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On a bright summer day at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, young programmers in sandals and carrying backpacks are strolling the immaculately groomed grounds. But they stop and stare as Demi Lovato comes striding across the lawn, trailed by a photographer and a flock of Google executives and assistants.
Silicon Valley, meet Hollywood.
The 25-year-old former Disney star turned pop diva is visiting the Google campus for a photo shoot promoting Simply Complicated, her YouTube documentary that starts streaming Oct. 17. The idea is to give her fans — some 1.3 million Lovatics, as they call themselves, subscribe to her channel — an intimate look at her life and her process for making her sixth album, which was released Sept. 29. The cameras follow her into the recording studio to watch her rehearse, onto the set of her latest music video (a wild house-party-themed affair for the single “Sorry Not Sorry”) and into the gym, where she unwinds after work (wearing, not incidentally, the gear from her own fitness clothing line for Fabletics). There are moments of her riding in cars with friends; playing with her dogs, Batman and Cinderella; and in general doing the sorts of everyday, mundane things that have made so many other YouTube stars (the ones that can’t sing or dance) incredibly famous.
“I hope fans get to see a lighter side of me,” says Lovato, who got her start on YouTube nine years ago by posting vlogs with fellow former child star Selena Gomez. “It’s something that I haven’t shown before. I like to think I’m funny, and I’d like to think that I have positive energy.”
The nearly 80-minute special joins a growing roster of programming that YouTube is bringing to its 1.5 billion global users — Katy Perry did a 96-hour live stream for the platform in June, viewed more than 50 million times. Lovato will spread her energy around YouTube in other ways as well. She’s appearing as a judge on Best.Cover.Ever., Ryan Seacrest’s upcoming YouTube competition show in which musicians invite fans to post cover performances of one of their hit singles (in Lovato’s case, “Confident”). “I used to [sing] covers as a kid,” she says. “I used to sing to Kelly Clarkson and Christina Aguilera and Aretha Franklin. Those songs became such an important part of my life, and now I get to be that for other people.”
Simply Complicated will act as a sequel of sorts to Lovato’s last documentary, 2012’s Stay Strong, and show how she has overcome struggles with an eating disorder and drug abuse that led to a stint in rehab at the age of 18. “The last documentary, it was about me surviving,” she says with a smile. “This documentary is about me thriving.”
This story first appeared in the Oct. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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