I recently finished watching the YouTube Demi Lovato Documentary, Dancing with the Devil (DWTD)(not to be confused with Dancing with the Stars), and as much as I admire Lovato’s humanity and transparency as an artist, the ending of the documentary and the release of a new album accompanying the documentary made me feel a bit… uneasy. After reading some comments under the final episode of the docu-series and miraculously being led to a stunning video essay created by former child star, Alyson Stoner, I began to piece together the “Why?” behind the uneasiness surrounding Lovato’s docu-series.
If you haven’t watched the documentary and the op-ed yet, it’ll only cost you about 2 hours of your time and I thought it was quite entertaining. Here are the links to give a bit more context to what we’re about to discuss:
Let’s dive into it, shall we?
The First 3 Episodes of the Demi Lovato Documentary
The funny story is that I started writing this review after the third episode of the docu-series because I felt so grateful for Lovato’s life and the miracle that is her existence. I just wanted to hug her and squeeze her tight because her life is such a gift.
I felt so appreciative of Demi Lovato’s incredible honesty and willingness to be real about all aspects of herself, not just the parts of her that look good.
It broke my heart to learn all of the trauma she’d been through. Being sexually taken advantage of, aggressively controlled, and blindly drugged. To see her talk and be able to coherently process what she’s been through was just so amazing to me cuz it’s like, dang, she should be dead, but by the grace of God, she survived and seems to be thriving. Emphasis on the word SEEMS. I don’t think everything is as peachy now as this documentary makes it seem.
Before I watched episode four of DWTD, Lovato’s album associated with the documentary dropped and that was an eyebrow-raiser for me. I was very curious about the content and depth of this music having followed such a tragic near-death experience. I was expecting my soul to be rocked like never before cuz Lovato’s music can do that to you. Yet, I listened to the album and I was incredibly underwhelmed.
For the experience that prefaced the album, the album felt not even like it waded in the shallow end but like it never even left the safety of the beach. The only song that said anything profound was “Anyone.” That song was raw and real. All of the other songs didn’t feel like a Phoneix rising from the ashes but rather, a Phoenix making its home in the ashes.
Specifically the song “Met Him Last Night” with Ariana Grande. Look at these lyrics:
These lyrics are trivializing such a dangerous relationship. And the worst thing about it too is that it’s probably people’s fave song on the album since Ariana Grande featured on it.
This woman, Lovato, was literally at death’s doorstep and this was what she wanted to say? Yeah, there were other songs that I won’t get deep into but overall, frankly, it was disappointing.
Shortly after the album was released, the final episode of the docu-series became available on YouTube. I watched episode 4 and it just continued the downhill, eyebrow-raising suspicion that I had after listening to the album.
These are the main elements that sparked my suspicion:
Demi Lovato’s mom’s attitude towards her daughter almost dying… it was almost as if there was no true sentiment or emotion there. I’m not one to judge someone’s parenting cuz I’m not a parent but dang – her mother appeared detached from her daughter’s well-being like her main concern was only her daughter remaining famous, relevant, and rich.
I can be completely wrong but those were just the vibes.
Lovato had already lost her dad and didn’t have much of a relationship with him and now it seems as though she didn’t have much of a relationship with her mother either. And if they did have a relationship, it was a nonchalant, business-centered one. Her mom didn’t protect her from the dangers of the industry.
This made me think of Keke Palmer and a story I heard of her mom shutting down the set of Akeelah and the Bee because they were skimming on Palmer’s education hours.
But unfortunately, Not every parent cares about their child more than they care about the money they’ll get from what the child does.
Yes, the same guy that owns all of Taylor Swift’s masters on all her old songs, yes him. The reason why Taylor is re-recording ALL of her old songs. That’s the guy that is now in charge of Demi’s career, in charge of her music.
Listen, I don’t know anyone’s 100% honest intentions, I can only assume, but I can at least 99% guarantee you that Braun is more concerned with how much money he knows he can milk out of Demi than he is concerned for her mental health. That’s on 99% sure. I suspect that this whole documentary is literally a way to monetize Demi’s trauma with no real actual concern for Demi’s holistic well-being.
The whole documentary no longer feels like a vulnerable tell-all to begin a new clean slate for healing but an exploitative promotion for another album. Exposing her shocking, dark secrets so that more people are interested in buying her album. The record label is just using her and all she knows is how to be used.
The Shroom Room
The fact that Demi is still doing drugs and has a “shroom room.” Like — what??? Demi’s support system kept trying to convince viewers that total sobriety doesn’t work for everyone. And maybe that’s true. I don’t know. I’m fortunate enough to not have struggled with addiction (chocolate addiction doesn’t count).
But Elton John, a man who’s been in similar shoes as Lovato said so matter-of-factly, “Moderation doesn’t work,” and he was the only person to tell it like it is. If anybody’s advice holds any weight, this man’s advice should hold the most given his age and experience.
I understand that you can’t cut someone off from 100 to 0 instantaneously but 0 should at least be the life goal. At least from my inexperienced, outsider point of view.
Her “yes men” friends. Look, if I was Demi’s friend I would not trust her at all. Her mind has been chemically altered, permanently. So everybody saying they have faith in her to be okay and having 3 cakes for her birthday and all that — I get the idea of giving Demi the freedom to choose, but her mind needs healing to the point where she has the mental capability of making smart choices. If I were someone close that she confided in I would tell her to shut the d*mn cameras off.
Step away from the microphone.
Step away from the production companies.
Take a break, honey.
Stop going back to the same environments and situations that got you here in the first place. We’re going to take all your hard-earned money and invest it in you alone. Away from watchful eyes, away from controlling producers, away from fake friends.
We’re just going to reconnect with you and find your inner worth and peace away from the noise and get your mind right with what you really want from this life. Everyone whose paycheck relies on your name will find another person to work with. They’ll be alright. But if you don’t start looking out for yourself, you’ll be dead and those people who were relying on you will have to find someone else to leech off of either way.
She needs a break.
She kept saying that music was her love and making music was her favorite thing. Honey, there is more to you than that. The stage, the adrenaline, the adoring fans, they’re also a drug.
Too much of her identity is in her beautiful, powerful, money-making voice and I worry that her talent is where she believes her value lies.
Who you are is more than what you do.
Mindsets are built and she’s been building really damaging thoughts for decades. Those thoughts need time to be dismantled. She needs time to develop a grounded sense of self that doesn’t sway based on public opinion.
So, Demi’s not Bipolar?
This revelation was strange to me because it seemed scripted and also if Demi lied to us once before, if even her close friends and family have admitted to what a good liar Demi is, why should we believe her now?
Alyson Stoner’s Op-Ed
After Demi’s Documentary, I began to really think about the imminent destruction of child stars.
Then I came across Alyson Stoner’s YouTube video which ended up being the mental organization and experienced perspective that I didn’t know I needed.
Alyson Stoner’s video essay is absolutely spot on and says everything and more about my concerns with child stars.
It’s an epidemic and we don’t talk about it enough. Rather we blame, degrade, mock, and make a spectacle out of the damaged human beings that we, as an audience, as consumers of the entertainment industry, have created them to be.
As a previous, mildly popular child star herself, there is none better than Alyson Stoner to discuss in more depth and clarity the mental, physical, emotional, and overall developmental trauma that child stars endure and the lack of action taken toward improving the aspects of the entertainment industry that set these children up for failure.
Stoner structures her essay like a script, illustrating the different “acts” that child stars endure which set them up for a catastrophic finale.
The Audition Room
She begins by noting the grooming that occurs in the audition room. She says, “There is this alarming dissonance about being coached to offer my six-year-old self vulnerably to unfamiliar adults who have power over my well-being and future livelihood.”
That quote hit me hard. That is so wild because, at a young, impressionable age, these children are taught that their well-being and the well-being of their families are reliant on them giving themselves away to strangers. You can see how that can easily lead to sexual harassment and abuse.
Child Labor Laws
Stoner then speaks on the long, unmonitored hours and the heavyweight of a franchise being placed on the child’s shoulders. Lovato mentioned this in her documentary as well. She was overworked and her mental and physical health fluctuated because of it.
The Boiling Point
Then, Stoner speaks about her personal boiling point. She talked about choosing to go to rehab and removing herself from her toxic environment because she dared to believe that her health mattered even if she was her only advocate. Her business advisors warned her against taking a break. They didn’t want her to risk losing momentum and potentially slowing down their income.
I feel like Lovato’s team probably advised her similarly but with her being in a fragile mental state, they convinced her that continuing to work, tour, and put out music was her choice. They convinced her that it was the best decision for her healing and I hope it is but I’m afraid that it’s not. The spotlight is her biggest drug.
Alyson Stoner doesn’t just bring the issue to light but she accompanies them with very doable, actionable solutions that make you wonder, “Why isn’t this already being done?”
- Have a mental health practitioner on every set ensuring that the child is being professionally assisted in regulating their emotions, shifting between identities, and debriefing after emotionally demanding scenes.
- Industry literacy courses for guardians of the children to ensure that they’re not taking advantage of the child’s talent to feed their greed. Ultimately, to ensure that they are equipped to help their child to navigate the demanding industry and be aware of their rights.
- More accountability for agencies and production companies. The industry will cut corners wherever it can in order to profit itself but there must be strict guidelines in place to ensure the safety and health of the vulnerable children they are employing.
Why Child Stars Shouldn’t Exist
Child stars growing up and becoming a trainwreck is a very common and consistent outcome. It’s interesting how, as a society, we’ve never narrowed in on it and considered it a problem. Rather we watch these trainwrecks in awe like these humans are meant for our entertainment. We put the scarlet letter of shame on them when they’re a victim of the society that we created.
Child stardom has proven to be really damaging time and time again. Think Amanda Bynes, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Raven Symone, Britney Spears, etc.
They grow up confused and don’t know who they are because every facet of their development has been traumatically hindered. They’re just money-making machines that has to then struggle to find their humanity and groundedness in something.
That’s why it’s sad when I see artists try so hard to stay relevant (I’m looking at you Lil Nas X). I get a sense of disconnect. A sense that these celebrities need this attention and validation because they haven’t anchored their sense of self in something sturdy. People’s attention shifts, attention spans are short, feelings change, and people find something newer, better, and shinier. It’s the society we built. And that desperate struggle for relevancy looks exhausting and ultimately unsatisfying since it’s so short-lived.
The few examples of child stars turning out alright are from having present, relentless parents who aren’t relying on their child for money and who ensure that the child is still being instilled with positive characteristics and reasonable priorities.
It’s a miracle that some child stars can pick themselves up and still live a decent life.
No More Documentaries Demi
I’m fearful for another Demi documentary a few years from now that negates everything that this documentary was. This one was supposed to be a powerful declaration of overcoming. It will mean nothing if a few years from now, another downfall reveals that what she revealed here wasn’t completely true.
I really don’t want her to die young. I see the confusion in her, an instability in knowing who she is at the age of 28. Of course, you grow and learn more about yourself indefinitely but at 28, you should at least have a foundational understanding of yourself.
From the little that I’ve seen of Demi’s life, I would encourage her to not go back out and put herself on display to make money for other people. She has the resources to step away for a moment and really find the inner peace that she yearns for. Get away from the noise. Get away from the gold diggers and stop trying to find wholeness in the arms of another person or in your success or even in your stunning voice.
I get that the studio is your happy place but you are more than a beautiful voice. More than your talent. Just be at peace with yourself.
She should not be put under the burning lights of the spotlight again so soon. She should not be promoting another album right now. I just think that it’s all that she knows how to do right now. All she knows is how to be a workhorse. How to sell herself. And I think the art of starting over is starting on a blank page, not this messy canvas that her life has become.
I genuinely want the best for Demi and truly hope that her story is uphill from here, but I fear that doing the same thing will reap the same dangerous consequences and really hope that she truly does find complete healing and peace where she is.
This thought journey that this post has become raised a lot of further inquiries concerning celebrities and the spiritual and mental deficiencies that can easily develop when fame is not well-handled, especially at sensitive ages. I think it’s easy to look down on celebrities and claim that they have no room to suffer when they look financially well off but I think the plight of these celebrities shows that spiritual poverty is just as intense, if not more so, than financial poverty. And I’m just gonna leave it there.
Rating: N/A /10
What do you think can be done to end the toddler to trainwreck industrial complex? Let me know in the comments below.
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Peace, love, and lots of popcorn,