My idols have never really been of the pop star variety. The Taylor Swifts and Beyoncés of the world seem too put together, too F-L-A-W-L-E-S-S, for someone with my level of neurosis to find them relatable. I gravitated to the morose and self-aware lyrics of Morrissey and the tales of struggle found in the bars of rappers. But you can only swim in the torrents of your own psychosis for so long until you start searching for a hand to pull you ashore. I have found that hand and it belongs to a pop superstar, the daughter of a former Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader: Dallas' own Demi Lovato. Ladies and gentleman, Demi Lovato is my life coach.
The girl is comfortable in her own skin and she ain’t afraid to show it. Her fifth studio album, Confident, which was released last Friday, reads as a young woman’s self-empowerment manifesto. “I used to hold my freak back/Now I'm letting go/I make my choice/Yeah, I run the show,” Lovato declares in the title track. Now that is a line I can relate to. If I had a dime for every time my self-consciousness has held me back, heck, I’d buy every copy of Confident in existence.
If the album release was the declaration of her manifesto, then Lovato’s Saturday Night Live performance the next day was her coronation as the queen of confidence. Her first performance, a “Cool for the Summer/Confident” mash up, showcased her new take-no-prisoners attitude. She controlled the stage with the assertiveness of a woman secure in who she is.
It's almost impossible not to cheer her on at this point. This version of Lovato, who earned her stripes alongside fellow North Texas pop star Selena Gomez and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011, comes after a well-documented battle with an eating disorder, cutting and drug addiction. Unlike other pop stars, Lovato has not shied away from disclosing her personal struggles. Quite the opposite: she has used her spotlight to advocate for mental health reform and awareness, and in 2012 she launched an anti-bullying campaign.
Lovato cites her own experience with middle school bullies as a contributing factor to the body image issues that led to her eating disorder. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight earlier this year, Lovato explained, “I feel like every public figure has been put in the public because they are meant for, for me, more than just singing. It’s a responsibility for me to hold myself accountable but also be that inspiration for young girls and women my own age.”
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Lovato is very active on Instagram and Twitter, giving her fans a window into how she manages her bipolar disorder and strives to live a healthier lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. A haphazard, late-night excursion into her Instagram account was the pivotal moment that inspired me to adopt Lovato as my life coach. I had gone to the account for cute couples pictures of her and her actor boyfriend, Wilmer Valderrama, but I stayed for the body positive messages, the self-care advice and the candor with which Lovato shares her own struggles with mental illness to inspire her fans to practice healthy habits and achieve their fullest potential. Here is someone who, like me, lives with mental illness, and not only is she thriving, she's providing me and all her followers a blueprint on how to do it, too: Love yourself.
Confident’s third track, “Old Way,” reflects Lovato’s message of self-empowerment, a track on which she talks about not returning to her destructive behavior of the past. “Now I know what's good for me/ All that I need,” she sings, asserting that, “I'm the only who can do somethin' about it.” On “Father,” she opens up about another personal struggle, her complicated relationship with her abusive late father. In “Cool for the Summer,” we find Lovato embracing her sexuality and her hard-earned body confidence.
The Demi Lovato of Confident is a young woman not afraid to stand in her truth and power, regardless of what others may think, and she invites us all to do the same. After all, like the hook of the title track says, “What’s wrong with being confident?”