By the time she was 25 years old in the summer of 2018, Demi Lovato tallied more than a billion views of her music videos on YouTube, earned a Grammy nomination, scored two Billboard Pop Song No. 1s, and successfully made the potentially awkward transition from Disney child star to adult pop phenomenon.
But after six years of sobriety, she was also battling a relapse into drug addiction.
In the upcoming four-part YouTube Originals documentary “Demi Lovato: Dancing with Devil,” the singer reveals what led to a nearly-fatal overdose on July 28, 2018, and the hospitalization and recovery treatment that followed. At YouTube Original’s virtual panel at the CTAM Winter 2021 Press Tour on Wednesday, Lovato and executive producer/director/screenwriter Michael D. Ratner spoke about the upcoming project.
In the trailer, Lovato says that she had three strokes and a heart attack during the overdose, and doctors said she had “five to 10 minutes left.” She was left with brain damage, and Lovato said during the panel that now she can’t drive because of the blind spots in her vision, and that it took her several months to re-learn to read. “For the past couple years, I’ve heard a lot of stories about my life and what people think has happened, and I wanted to set the record straight,” Lovato said. “If it can help you, I hope that it can. That was ultimately my purpose to putting this out, to help people on this path.”
From the official synopsis from YouTube Originals: “Director Michael D. Ratner is granted unprecedented access to the superstar’s personal and musical journey during the most trying time of her life as she unearths her prior traumas and discovers the importance of her physical, emotional, and mental health. Far deeper than an inside look beyond the celebrity surface, the docuseries is an intimate portrait of addiction, and the process of healing and empowerment.”
“Music is my religion,” Lovato said on Wednesday about the harrowing aftermath of the overdose. “I still take from different spiritual practices, and that was part of my evolution and personal growth.”
In addition to the CTAM panel, buzz for the documentary started to build when it was announced as part of the virtual 2021 SXSW lineup earlier this month. “It’s impressive and rare to see a pop superstar tell their story so authentically and without pretense,” said Janet Pierson, SXSW director of film, when the announcement was made that “Dancing with the Devil” will have its world premiere at the opening night of the festival. “We’re privileged to present this intimate journey told with such vulnerability. Demi Lovato’s profound interest in mental health awareness is helping change the landscape of a crucial issue in this year of national and international trauma and loss.”
On Wednesday, Lovato said she doesn’t want to consider it a burden to share her experiences with her fans. “I’m a truthteller,” she said. “If we don’t acknowledge our feelings, if we’re never vulnerable with other people…what people don’t realize about anger is that it’s actually sadness turning inside.”
This is the second time Lovato has teamed with YouTube on a documentary project. In 2017 “Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated,” directed by Hannah Lux Davis, was released; it has since been viewed more than 35 million times.
Written by Ann Donahue | IndieWire