Demi Lovato has left Disney for the real world, writes Amy
Kaufman, of the Los Angeles Times.
Demi Lovato performs at an awards show. Photo by Reuters.
There was always an excuse - a friend to see, a meeting
to take, sleep to catch up on.
Only a year ago, Demi Lovato was one of Disney's most
bankable teen stars, her every move scrutinised by a team of
Yet when an eating disorder and self-mutilation threatened to
derail her career, not even her team could see past her
"I had learned how to control and manipulate everyone around
me into believing that I was OK," recalls Lovato, who rose to
fame as the star of a popular Disney Channel series Sonny
With a Chance.
"I'd go to work on my TV show and, instead of getting lunch,
I would go get my nails done or go tan or nap or something
... No one was grilling me."
But last October, Lovato's cover was finally blown. While on
an international concert tour with the Jonas Brothers, she
unexpectedly punched a backup dancer in the face - which was
when the extent of her personal issues apparently came fully
Accordingly, Lovato dropped off the tour and checked into
Timberline Knolls, a residential treatment centre outside
While many Mouse House stars might have avoided the spotlight
after such a public meltdown, Lovato instead has been
surprisingly candid about her struggles.
Since emerging in January after three months in rehab, she
has been open about her problems, which include bulimia and
That 12-month journey culminated, she says, in Unbroken, her
third studio album, which immediately shot to No. 1 on
The singer has begun to stray from her airy pop-rock roots on
Unbroken, which has more of an R&B influence and includes
collaborations with Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Jason
Not that anyone seems to be paying much mind to Lovato's
musical growth. Instead, the album serves as the most
tangible representation of her transformation from a perfect
teen queen to an edgier young adult unafraid to flaunt her
Her look has changed too: Gone are the precious matching
sweater sets she once donned on her TV programme.
She arrives for our interview flanked by two members of her
team, including her stepfather-turned-manager, Eddie De La
Though Lovato is now of legal age and no longer under the
critical eye of the Disney Channel, she is in many ways more
supervised than ever.
After every meal, she checks in with an adult who makes sure
she is eating properly.
"Sometimes, I still think to this day, 'I wish I wasn't so
watched'," she says, glancing at her management team and
appearing to make sure she isn't going off the script.
Lovato has gained weight since exiting treatment - more than
10kg, she says.
Her figure on this occasion is largely hidden under black
clothing and layered necklaces. She is tan, has thick
eyeliner and appears to be wearing voluminous hair
Already, there has been public snarking about her new
appearance. After she wore a body-conscious dress at the MTV
Video Music Awards last month, her Twitter account was
inundated with hateful comments about her weight.
That kind of judgement was in part why, after treatment,
Lovato decided to quit her lucrative TV show.
"I just felt that being on camera for my first job wasn't the
smartest decision," she said.
"On TV, you have wardrobe fittings, you have four cameras on
you at all times, and you're worried about your angles and
your lighting and your shots."
On Unbroken, Lovato holds little back. One song, For the Love
of a Daughter - initially slated for release on her last
album - has a 4-year-old Lovato pleading with her father to
"put the bottle down" and questioning, "How could you ... put
your hands on the ones that you swore you loved?"
"A few years ago, when I was with the Disney Channel, I
didn't want parents having to explain to their children the
depth of the lyrics," Lovato says somewhat dismissively,
seeming reluctant to delve into more emotional territory.
For years, Lovato was able to hide the pain stemming from her
upbringing. When she first recorded her current single,
Skyscraper, over a year ago, she felt so disconnected from
the song's uplifting message that she doubled over in the
"People just thought I was really into the song," she
At the time, Lovato was forcing herself to vomit after
eating, which damaged her vocal cords; she blamed the
raspiness on acid reflux.
After treatment, Lovato rerecorded the single but ultimately
opted to put the original version on Unbroken.
"My voice is different now, but there just wasn't that same
spark," she said.
"I wanted to come out of the gate with this song, because a
lot of people were expecting me to talk about what I've been
through the past year. I want my music to do the explaining."