, “THIS CANNOT HAPPEN AGAIN!” because I’m stressed, and she’s like, “That was really rude,” and I say, “I didn’t even realize that, I’m so sorry.” So I have people who’ll call me out and be like, “No, we’re not going to let you act like a little spoiled brat.” I had a lot of yes people in my life when I was really sick, and that’s what kept me sick.
Sometimes you really need to go into business woman mode, though.
Yes, but there’s also a way of getting your point across and not being a bitch. So I had to learn that
You have a book deal for a real memoir. Have you started on that?
I haven’t. I’m battling with internal thoughts on how honest I should be. Yes, I’ve been very honest, but if people really knew how dark and deep my struggles got — not just with my eating disorder but with drugs and alcohol — they’d be really shocked. But I’ll most likely end up saying everything. Maybe it’ll help other people in the industry who are headed down the wrong path.
A lot of lyrics in pop songs seem to be all about drinking and clubbing. Do you feel like it’ll hurt your music career not to put out records about those types of things?
I don’t really care because those things don’t apply to my life at all. A good example of that is Taylor Swift. We’ve had conversations about this where I’m like, “I have so much respect for you as an artist because you don’t have to write about that stuff.” She’s like, “Well, I don’t go out.” I don’t go out to clubs and I don’t party and to me, it says more when you don’t have to do things for shock value. You’re more repsected as an artist. And that’s what I want to be, I want to be respected as an artist and not a tabloid headline.
You and Miley Cyrus both started out on Disney but now have very different careers. What advice would you give her?
I’m in no position to give people advice on their careers. She’s having fun and figuring out who she is, and this is the age when that happens. I think that…[long pause and a smile] she’s doing her own thing. Good for her.
When did you have time to write?
I fly a lot, so I had this huge stack of papers. Whenever I sit on plane, as much as I would love to sleep, I sat there writing this really deep book and exhausting myself even more, but I was so excited about it. Flight attendants would walk by and I’d have these papers everywhere and I was so unorganized and I was writing very feverishly with coffee on an airplane. I never want to slap my name on something. If I’m going to have a perfume, I’m going to be involved every step of the way. If I’m going to write a book, I’m not going to have people do the whole thing for me. Obviously I’m going to have help because I’ve never written a book before, but really, I really, really wrote that book. I have proof! You can see all of the edits. If I’m going to co-direct, I want to know what I’m doing and set up the treatments and everything. I never half-ass anything. This was something I’m very proud of for that specific reason.
Now that you’re a published author, what do you want to do next?
Life is so short, and I have so many dreams. I even had dreams of becoming a prosecuting attorney. I told my management I was going to law school, and they said, “When?” I was like, “Maybe when I have a baby and things slow down.” They’re like, “That doesn’t make any sense!” I want to be a director, and I want to pass bills in Congress about bullying. I really, really want to have my own talk show one day — be the next Oprah. I really do want to save the world. I know that’s kind of impossible, but I’m striving for it.