This week in New York, Lovato appeared on Logo TV’s Trailblazers to present an award to Orange Is The New Black, and used the occasion to make a family confession of her own. She capped things off on Sunday night as the headliner of NYC Pride’s annual Dance at the Pier. And, in between all of that, she took a few minutes to sit down with us.
Demi, what a week this has been here in New York, and what a month. How’s it been?
"It’s been amazing, I’ve had an incredible time with all the events. And, with my single, it was originally a breakup song, and I wanted to make it more empowering. When I thought of the lyrics 'really don’t care', it made me think of bullying, and made me think of the LGBT community, who deal with that so often, but they accept themselves."
How and when did it dawn on you that the song could sort of be seen in a different light?
"When I was performing it on tour every night, it was like the one song in the set that didn’t fit because it was like an angry, kind of like a 'fuck you.'"
A defiant song?
"Yeah, and I noticed when I was performing it, I was singing and smiling and jumping up and down and having fun. So, when we were trying to think of what to do for the video, that’s kind of when it all came together. I had a friend that said, 'What if you do it at Pride?' And, I said, 'That’s amazing. Because what better place to be than at an event where everyone is celebrating that they accept themselves for who they are and don’t give a fuck what other people think?'"
You’ve been a longtime LGBT supporter. What was it about this year that made you decide to devote yourself this year to Pride month?
"I think a lot of it had to do with the message of the single, to be honest. It was kind of an excuse to be so open and upfront about the message of it. With 'Heart Attack' you couldn’t really do that, it wouldn’t have made sense."
Yeah, or “Neon Lights” really.
"Right, 'Neon Lights' would have been fun, but to me, this really had the message. Like to me, when I released 'Skyscraper' [in 2011] it was kind of the same thing. I had a lot of fans that related to it because it was an empowering song. Back then I didn’t really know the extent that my music affected people. So, when I meet people and they tell me their stories about how hard it’s been for them to come out, or how they’ve been bullied, I think I’ve gotten to an age where I really understand what that does to someone, and what it means to someone to come out."
One of the highlights of this week was that beautiful Logo "Trailblazers" show. When you presented the award, you talked about your grandfather being gay and coming out way back in the '60s. But you never knew him?
"No, and that’s why I never talked about it before. I never thought about it, really, but it just dawned on me in the past couple of months, that maybe this is where I get my courage from. Maybe this is where I get my strength to speak out on what I believe in — whether it’s with bullying, mental illnesses, or eating disorders — I speak out about the things that I believe in. And, I think that my courage came from him. I think it’s genetic, literally. He was my mom’s birth father. And, he passed away just a few years after he came out, when she was about five. I’m not sure exactly what age he died."
If he came out pre-Stonewall, pre-1969, that was obviously a very different time.
Do you know — did he struggle with it? Was it tough for him?
"I don’t know much about the situation, because my mom was so young that I don’t think she knew a lot about it. He was a hairdresser, so I like to call him my 'Glam-pa'. [laughs] But, learning what I did from my mom and my great aunt, I can only imagine the struggle that he had. And, he was married twice, and had children twice. So, he dealt with a lot of confusion before he finally made the decision to come out."
"There are times when I feel like I wish people knew me for my music and not my story. And, now I feel like they’re finally starting to, because I’ve had mainstream hits on the radio, which has been great. Prior to that it was like, 'Skyscraper' and I was the Disney girl from rehab. So, at first it was obviously terrifying for me to speak out about the things that I had been going through. For a while after that, in interviews, that’s all they wanted to talk about."
And, that gets tiring?
"Yeah, and to be honest, it still gets tiring. When I’m on tour and I’m having a really great day and I’m just excited to play a show, and someone will be like, 'By the way, tell me about your bipolar disorder...' [laughs] And, I’m like, 'What the fuck? I’m about to play a show. Can we not talk about that?' So, like with anything that’s emotionally heavy, it’s not always easy to talk about. But, I have learned that because I’ve talked about it so much it’s only opened the door for stronger relationships with my fans and people that don’t even know me."
I know you’ve spoken a lot about sobriety and sometimes the struggle to stay sober, especially in the music industry. At an event like Pride — I am gonna go out on a limb and say there are some sobriety-compromised people here. Does that bother you, do you think about that?
"No, because some of my closest friends in the program are recovering meth addicts and recovering alcoholics. There’s a lot of gay people in recovery, especially around where I live in West Hollywood. There’s a bunch of it. So, I actually feel very safe here, because I know that there’s gonna actually be a lot of people here in recovery as well. And, one of my best friends is a recovering addict, and he’s gay, and he’ll be here, too."
I love Cher Lloyd, and I know she is your friend, but you know that in performing at the Dance on the Pier on Sunday you are following in the footsteps of the other Cher who played here last year. So, those are some large heels to be filling.
"Mm-hmm. Probably, like, literally. I have tiny feet and she’s taller so hers are probably bigger. Yeah, well that’s a terrifying thought, and I didn’t even think about it until now, so thank you for that! [laughs]"
Oh no, no pressure. We're looking forward to it!
Photographed by Aliya Naumoff