THE INSIDER: DEMI LOVATO
on girl-to-girl bullying and how she got her focus back.
We've already been there and can promise you that mean girls don't finish first—we're all super nice and look how cool we are! Demi told us about how she was bullied, how it affected her and how she pulled through.
How'd you get on board with Secret's anti-bullying campaign?
They approached me because they knew that I'm an activist for anti-bullying. It's something that I went through myself, and it affected my life, so I wanted to make sure that more people are aware that gossiping and spreading rumors and things like that. Things that girls probably thought was innocent in school actually led to problems that affected me down the road. I actually use Secret, so it was cool that they came to me with this. We both believe in trying to spread the awareness about bullying. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to get the message out there. Even though the campaign is called "Mean Stinks" the deodorant does smell good!
I'm sure you're so sick of talking about it at this point, but can you tell me about what happened?
Yeah! I was bullied—and I'm not trying to play the victim. When you're twelve you engage in gossip, rumors, and things like that, so I wasn't bullied for no reason. I'm sure I was a little brat back then, but no one deserves to be bullied to the extent that I was bullied. They had a “Demi's Hate Wall” in the bathroom where they wrote things like, “Demi is a whore” and “Demi is a slut.”
Were you bullied by boys or other girls?
It was girls. It was in the girls' bathroom. I think I had just had my first kiss a couple of months prior, so it didn't make sense. It doesn't bother me anymore, but they just chased me into a bathroom and had a bashing party. They had a petition and they wrote a bunch of nasty things on a piece of paper so that everyone to sign. It led to other problems down the road. At the time I was really confused as to why I was being bullied, so I just went off the things they were saying about me. I thought, "I guess I'm being bullied because I'm a slut." I actually took those things into consideration because I was so confused as to why this was happening. And one of the reasons why I thought they were bullying me and why I had no friends was because I was called “fat.” Right after I was bullied, I stopped eating and lost thirty pounds. I got really sick and it's something that I still have to deal with today. I ended up going into treatment for it when I was eighteen. I don't think those girls even realized how much they affected me when I was eleven or twelve or how serious. You think that it's just gossip between friends and that it isn't harmful.
Why do you think that bullying has gotten to be this bad?
I think that it's reached a new level because of cyber bullying. I know a lot of adults who talk about bullying and say, “we had one mean bully in school.” You can say a lot behind a computer screen that will hurt another person and it's embarrassing because it's in front of so many people. So if somebody says something about you on Twitter about you it's out there for the whole grade to see. It also has to do with reality TV shows that are just about fighting.
It creates a culture of bitchiness.
Right—creating a culture of bitchiness. That's going to influence younger girls who are watching those shows because it teaches them that drama is what's
exciting. I've learned that surrounding myself with positive people and people that don't engage in any gossip or drama whatsoever—that's more exciting than having to deal with all of that.
And we're so fragile at that age, which makes things even more difficult.
You're growing up, your body is changing. You don't really figure out who you are when you're 12-years-old, but you're trying to figure out what clique you fit into and who your friends are. I went through tons of different phases: a goth phase, a preppy stage…but now I've figured out who I am. I've got a lot of learning to do, but I'm in a good place now.
So you've decided who you are? Who is that person?
As long as you have a good sense of your morals, what you stand for, how you want to treat other people, what's important to you, and what you love—then you have it all figured out.
So you decided that you didn't need to label yourself as "goth" or be part of a specific group?
No. It's not about labels at all. Some days I like to wear all black, some days I like to wear no makeup and look like a Hippie. My style changes. That being said, day-to-day I'm consistent with my morals and the things that I believe in—my passions and my hobbies. And I'm consistent with my friends and family as well.
Have you gotten feedback from any of the girls who have identified you as a role model or whose lives you've impacted?
There's been girls that I've met at concerts and meet-and-greets who have told me that I've influenced their lives by being an inspiration—by getting through bulling and letting people know how serious it is. That means the world to me. There's something about having younger cousins at that age, or other young girls in my life who are at risk of being bullied. I feel very protective over them. I have a little sister, and a cousin who has gone through this stuff. It was incredible that I was able to help them. I'm able to be there for my sister if she's ever bullied and I'm able to be there for my cousins. I'm just excited to be able to do that.
Has has your music career and fame helped you make the changes you wanted to make?
I have changed and I'm continuing to change. Nobody ever stays the same. So the person that I was six months ago is not the person that I am today. Thankfully it's just because I've continued to work on myself and better myself. I've learned more about what's important to me. I've learned that family is more important to me than anything career-wise. I've learned my goals. I don't really like singing certain songs anymore because they're too pop and they don't really express who I am musically.
Do you want to switch genres completely? Or do you want to remain pop, but with a more mature sound?
Yeah. It's still going to be pop. But I want to stay away from EDM [electronic dance music] and the dub step. I want to hear real music instruments on
the radio. I think there's a way of combining that with catchy hooks. Fun. does it well. So does Gotye and Taylor Swift—there are still instruments in their songs.
What's the one piece of advice you'd give to girls to help them stand up for themselves?
You don't have to stand up for yourself—it's really about turning the other cheek. It's easier said than done, but my mom told me that, and it's true. When you don't give them a reaction, they don't get the satisfaction of hurting you because you don't show them that it's hurting you. Go through it, process it, and talk to somebody. But don't stoop down to their level. Try to turn it into motivation by focusing on your schooling, your favorite hobbies, or your passion. I did that with music when I was bullied. I turned the other cheek. I put all of that negative energy and all of my free time towards becoming a better musician and actress. And here I am today! Focus on the things that you love and maybe one day you'll end up in the same situation that I did.