What Demi Lovato Really Thinks About Child Stardom, Depression, & Sobriety

“I’ve had my ups and downs with sobriety. But sober is the only way for me to be.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 14: Demi Lovato is seen at "Jimmy Kimmel Live" on July 14, 2022 in Los Angele...
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Demi Lovato (who uses she/her and they/them pronouns) has always been open about her life, and she’s hoping her stories can help others navigate similar circumstances. In an interview for the Sept. 22 SPIN Magazine cover story, the actor and singer says, “I'm just a very open book. When I learned that it's okay to be vulnerable, I started sharing my story with people, and it started helping people, and then I just kind of was like, ‘Oh, I'll just keep sharing and sharing because it'll help someone.’ Sometimes it doesn't help people. Sometimes it just gives too much insight into my life.”

Lovato has been a recognizable face since she was 16 when she arrived on the scene via the Disney Channel film Camp Rock and got her start in entertainment even earlier than that when she was cast on Barney and Friends at age 10. But becoming a child star is something she doesn’t wish upon anyone.

“I’ll always look at child stardom, at what I went through, as something traumatic for me,” she told SPIN. “No child should ever be in the limelight. It’s too much pressure. There’s an absence of childhood that you never get to experience. It makes things confusing because you develop problems from that experience, whether it’s addiction or trust issues or financial stress. It follows you into adulthood.” Lovato isn’t the first former child star to express this sentiment; most recently, former Nickelodeon actors Jennette McCurdy and Josh Peck shared their own negative experiences with child stardom.

Lovato and the Jonas Brothers in 2008 at the European premiere of Camp Rock.Dave M. Benett/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Even prior to becoming a household name from her starring roles on Disney’s Camp Rock, Sonny With A Chance, and Princess Protection Program, Lovato said that she was put in beauty pageants starting at age seven. In her YouTube documentary Dancing With The Devil, she shared how much those pageants affected her self-image. “My self-esteem was completely damaged from those beauty pageants,” she said in the first episode. “I remember making a pact with myself saying, ‘If I don’t win this pageant, I will never eat again.’”

Lovato’s early struggles manifested into substance use later in life. She made headlines during the press tour for her last album Dancing with the Devil... the Art of Starting Over when she declared herself “California sober,” meaning she still allowed herself a moderate amount of weed consumption and drank alcohol in moderation. That balance came with many critics (including Elton John, who has been sober for 32 years) and Lovato soon realized she needed to go all in on sobriety. “I’ve always been an all-or-nothing person,” she said. “I’ve had my ups and downs with sobriety. But sober is the only way for me to be.”

Lovato just turned 30 and shared that she hopes it will be a “new chapter in her life” and that the decade will bring her a family. But it’s also a milestone birthday that she wasn’t sure she would ever get to see. “That's something I thought was impossible to do,” she said of reaching 30. “Even in bouts of sobriety, my depression was so strong that I didn't think I'd get here today. But here I am.”