DEMI LOVATO HAS BRAVELY TAKEN ON HER DEMONS AND OPENED HER HEART FOR THE WORLD TO SEE. NOW, JUST 23, POWERED BY HER NOT-OF THIS-EARTH SINGING ABILITY, SHE IS POISED TO SOAR ONCE AND FOR ALL.
By Jesús Triviño Alarcón Photographs By John Russo
SHE'S A SNAPCHAT QUEEN
She's a Snapchat queen today: Demi Lovato’s makeup and eyebrow game is so strong and her lip-syncing so on point (doing Cher’s “Believe,” of course) that she could win RuPaul’s Drag Race without ever touching an elimination stage. She even has a heart-shaped mole! Alas, the whole visual effect is simply created by one of the app’s filters, which Lovato uses to contort her face as crazily as she pleases. “With Snapchat you don’t have to worry about it looking a certain way,” says the unfiltered Lovato, looking snug and comfy in an oversize yellow Moschino sweater and Clark Kent–style glasses at the Malibu home where she just completed her latest Latina cover shoot. “I have so much fun with the filters. I love it.”
Her cheeky Snapchat posts are a sideshow, of course. What she really wants to talk about is her serious embrace of music, which allows her to demonstrate more clearly than ever that the heavens blessed her with vocal cords of gold.
And everyone is noticing. “Lovatics,” her legion of fans, have been cheering her every step of the way; Rolling Stone praised the “powerful vocals” on her latest album, Confident; even Justin Timberlake, who certainly knew all about Lovato’s formidable talent, was bowled over by her performance at the iHeartRadio Music Awards in April. Yet the ever-growing popularity and accolades aren’t the be-all, end-all for Lovato. The objective is more fundamental: create music that matters.
“I don’t care about radio hits,” says Lovato, who grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, and Gladys Knight. “When you try hard for that, it doesn’t happen. It’s songs like ‘Stone Cold’ that I don’t get tired of singing on tour. I get tired of singing ‘Give Your Heart a Break’ and even ‘Confident’ already. I have yet to reach my peak, and also, my voice is better now than it was a year ago. Now I can show people what I can do.”
Lovato’s doing plenty. The big four headlines: She’s embarking on a summer tour, Honda Civic’s Future Now, with best bud Nick Jonas, with whom she also co-launched a record label, Safehouse; she’s head-over-heels in love with Wilmer Valderrama; and now critics are considering her one of popular music’s most powerfully expressive voices, along with the almighty Adele. To put it in millennial terms: Lovato is real AF.
With realness comes hard truth, and Lovato’s been an open book since her well-documented days of battling drug addiction, bipolar disorder, and bulimia. It’s that very honesty, in fact, that invites young women to identify with her and root for her. The world never has to wonder where Lovato stands on something, because she’s usually tapping away on her phone and racing to post before you can say “tweet.” “I’m definitely passionate about the things I believe in,” she says.
No hot topic is off-limits. When a judge blocked fellow pop star Ke$ha’s petition to be released from a recording contract—she accused her producer, Dr. Luke, of subjecting her to years of rape and abuse (allegations he has denied)—Lovato was quick to express herself on social media.
“I thought it was extremely brave of a pop star in the industry to come out and talk about that,” she says. “I do believe it’s very fucked up that he’s not letting her go, aside from all of the other stuff. I think women artists shouldn’t compete—we have to support each other.”
"Wilmer is very manly, and he can be stubborn like Latino men can, but he’s protective and he cares so much and loves so hard."
For encouragement and love, Lovato has two special men: her new fur baby, Batman, a mixed Yorkshire terrier and poodle, and her longtime beau Valderrama. Their relationship had been on-and-off for a few years, but they kept it under wraps until 2014, when their passion exploded into public view and gave the world #relationshipgoals envy.
“When I dated white guys, it wasn’t as passionate as my relationship with Wilmer,” she says with a smile bigger than the Kool-Aid man’s. “Maybe that’s just Wilmer. But I do believe that Latin people are just more expressive, more passionate with their emotions. He’s very manly, and he can be stubborn like Latino men can, but he’s protective and he cares so much and loves so hard. I’ve been blessed enough to have him in my life, and not just as my man, but also my best friend.”
I HAVE YET TO REACH MY PEAK. NOW I CAN SHOW PEOPLE WHAT I CAN DO.
Lovato has not only paired off with a Latino—and men don’t get more Latino than Valderrama—she chose one with Colombian and Venezuelan parents. And that means dealing with his mami. From the sound of it, Lovato feels right at home in Casa Valderrama.
“His mom teaches me to cook. She showed me how to make arepas,” Lovato says. As for the possible language barrier between her and Valderrama’s Spanish-speaking mom, well, that’s no problem. “I can understand Spanish better than I can speak it,” Lovato says. “I’m not good at retaining information or even my own song lyrics, so remembering an entire language has been difficult for me. #SayNoToDrugs,” she adds with a laugh.
All this talk about home cooking has made Lovato hungry. She pops open some Tupperware and digs into her fourth portion-controlled meal of the day: Mexican meatloaf with green beans and potatoes. Having struggled with body-image issues, she’s now on a strict diet-and-exercise regimen.
“For her, food was the enemy, and I wanted to show her that food can really be your friend,” says personal trainer Ronny Camacho, who’s been whipping Lovato into shape since January 2015, while also working with Valderrama. “My goal for her is to eat four meals a day without somebody putting a gun to her head. As far as the workouts, she loves to train hard.”
Lovato is easily in the best shape of her life. She’s toned and fit, and for someone who has battled eating disorders, it’s a huge triumph for her to accept herself as she really is, imperfections and all.
“I’ve actually been on a meal plan for almost two years now, because in my recovery I have to surrender control over food to somebody else so I can just focus on my mental state,” she says. “I’ve been my heaviest in my relationship with Wilmer and also been my thinnest. He’s seen it all and loves me equally, and it gives me confidence to know that.”
While she’s passionate about her gym time, she’s looking forward to the day she turns 60 and can indulge in as much cake as her chubby senior-citizen heart desires. Until then, her goal is to stay on course in all areas, and, naturally, to continue speaking her mind. She’s been pretty adamant about her choice for the next president, and, let’s just say, she isn’t going for a Republican, nor feeling the Bern: It’s Hillary Clinton all the way.
“The reason ‘I’m with her’ is because out of everybody running, she is the most qualified and she will get shit done,” she says. Immigration reform is an issue close to her heart this election year. “I can hopefully help open people’s eyes to how much racism is affecting our country and now infiltrating it in a sense where we might have an incredibly racist Republican candidate.
It’s terrifying to think that families can be, and sometimes are, separated on a daily basis.”
Lovato knows about loss. A series of deaths hit her hard last year, when she and Valderrama mourned a close friend, two uncles, a grandfather, and two beloved dogs. That’s a difficult year for anyone.
“When I say goodbye to somebody, I tell them I love them, if I do,” she says with conviction. “I make sure to hug them. I make sure to look at them like it’s the last time I’ll ever see them.” The feeling will permeate her next album, she says, which she vows will have a more soulful vibe. “There’s a lot of pain that I experienced over the past year, and I’m so ready to write about it,” she says. “I’ve stayed sober through it all, I’m a stronger person, but it’s definitely been a very painful year.”
"When I say goodbye to somebody, I tell them I love them, if I do. I make sure to look at them like it’s the last time I’ll ever see them."
For now, thankfully, things are looking much brighter—Lovato’s a Snapchat dynamo, she’s raising Batman, she finally got laser eye surgery so she can ditch the Coke-bottle glasses, and, of course, she’s rehearsing for her 37- city tour with Nick Jonas, which begins June 24 in Sunrise, Fla.
“I’ve watched her grow and evolve into a strong and fearless advocate and businesswoman,” says Jonas. “Not only is her talent unmatched, she’s also one of the funniest people I know. I’m so proud of her.”
And she’s not done. Lovato continues to be an advocate for many issues, including mental health care. She doesn’t only talk the talk on social media, she walks the walk in Washington, D.C., with her Be Vocal initiative, which brings awareness and aid to people living with mental illnesses.
“We have to figure out something as a country about how we get mental health care to be as accessible as physical health care,” she says, her voice intensifying. “When you take things to Capitol Hill, it’s tangible and you really feel like you’re making a difference. And if you’re having conversations that are uncomfortable and you’re sharing your story of being vulnerable, people relate. It’s harder for people to relate to you as an artist if you only talk about your love life.”
That willingness to raise the real issues of real people is the boldness of Demi Lovato. She’s dealt with the same struggles, fought her way up mountainsides, and now is using her powerful voice to speak for the voiceless.
Behind The Scenes
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jesús Triviño Alarcón
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Jesus Trivino Alarcon began his professional journalism career at Vibe and has held editorial positions at Harris Publications, MyNuvoTV.com, and BET.com. Additionally, he has written and reported for the NY Daily News, SLAM, The Source, XXL, Inked, SOHH.com, People.com, Essence.com, and many more. In his 14-year career he’s interviewed countless celebrities including Carmelo Anthony, Demi Lovato, Marc Anthony, Rosario Dawson, Willie Colón, Jay-Z, Nas, Jessica Alba, John Leguizamo, 50 Cent, Kanye West, among others. Today, as Latina’s Entertainment Director he’s constantly thinking WWJD—What Would Juanes Do? Follow me on Instagram @JesusTalks and Twitter @JesusTalkz