When I think of Demi Lovato, I see the embodiment of a great conflict within modern media. What began as a pure, innocent talent on the Disney Channel grew to be manipulated, scarred and eroded by the pressures of Hollywood.
When news broke that Demi had gone into rehab in 2010, it is safe to say that few people were shocked. Saddened, certainly; but news such as this rarely seem to surprise the public any more. So when the then 18 year-old Disney starlet started treatment for issues relating to substance abuse, an eating disorder, and self-injury, most people didn’t blink. It was another train wreck, another child star gone off the rails, another cover on a tabloid.
It was a classic Hollywood tragedy. Yet in the following years we have seen something beautiful come out of this. After a stint in rehab, the teenager seemingly proceeded to put herself back together. She opened up about her struggles, shared her story and chose to become the inspiration for many tween girls worldwide. In doing this, Demi has shed light on the issues of self-injury and her mantra of ‘Stay Strong’ has become a cultural phenomenon. She has proceeded to release music, become a judge on America’s’ X Factor’ and has just become an author. Not bad for a 21 year-old.
So why do I write this? I have always been a fan of Demi Lovato. I had loved her pure, girl next door image and happily sang along to her power melodies on the Disney Channel. As a Christian who also loved pop culture, she seemed like the perfect choice of role model. Of course, this meant that I was somewhat shattered when we found out she wasn’t quite so innocent, and was dealing with quite serious issues.
I am still a fan of Demi. Not only because I enjoy her work in the media, but because I admire her. What sets Demi Lovato apart from her peers, and indeed many people, is that she has chosen to use her battles to make her stronger. She has chosen to change her habits, to break the chains of her past that caused her harm, and to actively work towards sharing this hope with other people.
I had the great privilege of seeing Demi perform at the House of Blues, Orlando in October. What I observed was not a broken or manipulated pop icon, but a real person who genuinely wanted to help her fans. She did not shy away from her past, but went out of her way to tell these many young people that hope and help was possible; as she said, “If you get help for what you are dealing with, you can get through it.”
While I enjoyed the soaring vocals of that night, the talent and the sincerity behind every lyric Demi sang, what stood out to me the most were these words. Because in them, I saw great hope for my generation. The media has the ability to destroy lives. It can create wealth and short lived success at the cost of happiness and health, often having the audience conform to these ideals too. Yet I see that there are people, like Demi Lovato, who are still willing to change this; people who have come out of the ashes of Hollywood like a phoenix, and are genuinely seeking to help others.
Like anything on earth, there is both dark and light within the media industry. Often, we can focus on the darkness because we see the great need for redemption within it. I myself frequently feel this way, and it is a key factor in why I want to be a ‘secular’ journalist. But I must remind myself not to forget these moments of light; the hope that is just waiting to be woken inside my generation, and which can be through the brave actions of individuals.
I am challenged to remember this fact; to stop myself before I speak in judgement about people who I have never met and only read about. Perhaps there is far more going on behind the words we see printed in the magazines, or the provocative dance moves and distasteful lyrics we hear on the radio. Seeing the journey of Demi Lovato, I have been convicted to act and write with compassion. The media industry will never be free of darkness but there is still room for change within it, and I am humbled and thankful that a 21 year-old singer who I have never met taught me this lesson.
This article was published on Apropos Walk.