Back in 2010, Demi Lovato was a Disney darling from Camp Rock and Sonny With a Chance. In both, Demi played the goofy girl-next-door with major talent and a heart of gold. Off-screen, however, things were more complicated for the singer/actress. Her Disney-girl exterior was beginning to crack. Reports of partying and drug use began creeping into the tabloids. It all came to a head when Demi reportedly punched one of her backup dancers on her Jonas Brothers tour after the dancer told producers about her partying ways. Demi left the tour days later and headed for rehab, where she dealt with her bipolar disorder, bulimia, and cutting.
Demi Lovato is not the first child star — or Disney star, for that matter — to go through a tough time in their teens. What makes Demi's story so different from the typical starlet is not that she struggled, but that she has dedicated her life to overcoming her issues... and, for the first time, acting as a role model for her young fans.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly — out November 15 — Demi once again opens up about her past problems. She admits that she didn't always want to call herself a role model. In fact, denying her role model status actually made it easier for Demi to not worry about the consequences of her dangerous behaviors.
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.
Today, Demi Lovato is writing a tell-all memoir about her struggles — a book where she will speak candidly about subjects like her previous drug use and her eating disorder. The reason? Demi is hoping that her past struggles might help someone in her position, both in and out of the industry.
While Demi may have cleaned up her act, it's interesting to see how different her view is on her role model status as compared to certain other former child stars, namely her friend and fellow Disney channel star Miley Cyrus. Unlike Demi, Miley has a very different approach to how she perceives her place in her fan's lives. In an interview with Harper's Bazaar in 2010, Miley spoke about her role model status:
My job isn’t to tell your kids how to act or how not to act because I’m still figuring that out for myself.
It's interesting to see how these two stars — who came from a very similar background — have perceived the consequences of their actions. Demi credits her fans as a reason for staying clean and leading a responsible life. After hitting "rock bottom," Demi was determined to show fans that she could come out strong on the other side. After her stint in rehab, Demi really did seem to get her act together, both professionally and personally. She admits to being in a much happier and healthier place. She's taken on new roles within the industry, first as a judge on The X Factor and now as a recurring guest star on Glee.
Miley, on the other hand, has built an empire on scandal. She grinds on Robin Thicke. She can't stop talking about how much she loves weed. She prefers pasties to full-covered tops.
Miley Cyrus hasn't been to rehab and hasn't needed to seek medical help for a mental disorder, but that doesn't mean that her partying isn't a problematic image for her young fans to see. And while Miley may have chart-topping songs and the cover of Cosmopolitan, that doesn't mean that fans accept her behavior.
While Demi doesn't want her fans associating her with drugs or partying, Miley really, really wants fans to associate her with drugs and partying. Just take a look at Miley's video for "We Can't Stop" — complete with the lyrics "dancing with Molly" — or her blunt-smoking at the European Music Awards.
Both of these stars have very carefully constructed images. Demi represents a more mature, been-there-done-that attitude toward partying, whereas Miley is still very much in it. While Miley may not have a problem necessarily, it's worth asking whether her attitude toward being a role model will change with time.
As for Demi, we hope that she can stick with her positive attitude towards fame and keeps herself happy and healthy in the process. Ultimately, that's what really counts.