Demi Lovato Talks Sobriety, Sexuality, and Switching Gears From Pop Princess to Rock Star

Singer, songwriter, and actress also opens up about crushing on Barney

September 12, 2023

Beloved singer, songwriter, and actress Demi Lovato made her Stern Show debut on Monday to promote her upcoming remix album “Revamped” and reveal how and why a Disney-backed pop sensation goes about transforming themself into a rock star. Before she and her backing band performed hard-hitting versions of two of her biggest hits, Demi sat with Howard for a wide-ranging conversation which covered not only her acting career and evolution as a musician but also her love life, fascination with aliens, and well-publicized struggles with substance abuse. The 31-year-old “Sorry Not Sorry” singer has battled addiction for years and sought treatment on several occasions, but only after overdosing and nearly dying in 2018 was she finally able to turn over a new leaf.

“It’s been almost two years since I used, and I don’t wake up every day struggling anymore because I’m choosing it for myself,” Demi told Howard on Monday. “Now, I understand the pitfalls of how deep and dark it can get, and how desperate I can get, and I never want to feel that again.”

From her first experience with Vicodin at the age of 12 to the fentanyl and opioid overdose in 2018, Demi was an open book when it came to discussing her quest for sobriety, her family’s history of substance abuse, and her reasons for using. “When you’re in so much pain the consequences don’t matter, you just want to escape or numb out,” Lovato said. “I put numbing out before everything in my life. When I choose drugs I’m choosing them over family, over friends, over my career, over essentially everything. And that’s the way that I use.”

The overdose, which she chronicled in her recent docu-series “Demi Lovato: Dancing with the Devil,” thankfully didn’t claim Demi’s life. But it did cause lasting damage, including hearing and vision impairment. “I still actually have vision problems to this day. I don’t drive anymore because I have blind spots in my vision,” she told Howard, explaining that even now when she looked him in the eyes she couldn’t see his nose or mouth. According to doctors, that’s because the overdose deprived her brain of oxygen. “It killed off some cells that didn’t repair,” she said.

While Demi obviously regrets damaging her body and putting her friends and family through hell, she also strives not to be too hard on herself. “I have a lot of sympathy for the state of mind I was in to be using those drugs and to take it to that extreme,” she said. “I think to myself, ‘Wow, you were in a lot of pain and it’s okay now. You’ve worked through it.’”

Since overdosing, Demi says several celebrities have reached out and offered support. Sir Elton John, whom she described as “a hoot,” went so far as to give her some advice. Speaking from first-hand experience, the Grammy-winning icon told Demi that quitting drugs cold turkey might be the only way she could truly overcome them. “He alluded to the fact that [using] a little bit of drugs isn’t going to work …  and I think he’s right. I had to learn that,” Demi said.

“So, now you’ve stopped everything?” Howard asked.

“Yeah … I had to learn it on my own. I was smoking so much weed … just an unhealthy level … and all I did was replace my addiction with something that I thought was safer,” she said. “And smoking and drinking led me back into other substances … and abstinence has been the key to me.”

Love in the Studio

In her relationship with musician and songwriter Jordan Lutes — known professionally as Jute$ — the singer appears to be in a good place. “We’re growing together, and it feels so healthy she told Howard before recalling how they met. “He came in to write on one of my sessions and I was in the studio and was like immediately attracted to him. I texted my friends on the side and was like, ‘He’s so hot.’”

Despite that immediate attraction, the duo’s connection was at first just platonic, which she ultimately sees as a good thing. “We started off as friends, so we built that foundation of friendship first,” she recalled. “There’s like this partnership there that is just so magnetic, and the way that we laugh together it’s just nonstop. So, I think if you can find someone that makes you feel safe … that you’re so attracted to, that you laugh with constantly, that’s the formula of like a really great relationship.”

Though they continue to take things slow, Demi told Howard she sees marriage and a family on the horizon. For Lovato, who identifies as pansexual, it hasn’t always been easy to find female partners looking for that level of commitment. “What’s happened in the past is like they just want a hookup and it’s like I actually wanted something more serious, so it ends up not working,” she revealed.

The Truth Is Out There … If You Meditate On It

As anyone who has seen “Unidentified with Demi Lovato” can attest, the “Skyscraper” singer is also a renowned sky scanner. “I can’t fathom that we’re the only life in the universe,” she told Howard, adding, “I haven’t seen aliens per se, but I’ve seen many U.F.O.s.”

Demi said most of her encounters came after meditating in the desert with the intention of seeing a U.F.O. One time, while celebrating her birthday at Joshua Tree National Park, she and her friends meditated and then saw something inexplicable. “We look[ed] up in the sky and there was just this huge orb of light … It was bigger than any other star in the sky. Then it starts to make like this [movement] of like a question mark,” she said. “Everyone saw it.”

Howard didn’t question his guest’s experience, but he did struggle to understand why aliens would travel all the way to Earth without making their presence explicitly known.

“Maybe they’re waiting for humanity to come to conclusions on their own rather than just showing themselves and freaking everybody out,” Demi suggested. “Because you know a lot of people would lose their shit.”

With a Great Big Hug and a Kiss From Me to You…

Demi found fame in 2008 after starring on the Disney channel musical “Camp Rock,” but that wasn’t her first time on television. In 2002, when she was just 10, she starred on the children’s show “Barney & Friends.” Though the program was massively popular with some audiences, appearing on TV alongside a giant, purple dinosaur didn’t win her too many friends at school.

“By the time I was old enough to work on ‘Barney,’ it wasn’t cool anymore to watch it. That’s why I think I got teased at school,” she told Howard.

Though her classmates weren’t always kind, Demi assured listeners the man in the dinosaur suit was. “He was so nice,” Demi said of the actor who played Barney. “And you know what’s funny? He was really attractive … I had a bit of a crush on him, even at a young age.”

“You had to be really muscular because the suit weighs, I don’t know, 50 to 100 pounds,” she continued. “So, he was like ripped, and he happened to have a good looking face.”

“Wow,” Howard laughed. “What a great story if you would’ve run off with Barney.”

‘Cool for the Summer’

Before tearing into a rocking version of her 2015 hit “Cool for the Summer,” Demi talked about the track hinting at her attraction to women. “I was thinking about the hookups that I had had with a girl and decided to write this song,” she revealed.

Despite overt lyrics like “Got a taste for the cherry,” Lovato had yet to come out to anyone when she wrote the song, including her parents. “I wasn’t afraid of how it would affect my career … it was more so like coming to terms with it myself, like I didn’t actually come out as bisexual until I was 24 or 25,” she said, adding, “I think coming from a Christian household made me nervous for that.”

When Demi finally told her parents, they were not only supportive, but they were also unsurprised. “When I came out, my dad was like, ‘Yeah, you have a song called ‘Cool for the Summer,’ like it’s obvious,’” she recalled with a laugh.

Lovato’s mother also had a positive reaction to the news. “She was like, ‘I just want you to be happy,’” the singer recounted.

Demi confirmed for Howard the song was inspired by a famous female that she used to have a sexual relationship with. However, who that person is will remain a very close-kept secret.

“I’m in a relationship now and I feel like that would be inappropriate,” Demi said with a smile when Howard asked if she would ever tell this woman.

“Now it’ll become like the ‘You’re So Vain’ thing. Who is this song about?” Robin Quivers concluded, comparing Demi’s song to Carly Simon’s iconic hit.

Heart Attack’

Demi also treated listeners to a rock remix of her hit “Heart Attack,” a song she co-wrote for her 2013 album “Demi.”“It’s hard to write catchy pop songs that you can really sing on—unless you’re Adele and you’re just incredible at that,” she told Howard before kicking things off. “I always felt like [pop songs] were hard to showcase my voice on, and then this one came along, and I was like, ‘Wait, I can really sing this.’”

Demi Lovato “Revamped” hits shelves on Friday, Sept. 15.