DEMI LOVATO: LOVER, FIGHTER, SUR­VIVOR

At 25, singer DEMI LOVATO has turned her strug­gles into strengths (and can also lit­er­ally kick your ass) by MAR­SHALL HEYMAN pho­tographed by CARTER SMITH

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A word to the wise: Don’t pick a fight with Demi Lovato.

If you man­age to get through the singer-song­writer’s army of Lo­vat­ics, the su­per­fans who make up a siz­able and vo­cal part of her whop­ping 65 mil­lion In­sta­gram fol­low­ers, you’d still have to get past her dogs and her full-time se­cu­rity guard, who all live with her in the Hol­ly­wood Hills.

Then, if you made it to Lovato her­self, you’d be up against a blue belt in ju­jitsu who’s also schooled in box­ing and Muay Thai. Lovato has an ex­cel­lent right hook, a fierce left up­per­cut, and a damn good round­house.

“If I were in some sort of dan­ger, I know I could eas­ily break some­body’s arm or choke them out,” she says, bare­foot in the ring at Un­break­able Per­for­mance Cen­ter in West Hol­ly­wood. “I just feel like I can take care of my­self.”

It’s a Mon­day morn­ing in Jan­uary, and she’s wear­ing heavy box­ing gloves, hav­ing just fin­ished a long com­bi­na­tion of moves. Her trainer—a hand­some Brazil­ian mixed­mar­tial-arts fighter whose left ear hasn’t com­pletely sur­vived his past al­ter­ca­tions—holds Lovato’s water bot­tle to her mouth for a brief mo­ment of hy­dra­tion. Then they start the rou­tine all over again.

“Some­times I imag­ine it’s our pres­i­dent,” she jokes as she throws a pow­er­ful jab at a red punch­ing bag, fol­lowed by a left knee kick. It’s the only ref­er­ence—se­ri­ous or comic—this avid Hil­lary Clin­ton sup­porter will make to Don­ald Trump to­day be­cause, she ex­plains, “I feel like 1) it falls on deaf ears, and 2) my feel­ings to­wards any­one or any­thing are not go­ing to change the sit­u­a­tion.”

Be­sides, work­ing out is Lovato’s med­i­ta­tive happy place, where anger, fu­til­ity, and frus­tra­tion go out the win­dow. And Un­break­able, an ex­clu­sive gym a stone’s throw from the Chateau Mar­mont, is kind of her sanctuary slash club­house— and since she’s been sober six years, her ver­sion of Cheers.

Lovato works out here nearly ev­ery­day. Shep­ur­posely moved homes to have a shorter com­mute. (Her mother, a for­mer Dal­las Cow­boys cheer­leader who re­cently pub­lished a mem­oir about rais­ing Lovato and her two sis­ters, still lives a half hour away in Sher­man Oaks.)

Many of her friends are here. One of Un­break­able’s em­ploy­ees even re­cently tried out to be a backup dancer on her up­com­ing spring tour with DJ Khaled, which Lovato is par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to get started. “We all hang out,” says Lovato of the other gym reg­u­lars. “If I throw a party, I just put a bul­letin out for ev­ery­body here.”

Her work­out fin­ished, Lovato is now out­side the ring at Un­break­able’s pri­vate smoothie bar. Train­ers and clients poke in, prais­ing her progress and greet­ing her with waves and hugs. She un­packs her late-morn­ing snack, a mix of macadamia nuts, dried fruit, and ke­fir that her chef pre­pared for her in a Whole Foods freezer bag, and digs in.

She’d come to the gym even more of­ten, she says, but Un­break­able—which, yes, sounds as if it could be the name of one of Lovato’s an­thems—is open only six days a week. “I re­cently started do­ing yoga on Sun­days, but I don’t like it. I’m not a yoga type of per­son,” Lovato says. “I’m try­ing it, though—i’m try­ing to calm my mind.”

For years, in fact, Lovato has had a lot on that mind. In 2011 she started talk­ing truth­fully about her bipo­lar di­ag­no­sis, her strug­gles with cut­ting, and her drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tions—a trail­blaz­ing move. Then, last fall, in her ful­l­length doc­u­men­tary, Sim­ply Com­pli­cated, which has been watched nearly 14 mil­lion times on Youtube, she con­fessed that she has prob­lems with food and that she would be open to dat­ing a woman. “I’m very fluid, and I think love is love,” ex­plains Lovato to­day. “You can find it in any gen­der. I like the free­dom of be­ing able to flirt with who­ever I want.” ( For six years she was linked to ac­tor Wilmer Valder­rama; they broke up in 2016.)

Born in Al­bu­querque, N.M., Lovato got her start with Se­lena Gomez on­bar­ney & Friends be­fore join­ing the Dis­ney sta­ble of young stars in 2007, head­lin­ing the­camp Rock films (co-star­ring the Jonas Broth­ers ) and her own series, Sonny with a Chance, which ran for two sea­sons from 2009 to 2011. She en­tered re­hab for the first time in 2010, af­ter an al­ter­ca­tion with a dancer on the Jonas Broth­ers world tour.

“I don’t think I was ever the bad girl,” Lovato says of how she was pi­geon­holed by the press. “I think I was just open about my is­sues and was be­ing au­then­tic to who I was. The way peo­ple per­ceived me was the way they wanted to per­ceive me.” And now Hol­ly­wood’s new­found cul­ture of con­fes­sion has caught up with her. Just in the past sev­eral months the flood­gates have opened, ush­er­ing in the age of #Metoo. Lovato says she’s never ex­pe­ri­enced or seen any sex­ual mis­treat­ment in the mu­sic busi­ness, “but I’ve gone through other things that had noth­ing to do with the in­dus­try.

“You have to speak out about stuff,” she says. “You have to use your voice for good. That’s

what I think a lot of peo­ple are start­ing to do. I didn’t have any­body who was do­ing that when I was younger. I grew up in the era of re­ally, re­ally skinny celebri­ties. That was the look. And it­was­cool tobe­seen par­ty­ing. Drugs were glam­or­ized, and when I was 12 or 13, no­body [I looked up to] was talk­ing about men­tal ill­ness. No­body was talk­ing about eat­ing dis­or­ders. No­body was talk­ing about cut­ting. I wanted some­body for my lit­tle sis­ter to look up to. I took on that role be­cause I knew it was im­por­tant.”

It’s not al­ways easy to em­body that role, how­ever. Es­pe­cially when trig­gers are ev­ery­where. Nar­cos and­break­ing Bad are ex­am­ples of tele­vi­sion shows Lovato says she can’t even turnon. “Weed­doesn’t both­erme, but if I see coke or pills or even nee­dles, it just puts them in my brain, and I don’t need to see that.”

And thoughshe lovesher fans and loves to tour—say­ing she gets but­ter­flies only if “there’s some­one I like in the au­di­ence”— meet and greets be­fore and af­ter con­certs can be tough. “They’re very emo­tional. A lot of times peo­ple use that op­por­tu­nity to dump their prob­lems on me be­cause they don’t know who else to talk to,” Lovato says. “They show me their cuts. I’ve had peo­ple come up to me and say, ‘I was go­ing to kill my­self un­til I got this meet and greet.’ And you’re just like, ‘ What?’ Some­times I’llmed­i­tate af­ter­wards. Some­times I’ll just kind of breathe. I used to sage my­self. It’s very heavy.”

This is also, in part, where the box­ing comes in—the tak­ing care of her­self. It’s her MO in all parts of her life. And as a re­sult, she says, she tries to not deny her­self what she wants, like the dark- choco­late- cov­ered ve­gan cookie- dough balls she bought at the su­per­mar­ket the pre­vi­ous evening. “It’s OK,” she says. “Some­times you’re go­ing to have two desserts. You’re not a bad per­son. It’s just food, and it has no power over you.” She sees a ther­a­pist twice a week and a nutritionist once a week, “so it’s kind of like [I go to ther­apy] three times a week.”

Lovato writes a grat­i­tude list ev­ery day. “I’ll text with a friend, and we’ll send each other four or five things we’re grate­ful for and why.” To­day those things might in­clude, she ex­plains, “my dogs, my friends, this gym. The abil­ity to fly to New York within a cou­ple of hours rather than hav­ing to drive there. The op­por­tu­nity to be able to share my opin­ions and my story with you.”

And in ad­di­tion to search­ing for new artists for the record la­bel she cre­ated with Nick Jonas and mu­sic ex­ec­u­tive Phil Mcin­tyre, Safe­house Records, and be­gin­ning to dip her toe into act­ing again (this time, she hopes, in movies), she’s em­brac­ing her in­de­pen­dence, even on­line dat­ing. “I’m not suf­fer­ing be­cause I’m alone,” Lovato says. “There were many years I was in a re­la­tion­ship and I wasn’t learn­ing about my­self. Now I’m learn­ing about what I like, what I need, and what I want.”

That in­cludes some­one who is go­ing to make her laugh and “treat me like a queen,” she says. Be­sides, just like in the box­ing ring, “I’m nor­mally the first one to make the move. I’m al­ways the one who says, ‘ Let me get your num­ber.’ Or I slide into their DMS on In­sta­gram.”

Last year she was linked to Guil­herme “Bomba” Vas­con­ce­los, and she’d con­sider dat­ing an­other MMA fighter. It’s very stress­ful watch­ing a sig­nif­i­cant other fight, “but there’s some­thing at­trac­tive about be­ing so driven and risk­ing it all for some­thing you love.”

Still, Lovato in­sists the one place her gloves come off is in re­la­tion­ships. “I’m more of a dis­cusser. I’ll ar­gue,” she says, wink­ing. “But life’s too short for drama.” n

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