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This story was originally published on May 17, 2016.
Here’s the story you probably know: Demi Lovato has been performing for us since she was 7 years old, then just an eager girl in glasses on the kids' show Barney & Friends. She spent her teen years hawking her lacquered Disney charm on screen and concert stages, while behind the scenes, she was living out the dark, child-star narrative of drug addiction and horrific self-abuse. Rock bottom came in 2010, when, at age 18, she punched out a backup dancer while on tour with the Jonas Brothers. She then went to rehab for her eating disorder and cutting and cocaine addictions — and it all made for the sort of lurid headlines that the worst part of our human nature gobbles up on Twitter and tabloid sites. Look at that mess.
And now for the refreshing twist: That toilet-flush of innocence is not this woman’s whole story, nor, it turns out, the most interesting chapter. In four hard-won years of sobriety — and we’re talking the grinding, unglamorous work of it, the sober companions and living houses, the daily mindful avoidance of triggers — Demi Lovato has thrown herself deeply into a useful and engaged life. In the last year alone, she hit up Capitol Hill to advocate for the mentally ill, has been a vocal ally of the LGBT community, rallied the Latino vote, and stumped for Hillary Clinton at the Iowa caucuses. And with the release of her album Confident, she’s made a conscious decision to concentrate on music that showcases her vocal chops rather than slick, poppy hooks. In other words, she’s trusting and using her voice, which we may have underestimated all this time.