- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil].
Demi Lovato is coming forward to share more secret traumas from her past in the third installment of her YouTube Originals docuseries, Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil.
In the four-part docuseries, which premiered last Tuesday — the docuseries also served as South by Southwest’s opening-night headliner during its first-ever virtual fest — Lovato broke her silence on the events that led to the nearly fatal overdose in 2018 that left her minutes away from death. In addition to being found “left for dead,” the singer also revealed that she was taken advantage of by her drug dealer.
For the docuseries’ third episode, Lovato offers more insight into the aftermath of her overdose, in particular putting a spotlight on those closest to her who faced blame for the singer’s downfall, and speaks further on the sexual trauma she endured that night but also in her past. Throughout the episode, Lovato’s close friends also detail the repercussions that followed that tragic night and moving forward after learning Lovato had secretly relapsed.
“I got death threats. People showed up at my apartment to threaten my life,” Lovato’s friend and former sober companion Sirah said. Meanwhile, there’s one friend in particular who faced the majority of public scrutiny following Lovato’s overdose: Her former choreographer and stage director Dani Vitale.
The night of Lovato’s overdose, the singer had been out celebrating Vitale’s birthday with friends, joining her at her home afterward. Vitale had explained that she had an inkling when she left Lovato’s home that she should’ve stayed but was unaware of Lovato’s relapse and secret use of hard drugs including heroin.
The third episode begins with Lovato embracing Vitale as she prepares to film her interview for the docuseries. “Clear your name. Don’t be afraid of saying anything. I just want the truth to be told because you deserve that,” Lovato tells Vitale.
Throughout the series, Lovato’s family including her mother, father and two sisters as well as close friends sit down to discuss Lovato’s overdose and the events that occurred before and after. Having her loved ones join the series and share everything unfiltered took “time and trust,” director Michael D. Ratner told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview ahead of the premiere. “I put in the time. I asked for introductions, and I got to know these people … When you’re a megastar [with] a hundred million followers on Instagram [and] the whole world looking at you, your circle is pretty tight and you’re very skeptical of inviting others in, especially somebody nobody really knows, and you’re giving them access to everything.”
For the third episode, Lovato’s business manager Glenn Nordlinger, case manager Charles Cook and manager Scooter Braun join to offer their perspective. Ratner tells THR that prior to filming, he and Lovato “had deep talks about the pros and cons of putting in tons of people” in the series. But overall, “it was really about who impacted her and who was a part of her life moving forward. … There’s no person missing that Demi really wanted in the project, which is fantastic,” Ratner says.
Later in the episode, Lovato breaks down the reasoning behind a shocking decision she made after her overdose and the sexual trauma she experienced as a teenager that coincided with it: “Both times were textbook trauma reenactments and I really beat myself up for years.”
Below, THR takes a look at more takeaways from the third episode of Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil.
Lovato Reunites With Drug Dealer
“I knew that it didn’t matter what happened that night or who she got these drugs from. I could tell by her face that she was never going to be around those people again,” Lovato’s sister Dallas says in a sit-down interview for the docuseries. However, Lovato admits that was not the case.
“I wish I could say the last night that I ever touched heroin was the night of my overdose, but it wasn’t,” Lovato says, revealing that she contacted the same drug dealer who took advantage of her after attending a weeklong intensive retreat. To explain her reasoning, Lovato says she wanted to “rewrite his choice of violating me” and wanted it now to be her choice. “And he also had something that I wanted, which were drugs. I ended up getting high … I was, like, mortified at my decisions.”
Speaking further on Lovato’s decision, Cook says it’s common for many to express disappointment and confusion as to why she would do that again, but challenged that lay observers don’t tend to reflect that an individual “must’ve been in so much pain” to put themself “in that position again.” Lovato says that reuniting with her drug dealer “didn’t fix anything. It didn’t take anything away. It just made me feel worse. But that, for some reason, was my way of taking the power back. All it did was bring me back to my knees of begging to God for help.”
Coming Forward About Sexual Trauma
Addressing why she hadn’t come out sooner to share the sexual trauma she experienced, Lovato explains, “Ever since I watched Rihanna and her pictures get leaked after the Chris Brown incident, I was very uncomfortable with even more of my story playing out in the press. And also people maybe not believing me.”
Continuing to go in depth as to why she contacted her dealer again, Lovato reflected on losing her virginity as a teenager to sexual assault. “I called that person back a month later and tried to make it right by being in control, and all it did was make me feel worse,” she says. “Both times were textbook trauma reenactments and I really beat myself up for years.”
Speaking further on the trauma, Lovato says she was hooking up with someone when she emphasized that it wouldn’t proceed any further since she was a virgin. “That didn’t matter to them. They did it anyway,” she says. As time went on, Lovato says she “internalized” what had happened and convinced herself it was her fault. “I still went in the room with him. I still hooked up with him. I was a part of that Disney crowd that publicly said that they were waiting till marriage. I didn’t have the romantic first time with anybody. That was not it for me and that sucked.”
Though she doesn’t identify the person, Lovato says that she “had to see this person all the time” and she tried to ease her trauma by not eating, cutting herself and throwing up: “My bulimia got so bad that I started throwing up blood for the first time.
“Women are typically more oppressed than men, especially at 15 years old and especially as a little child star role model, who is supposed to be perfect [and] who had a promise ring. So what, I’m supposed to come out to the public after saying I have a promise ring? Six months later I’m supposed to say, ‘Well, actually, I had sex. Even though it was rape.'” Lovato further explains that the “Christian, Southern girl inside of me didn’t see it that way” because “sex was not normalized as a child or in the South.”
Lovato also explains that she admitted what had happened to someone, but nothing ever happened. “My #MeToo story is me telling somebody that someone did this to me and they never got in trouble for it. They never got taken out of the movie that they were in. But I just kept it quiet because I always had something to say. I’m tired of opening my mouth so there’s the tea.”
In an interview with People magazine, Lovato shared that revealing the heartbreaking details of her rape helped her anger dissolve. “Having put that out in front of the camera and knowing that people have seen that, it’s freeing. It’s empowering. It’s liberating,” she said. “And it really lets that anger that was inside of me dissolve. I had let go of a lot of the anger beforehand, but this was kind of just the final send-off, like, OK, I can really heal from this now.” She also hopes that by coming forward, she can do her part in helping others tell their stories: “Sexual abuse is something that people feel is taboo to talk about and to come forward about, but I want to show people that you can, and it’s OK.”
Dani Vitale Speaks Out
Following Lovato’s overdose, the singer’s former choreographer and stage manager Vitale found herself at the center of public scrutiny with many fans blaming her for leading Lovato down a dark path. In her first sit-down interview, Vitale shares that she would receive up to 5,000 messages a day from Lovato’s fans telling her “to die and kill myself.”
Though Vitale says the rumors and blame put on her were “laughable for a day or two” given those closest to her knew she was never the type of person to push someone to the point of overdose, once the online hate “continued to stick for days, weeks, months, a year,” Vitale emotionally explains, “It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with my whole life.”
As she dealt with nonstop backlash and blame from fans, Vitale says her professional career as a choreographer also took a tumble as she lost all her teaching jobs, while artists she was working with stopped because they didn’t want to “deal with the drama.” She says, “No one wanted to bring their kid to an apparent heroin dealer. I had to rethink my whole future all because of someone else’s decision and that was terrifying.”
Lovato says, “It was awful to see what happened to Dani after people thinking she had something to do with that night. My fans are amazing, they’re very passionate, but they’re a little out of line sometimes because they want what’s best for me but don’t always have all the information.” The singer also admits that following the overdose she was focused on herself, “but unfortunately it took me too long to realize how my choices affected the people I cared about, who had stuck by me.”
Lovato’s Team Prepared for the Worst
Lovato’s business manager Nordlinger, case manager Cook and head of security Max Lea join the series to share their journey to helping Lovato. “You really figure out who is there for you when the world falls out from under your feet,” Lovato says of those who have helped support her on her path to recovery.
Nordlinger, who Lovato emotionally says is someone who has “never left” her, says he began noticing Lovato struggling and unhappy, and the “stressful days” resulted in him going to bed with the phone ringer on loud. As he would receive daily updates from Lea, her business manager says, “We were starting to formulate a plan of how to help her” but then “the OD happened.”
After her overdose, Lovato stayed at The Cirque Lodge rehab facility in Utah, where Cook served as her case manager. He says the singer expressed how much she didn’t want to be there, but once she realized she had the power to walk away because she was paying for her stay, things began improving. While visiting Lovato at the facility, Nordlinger recalls the singer expressing her hope to return to music but demanding new management.
Finding New Management With Scooter Braun
Given that Lovato was “miserable” with the tight restrictions made by her former team — which consisted of management, assistants, a dietician, nutritionist and therapist — Lovato requested Scooter Braun be her manager. While speaking for the docuseries, Braun, who is also the manager to Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, admitted he had every intention of turning down Lovato’s offer.
“I felt overwhelmed at the time. We had a plan for not only how we were going to say no but who we were going to recommend,” Braun says. But after hearing Lovato “pouring out her heart and soul,” Braun says they knew he and SB Projects needed to manage her: “She didn’t need a manager. She needed a friend. She needed someone who knew what to do but also didn’t need her to work.”
Lovato says of her request to meet with Braun, “I am an artist who just overdosed on heroin. I’m kind of a liability, like, I don’t know if people are going to want to work with me. It was scary for me, but I didn’t feel intimidated at all. You made me feel really safe.”
Moving forward, Braun explains that he “wanted to know what treatments worked in the past, what treatments didn’t work,” as well as “who her support system was, where she was in her recovery process and if she had an understanding that it’s constant.”
When Lovato was in negotiations for her new record contract with Braun, she recalls, she had to admit to him about her relapse. “I knew she had her ups and downs but after her overdose and the speech she gave me, the things that she said, I thought there was no chance of a relapse. Two weeks in, she tells me that she relapsed,” Braun recalls. Afraid he would no longer want to sign her and work with her, Lovato says she was surprised when Braun had the opposite reaction and expressed that he was worried she would “end up in the wrong hands” and wanted to “support her” rather than “punish her,” as her former team did. “I never want to say that the control placed on me was entirely wrong. Some of it came from a place of love. I just think that by the end of it, I didn’t get the help that I needed,” Lovato says as she looks back on her former management.
Returning to Music
The single “Anyone” marked Lovato’s first song release following the tragic event. “I thought if I ever make it back to the stage, I want to sing this song,” she says. And that she did. After an 18-month hiatus from performing, the singer was asked to sing at the 2020 Grammys.
At the beginning of her performance, Lovato immediately grew visibly emotional, having to restart the set. Throughout the heartfelt song, Lovato sang with tears streaming down her face as she sang lyrics such as, “Why do I pray anyway if nobody is listening?” and, “I feel stupid when I sing. Nobody is listening to me. Is there anyone?”
“When I listen to the lyrics, I definitely thought it was foreshadowing my overdose. I recorded it days before and the lyrics were everything that I was feeling in the hospital,” Lovato says of the heartfelt song. Nordlinger adds, “From a fan’s perspective, she went away awhile [and] she performed. But to go from a hospital bed to that total rebuild, [that’s] not something that people often get the opportunity to do.”
During an interview in CBS Sunday Morning, Lovato said she wasn’t sure if and when a return to the stage and music would happen: “I didn’t know if I’d ever step foot on a stage again. When I woke up in the hospital I was like, ‘I don’t know the full extent of the damage that’s been done. I hadn’t tried singing yet.'”
After the Grammys, Lovato went on to sing the national anthem during Super Bowl LIV. The moment proved to be manifested as the docuseries shows a tweet Lovato shared on Feb. 7, 2020, writing, “One day, I’m gonna sing the national anthem at a super bowl.”
The third episode ends with news segments reporting the country on lockdown amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Lovato’s mother, Dianna De La Garza, shares that Lovato told her she was going to stay with her but bring her boyfriend. “I never even met him,” De La Garza says of Lovato’s then-boyfriend turned fiance Max Ehrich. “Oh my God, I just invited somebody that I don’t really know that well to stay with my family. It wasn’t the most responsible thing I’ve ever done,” Lovato says, laughing, as the episode ends on a more lighthearted note.
The first three episodes of Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil are available to stream now, with a new episode airing every Tuesday.
If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health and substance abuse disorders, contact Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) by calling 1-800-622-HELP (4357). For People struggling with eating disorders can call the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Hotline at 1-800-931-2237. If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day