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Demi Lovato on ‘Dancing With The Devil’
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Episode 5
Demi Lovato on ‘Dancing With The Devil’
Demi is revisiting her nearly fatal overdose in a new documentary, Dancing With The Devil, telling the story on her own terms. She tells us what gets her up in the morning and explains the importance of self-care and how it might also help you.

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Episode 5 Transcript: Demi Lovato on ‘Dancing With The Devil’

DEMI Lovato

Tue, 4/6 4:29PM • 23:54


people, demi, feel, life, share, story, demi lovato, continue, shame, knowing, documentary, mental health, bebop, struggles, experiences, deal, song, friends, year, fight


Demi Lovato, Diane Guerrero, Various Demi Fans

Diane Guerrero 00:02

Just a heads up. In this episode we talk about difficult issues like substance use and self-harm. A reminder that we are not clinical experts and, if you need professional support, there will be some links and resources listed in the podcast description. Demi Lovato. I have always been so compelled by her music. I mean, I've been digging on her since she was on Barney & Friends -- [excerpt of Demi singing on Barney & Friends -- "When I'm old enough to join the band/ I'll be marching all across this land / I'll be playing a song as I'm marching along/ when I'm old enough to join the band."] And I'm 10 years older than her. So, whatever. So what if I still rock Bebop undies. I'm not the only one. And obviously, I'm not the only Demi Lovato fan out there. Her work clearly resonates with a lot of other people, too.

Various Demi Fans 01:03

It's so nice, I guess, to hear someone, like, tell their story. And then, like, see her fighting her fight and then, like, succeeding. And then, also, if she fails, she fails. But, like, she accepts her failures and then continues to grow from it. / I've never heard anyone describe her like that. /Yeah, I really feel like I'm better off. She has just changed my life for the better. / I'm so thankful that I have a hero in my life, and that's Demi. She's my hero. I probably wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her.

Diane Guerrero 01:31

So, I met with Demi leading up to the premiere of her documentary film, Dancing With The Devil, which focuses on the time surrounding her overdose in 2018. So many people in Demi's position with such a massive audience don't share their experiences, their falls and their vulnerabilities in the way that she does. And, when she shares, it's powerful because it touches so many people. It touched me. But, whatever. I mean, this is a show about democratizing mental health tools, sharing stories, language and resources. So why have someone like Demi on? I'll tell you why. Because we know that shame and the visibility of mistakes is a huge impediment to healing and progress. And not only has Demi experienced this visibility in ways most of us will never ever know, she's also shared art that has come out of these experiences. And that's what I love about Demi. As she struggled publicly with her mental health, instead of hiding it and reinforcing social othering, she's grown and continues to grow and is sharing with us what she's learned.

Demi Lovato 02:56

I've had a lot of lives, like my cat, you know, I'm on my ninth life. I'm ready to get back to doing what I love, which is making music.

Diane Guerrero 03:05

So, you get to hear me totally geek out on this conversation. I couldn't believe that she said yes to this podcast. But, then again, I'm reminded that Demi Lovato is kick *ss. And I was so excited to talk to her, and it's pretty obvious. And it actually reminded me a lot of the last time I saw her. I'm Diane Guerrero, and I get vulnerable with our guest, Demi Lovato, after the break. Demi, do you remember when I met you? This is like before we knew the world was ending, and we were able to go to a performance venue. And, like, you just had released your song, Anyone. And I remember telling myself, "gosh, this says so much to me as a person who often feels alone, unheard or misunderstood." And I just... I had this urge to tell you that the song meant a lot to me. And then I saw you at that venue and it was a totally inappropriate time, but you were just such a sweetheart about it. I was... I was so happy that, that I got up and I. I said that to you.

Demi Lovato 04:39

Thank you so much for that sweet introduction. That was so, so sweet. I like... I loved meeting you. I'm so happy that you were able to relate to that song. That's why I make my music. You know. I, I go through a lot as a human on this earth and, if I can give back to society by the art that I create, that's the way that I want to do it.

Diane Guerrero 05:01

Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, and you do it in such a dope way, and not just... obviously, not with just anyone. But like, also I love me. Like, I ****ing... you know, I rock that song every time I'm, like, having a hard time. And I just wake up like, I love you for me, god****it [Demi: Oh, yes! Yes!] Uhm, and so, yo, I just wanna, again, congratulate you on just an incredible year. Like, I mean, I know it's been a hard time, but you have... you've had an incredible year, not only musically but, like, your voice. You're just using your platform, like, what... you just being present for all of these movements, uhm, and being a part of these social movements has been so incredible to, to watch you be a part of that fight, to follow you, to see you so involved. I mean, you've always been that, but in a time that I think that our country really, really, really needed everyone to just be all hands on deck, you really have demonstrated so much. And then, of course, your documentary, Dancing With The Devil, is premiering in SXSW, so congratulations for that too. [Demi: Thank you.] Yeah. So, so dope to see someone using their greatest superpower, which is to be vulnerable. And you have... you have shown that in every way.

Demi Lovato 06:11

Thank you!

Diane Guerrero 06:13

You're welcome.

Demi Lovato 06:14

I just want to say you're a big inspiration to me, because, you know, when I started following you, I saw how much you were posting and your activism work. And I just want to say, like, the person that I am today is a result of, you know, some of the incredible people that I've started to follow on Instagram and... and even just get to know, you know. I've, I've made a lot of friends over this last year. Uhm, and Loke being one of them, you know, we've gotten pretty close since we met at that poetry show last year. And, uhm, and it's just beautiful. You know I... I found that once I was able to do the work on myself, I could really show up for other people. And that's, that's what it's really about as like, let's, let's all work on ourselves so that we can show up for others. You know? You're so dope to follow and like such an inspiration. So, I just, like, thank you for saying that about me, but that's exactly how I feel about you. Like, yeah, you're dope.

Diane Guerrero 07:17

Thank you. Thanks, Demi. That feels so great. Thank you for saying that. [Demi: Of course.] I love that we're building this community because that's how we should use these platforms. Right... is to connect with people. To build a community of people who care. So, I wanted to ask you -- what do you love about yourself?

Demi Lovato 07:42

What do I love about myself? I love how free and open I am. Right now, in my life, I feel like I had to really strip myself of all constraints, to really become the person that I most identify with. And, in my life today... you know, I've tried on many identities throughout over the years. You know, the sexy, feminine popstar that I felt like people wanted me to be, or the poster child for recovery, and now I'm embracing the fact that my lack of commitment to any one identity isn't a lack of commitment. It's just an openness to continue to evolve. That's the thing that I love about myself today is I'm just continuing to evolve and, and I'm not attached to any specific identity. I'm just continuing to learn and grow. And tomorrow I might be somebody different. But it's because of a lesson that I would have learned today. That was important for me to learn.

Diane Guerrero 08:56

I love that -- to grow and evolve -- and I think that's what we should all be doing. And I love that you're... that you're leading with that. That's what I want to continue to do, grow and evolve forever.

Demi Lovato 09:12


Diane Guerrero 09:14

What makes you get up in the morning? Like, what makes you soar? Like...

Demi Lovato 09:21

What makes me soar?

Diane Guerrero 09:23

Like a bird in the sky.

Demi Lovato 09:25

You know, just knowing that every day is up to me is something that really helps me open my eyes in the morning. After living a life for other people so many years, I now wake up in the morning and I'm like what is going to make me feel the most loved and comfortable and supported today. And, if it's a hard day, it might be staying in bed watching movies. You know? If it's an easier day, it might be, like, I would really thrive by going on a hike and, you know, meditating or doing whatever I want to do today. Like, it's just knowing that there's some flexibility to every day in my life, to match my wants and my needs. And knowing that I have that, a little bit of spontaneity, room for spontaneity during my days, it was... what keeps my life exciting.

Diane Guerrero 10:26

Coming up, how elevating the voices of others has helped Demi. Demi, I've seen you very outspoken in the fight for social justice and equality. How has advocating for others affected your mental health?

Demi Lovato 10:58

For so many years, I was used to telling my story of my struggles and saying, "This is what I've been through and, if, you know, I can help others, this is what I... by sharing my story, then this will be good." And I realized, no, there's so much more to living and you only are able to begin living once you do the work on yourself, because then you can be there for other people. And then you can start sharing other people's stories and giving them a platform. And I think my world was a lot smaller when I was only telling my story. And, over the past year, my world's opened up a lot and it's given me more of a purpose, more of a fight to fight for people that don't have the same platform that I do.

Diane Guerrero 11:44

And I'm so glad you're here with us building something yummier, something honest. So Demi, in the documentary, you shared the first time about your overdose in 2018, and honestly, you don't owe us any of that. Why did you decide to tell that story? And why do it in documentary form?

Demi Lovato 12:09

Well, you know, I had the opportunity to have, like, exclusives with this magazine or whatever and this outlet and, it's like, it doesn't feel right. Like, it needs to come from... I always felt like it needed to come from me. Because then I could really decide how much I wanted to share. You know? And what I did with the doc, as I said when I first sat down, I was like, "Alright, I'm going to spill it all and whatever I don't want to use we can take out, but let's just get it on camera so we have it. And, if something feels [oof] that feels like too much, then I can deal with that later." But then I realized once I, I talked about everything, it felt so empowering and freeing that I just continued to talk. And look, I like to call myself an open book with boundaries because I feel like everyone deserves to keep something sacred for themselves. But, the things that I felt like would benefit others from knowing I definitely talked about, and... and I'm really excited for people to get to understand a little bit more of my past and my story. You know, if I can help people have compassion by, like, hearing someone else's story and saying, 'Oh, I didn't know that about them. And maybe I should be less quick to judge when I hear that they OD'd in the media.' If I can help them there, maybe they won't judge someone on the street that might be talking to themselves, or they won't judge someone that is in rehab. You know, it's like we all struggle and if we don't have compassion for our neighbors, if we don't have compassion for... Like, what are we doing here? You know?

Diane Guerrero 14:00

I love how, like, when people that are as talented and as compassionate as you share something so personal, that society tells you should have shame around, it automatically sheds some shame from us, right? Like, that's how I felt when I found out that you shared, and when you came out with this doc and... and you have been so open. But immediately that helped me, like, lose some of my shame, and I've actually been more open with my recovery journey and what I go through and, like, why... why were some of the reasons why I turned to substance use. And, and some of those, you know, are very similar to a lot of people, but some of them are different. And then that uniqueness is so special to share with folks. Why do you think that you turned to substance use or self-harm in times of distress?

Demi Lovato 14:55

One thing that I think people have a common misconception of is that if people are using drugs, or if they are dealing with an eating disorder or self-harm, that they want to die. And I actually said, there were many times in my life that those things stopped me from dying. In the same way that it almost killed me, tt saved my life at times because there were times that I dealt with suicidal ideations. And had I gone forward with that, in that moment, instead of another destructive coping mechanism, you know, I wouldn't be here to tell my story. So, I have to understand that everything in my life has served its purpose in that moment, but knowing how to continue to make better choices for myself today is what is key. So, I think I turned to those coping mechanisms because I genuinely was in so much pain, but I didn't want to die, and I didn't know what else to do. And, yeah, I think I did the best that I could at times. And, now that I have other tools and other resources, I know how else to deal and how else to cope, so that I don't have to resort to those behaviors again.

Diane Guerrero 16:17

Yes. And, not to equate our experiences, because I was never in the public eye, but I feel similarly, like, when I finally started learning language for what I was feeling, you know, it was such a game changer. Because people do say that, you do this because you hate yourself, or because you want to die. And it's not that at all. It's because you don't have either the resources or the language or the tools to answer some of those questions or to figure out how you're feeling. You know, you've always been so giving and generous to your fans, Demi, and you've always shared your mental health struggles with them, even at an early age. Why did you do that?

Demi Lovato 17:03

I didn't have a lot of people that I looked up to doing that for me in the public eye. And so, I felt very isolated and very alone at 12 and 13. And I would look at people in the media, and I would... I would just compare myself; not feel good enough, not feel fun enough, and wonder how it was that these people were living lives that seemed so perfect. But, yeah, I was in so much pain. And when I got into the spotlight, I was like, "Oh, it's not perfect here. Nobody has a perfect life. It just looks that way." And so, if I can break that facade for Hollywood, sorry Hollywood, but someone's got to do it. Because we're presenting unrealistic expectations to people by only presenting our best selves at all times. And I needed someone to say, I'm not perfect all the time, in order for me to accept that I'm not going to ever be perfect. And that's okay.

Diane Guerrero 18:11

Gosh, I'm so excited that we're allowing ourselves to just be and just be honest. It's like, no, when you are hurting, the best thing to do is to talk about that **it that's hurting you.

Demi Lovato 18:23

Yes, absolutely!

Diane Guerrero 18:26

So how did making this documentary and doing this really intensive introspection affect how you see the world?

Demi Lovato 18:34

What this did for my worldview was it opened up my perception, you know, of that everyone has their own story, everyone's going through it. We don't know... not everything that we see is, is the way that it is. And, you know, for a long time people have... have thought they knew my story or thought they knew what happened in 2018. And I think they're, they're finding out that they didn't. And, so to show people that, like, you don't have the full picture all the time and, and that's okay, but just, like, go easy on others. Like, that was a big message. You know? I, I was wanting other people to go easier on me, but then I was, like, I need to go easier on others. So, if we don't all have the picture all the time, we have to understand that we don't know everything about everyone, and sometimes we have to wait until they tell us their story.

Diane Guerrero 19:31

Absolutely. And what are you doing to, like, heal now? What's it been like, your path for healing?

Demi Lovato 19:39

I am really big into meditation. So, I do that daily and I've become very spiritual, and that has been a huge part of my journey.

Diane Guerrero 19:52

Is that some of the stuff that I see online. Like, when I follow you, you have like, almost like triangle thing that you go... [Demi: The pyramid. Yeah.] Yeah. [laughter]

Demi Lovato 20:01

Yeah, I meditate and that... that supposedly has healing benefits, and I believe in them. So...

Diane Guerrero 20:08

Yeah. I'm... Dude, I'm like... I'm so open to, to just different and, like, not having all the answers and, like, welcoming the unknown. I think that's beautiful. [Demi: Totally.] What are some of the small ways that... that our listeners, you think can start to break down the stigma of mental health?

Demi Lovato 20:31

I think we have to create conversations and also safe spaces for people to talk about what they're going through. If there's always a negative connotation to someone asking for help, or somebody being vulnerable, no one's going to ever ask for it. So, showing people that... that it's okay to ask for help is so important.

Diane Guerrero 20:55

Well, damn, Demi, thank you so much.

Demi Lovato 20:59

Thank you so much.

Diane Guerrero 21:11

I want to thank Demi for being so vulnerable with us. I think artists like Demi are important allies in the movement for liberation. She reminds us of her and everyone's humaneness. We all experience so much misplaced shame in our lives. And we've been taught to believe that we should feel shame for so many things. **ck shame. Shame is standing between us and being better human beings, for ourselves and for other people. I'm so excited that this year we have seen a global paradigm shift. And I hope that we will continue to apply the lessons we have learned. And for those of you who caught me saying Bebop at the top when I should have been saying baby bop. Good looking out, my dudes. I love you and you love me. You know the rest. If you've got a story that you want to share, send it my way. Record it on your phone's voice memo app and email it to Yeah, No, I'm Not Okay is a production of Laist Studios. Remember to rate and review our show. It helps people to find it. If you like it, share it with your friends. The more people we can get to have conversations about mental health the better. Jessica Pilot is our talent manager and producer. Our executive producer is Leo G. Web design by Andy Cheatwood and the digital and marketing teams at Southern California Public Radio. Thanks to the team at Laist Studios, including Taylor Coffman, Kristen Hayford, Kristen Muller, Michael Cosentino, Robert Jo, Mildred Langford and Leo G. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people. Additional support comes from the Angel Foundation, supporting transformational leaders, and by the California Health Care Foundation, dedicated to improving the mental health care system for all Californians.