Singer/actress Demi Lovato is back on the scene after going through some serious personal difficulties. She has gotten help, and she is having renewed success in her career. Most of all, she feels better about herself, and has become a symbol and a spokesperson for many girls who secretly suffer difficulties like herself. Let’s take a brief look at Demi’s story and see if we can learn something from it.
Performing seems to be part of Demi’s DNA. Her mom was a singer and a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.
Demi learned to play the piano at age 7 and also landed her first television acting role at that age (2000). She played in the Disney series “Barney and Friends” along with her newfound friend Selena Gomez. Both Demi and Selena have risen to stardom as they grew.
Demi’s big step came when she played the feature role in the TV movie “Camp Rock” alongside Joe Jonas in 2007. The movie was a giant hit and highlighted her singing talents as well as her acting.
At the same time (literally the same day) she won the lead role in the series “Sonny with a Chance”. In 2008 she recorded her first album. Both the TV series and her album did very well.
Shortly after this she landed a costar role in another TV movie, “The Princess Protection Program”, alongside her close friend Selena Gomez. The movie was televised in 2009 and was an additional hit for Demi and Selena, further advancing their careers.
Around this time Demi also toured with the Jonas Brothers and was well received by audiences as the opening singer for the concerts.
A budding romance with Joe Jonas also surfaced for a while, but was short lived.
However, during all the rise to success, Demi was struggling. She was dealing with some serious emotional issues that she had managed to keep hidden.
Like many young girls, Demi had been subjected to bullying by some of her classmates at school when she was younger (during early grade school and especially during 7th grade), and this left some deep emotional scars on her. A number of her classmates repeatedly told her she was fat and that she was a “whore”. Other insults followed.
This might seem unimportant to a girl who is already appearing on television, but words hurt. They hurt more than we can imagine. And if the insults and bullying come from “friends” you are seeing every day, there seems to be no escape.
Eventually, Demi begged her mom to homeschool her, but she continued to carry a deep feeling of worthlessness in spite of her success.
On the outside, Demi seemed to be doing fine, but secretly she was hurting herself. As feelings of worthlessness invaded her she began slashing and cutting herself. She also began purposely vomiting her food (bulimia) in order to try to become ultra-thin and combat the “fat-girl” image she had in her head.
As she reached her later teens she also became very angry and rebellious at times.
Things reached a head when, during a plane flight in October 2010, she physically attacked another girl who had done something that Demi felt was offensive, even though it wasn’t. (Apparently, the girl had informed Demi’s managers, out of concern for Demi, that she had been partying pretty over-the-top, etc.) All the pain and frustration she had felt from the earlier bullying seemed to boil over in this incident.
Demi was shocked at what she done, as were her parents. She decided she needed professional help, and checked herself into a rehab center.
To publicly admit our failings and sickness is not easy, especially if you are a successful celebrity. But Demi and her parents felt this was the best thing she could do.
The center where she was interned (www.timberlineknolls.com) has a Christian background and offers optional Christian programs. This element seemed to help Demi. She began to see the importance of having regular time alone with God every day.
Renewing the awareness of God’s personal love for us on a daily basis helps us face our challenges and difficulties with more hope and joy. Demi admits that this is an important part of her daily routine even today.
Demi also took part in workshops on her bulimia and self-esteem problems. She found the support of other girls who were working through these problems and who, like her, had also suffered the effects of bullying.
A few months after treatment Demi appeared on several TV shows and was totally candid about her sicknesses and her treatment. She felt she should be honest because she knew that many other teen girls suffer from depression, eating disorders, etc.
Demi explained that during her early teens she thought she had to hide her problems. She had never heard of a teen star who had these type of problems, and she thought that if she was to be successful she had to be absolutely perfect.
Her honesty was fruit of her desire to offer a new model to teens, a model who is as human as they are. Demi realized that her honesty about her own struggles might inspire other teens to get help, just as she did, and to have hope that they can live meaningful lives even with these difficulties.
The response from Demi’s fans has been fantastic. Many of the girls who have followed Demi’s career closely have also found strength to be honest about their personal problems and get the help they need.
Demi has become a spokesperson for these type of girls. She partners with Pacer to promote anti-bullying campaigns. She also speaks regularly about eating disorders and some of the other problems she deals with in her personal life.
Meanwhile, Demi’s professional career has also taken off again. The “new-look Demi” has attracted a lot of attention in the fashion world. She no longer tries to look like a super-thin model, but dresses in a way that highlights the other aspects of her natural beauty.
She has been well received as a judge in the TV program “The Voice” this season. In fact her presence has apparently boosted viewership by younger viewers.
Demi’s singing career is also back on track. This December she will release her newest album.
We can only admire someone like Demi. Her honesty about her difficulties has helped thousands, maybe millions, of teen girls. We pray that she continue to flourish and continue to be a positive role model for girls everywhere. If she has some set-backs, as we all do, we pray that she will bounce right back and continue to look to God’s love and the positive things in her life as a source of joy, peace and strength.
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him . . (Rom 8:28)
“But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God …” (John 11:4)
“In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
About conversion and beginning again:
1426 Nevertheless the new life received in Christian initiation has not abolished the frailty and weakness of human nature, nor the inclination to sin that tradition calls concupiscence, which remains in the baptized … This is the struggle of conversion directed toward holiness and eternal life to which the Lord never ceases to call us.
1432 God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is … converted.
2015 The way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress … lead(s) to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes.
About bullying and detraction:
2476 When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity.
2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:
– of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor;
– of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them;
– of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.
2478 To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way…
2486 Since it violates the virtue of truthfulness, a lie does real violence to another. … It contains the seed of discord and all consequent evils. Lying is destructive of society; it undermines trust among men and tears apart the fabric of social relationships.
2507 Respect for the reputation and honor of persons forbids all detraction and calumny in word or attitude.
On prayer and meditation:
2712 Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more.
2706 … To the extent that we are humble and faithful, we discover in meditation the movements that stir the heart and we are able to discern them.
2707 There are as many and varied methods of meditation as there are spiritual masters. Christians owe it to themselves to develop the desire to meditate regularly … But a method is only a guide; the important thing is to advance, with the Holy Spirit, along the one way of prayer: Christ Jesus.
2709 What is contemplative prayer? St. Teresa answers: “Contemplative prayer in my opinion is nothing else than a close sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him who we know loves us.” Contemplative prayer seeks him “whom my soul loves.”
“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, no. 18)
“Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.” (Pope Benedict XVI, God is Love, no. 18)
“Dear young people … The Lord asks each one of you to cooperate in building the city of man … For this reason I invite you to seek always, with patient perseverance, the true Face of God … Seeking the Face of God is the profound aspiration of our heart and is also the answer to the fundamental question that continues to surface ever anew in contemporary society.” (Pope Benedict XVI to university students, December 15, 2011)
“Whatever hardship or drought befall us, he (Christ) is the source that offers us the water of life, that feeds and strengthens us. He takes upon himself all our sins, anxieties and sufferings and he purifies and transforms us, in a way that is ultimately mysterious … God can transform into love even the burdensome and oppressive aspects of our lives.” (Pope Benedict XVI, September 22, 2011)
- What ways does Demi Lovato use to try to deal with the effects of bullying in her life? When we suffer bullying or detraction what ways can we overcome its negative effects on our attitude and actions? Are there any other helps besides those mentioned in this article?
- Do you think Demi will be successful in overcoming her personal struggles in the future? What new challenges will she face?
- Do you think admitting your faults and failings in public is a good idea? When do you think it is a bad idea? When is it a good idea?
- Do you admire someone like Demi? Do you think she is a “real” person or is a fake?
- Can you name some other people that you admire for working to overcome their weaknesses?