Demi Lovato’s Story (Part 2)

Demi Lovato just released her new album Tell Me You Love Me—and once again she uses her platform to educate her fans and the general public about mental illness. In songs like “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore” and “Sorry Not Sorry,” she liberates herself from a past damaged by addiction and bullying.

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The 25-year-old former child actress on Barney & Friends spoke with NPR’s Ailsa Chang on All Things Considered Friday about the new album, her R&B influences, and encouraging others to open up about their mental health struggles (transcript and audio clip via NPR):

Listen to interview by clicking above

Ailsa Chang: You grew up in a family that was used to being on stage. Was there ever any question about what you would end up doing with your life?

Demi Lovato: I don’t think there was any question that I would end up as a musician or an actress. The first time I stepped on stage was in kindergarten—it was at my school’s talent show. I fell in love with being on stage and with singing at a very young age. I loved the emotion that I could pour out on stage; I mean, I wasn’t really pouring out emotion when I was 4! But when I started performing, I loved using my body to express the words in the songs that I was singing.

Ailsa Chang: But the constant spotlight wasn’t always kind to you. You’ve talked about being bullied about your weight at an early age. You struggled with eating disorders, even suicidal thoughts—and eventually, you turned to drugs.

Demi Lovato: Yeah, I’ve dealt with a lot, and I struggled a lot. But I’m in a really great place today. I’ve opened up and shared my story many times, and I opened up about the things that I coped with. It was a really rough time. But I feel like I have a really good handle on my life. I’m five and a half years sober now, and I’m in recovery for my eating disorder as well.

Ailsa Chang: I want to talk about a song on your album, “You Don’t Do It For Me Anymore.” In the verse, you sing: “I see the future without you / the hell was I doing in the past? / Now that I’ve learned all about you / A love just like ours wouldn’t last” — Who is that you’re letting go of?

Demi Lovato: I actually was singing this song about my alcohol and drug addiction. When you first hear it you think, “Wow, that’s pretty harsh for an ex-boyfriend!” But for me, it was about my old self and—

Ailsa Chang: You were breaking up with your old self.

Demi Lovato: Yeah, I was breaking up with my old self. Definitely.

Ailsa Chang: What was the rock bottom for you?

Demi Lovato: Rock bottom hit me in a moment when I was drinking vodka out of a Sprite bottle at nine in the morning on my way to the airport. I actually threw up in the back of the car service, and I had a moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, this is no longer glamorous. This is no longer a young person having fun with drinking and alcohol and experimentation. This is actually pathetic and sad.” And I felt like there needed to be a change in my life, because I had gotten to a place where I was no longer proud of myself and the person I had become.

Ailsa Chang: When you were in rehab, you were diagnosed with bipolar disorder and you talk very candidly about your mental illness. You also advocate for others to be open about their mental illnesses. Why is it important to you to talk about mental health in such a public way?

Demi Lovato: There are many, many mental illnesses that people struggle with on a day-to-day basis, and nobody feels comfortable enough to talk about it and to get the help that they need. We could prevent … so many lives [being] destroyed by mental illness if we just talk about it and we take the stigma away from it.

Ailsa Chang: Do you get tired of talking about your mental illness? Do you worry that it becomes a story that you’re known for — that it’s this narrative that drives your new music and it’s this thing that you have to keep talking about in interviews?

Demi Lovato: Well, fortunately my new music isn’t all about my struggles. It has a lot to do with my journey and my life and where I’m at today as a single 25-year-old woman who is living on her own for the first time [and] who has gone through a breakup that was really impactful, who is dating; you know, a bunch of stuff that you can relate to. There are times when I’m doing interviews and I feel like I sound repetitive. It’s not that I feel obligated or pressured to talk about it or that I get tired about talking about it; I just fear that sometimes people get tired of hearing my story.

Ailsa Chang: You know, your commitment to being really open and honest about yourself, it’s a commitment that is all over another song on your new album, “Sorry Not Sorry.” It sounds like you’re totally done with apologizing. What does that feel like?

Demi Lovato: It feels liberating. And the song actually was written — for me, again, it wasn’t written for an ex-boyfriend or anything like that. I was thinking about the bullies that bullied me in school, and how well I’m doing in my life today, and how I don’t give a flying f*** about it. I’ve spent so many years apologizing for my behavior and for the person that I used to be, so now I no longer am apologizing for who I was.

Ailsa Chang: Can you tell me how you got there? I know that’s a huge question, but you are 25; I know you have gone through so much in life. I’m 41 and I wish I could say, “Yeah, I’m done apologizing for myself. I’m done explaining myself and looking for justification.”

Demi Lovato: I think I’ve lived a lot of life. What people typically go through at an older age—I accelerated my life at a younger age with the struggles that I’ve had. And, I feel like I’ve had incredible people around me who have helped me get here; I can’t take all the credit myself. It’s a daily thing where I think about it, you know—some days are easier than others. But staying sober and staying in recovery is extremely important and I have people around me that hold me accountable for it. So it’s easy and sometimes difficult; but for the most part, I’ve just lived a lot of life.

Ailsa Chang: There are parts of this album that come from a pretty vulnerable place, but this is also a really, really fun album. It’s playful, it’s sexy. You talk about being single and dating. There’s one song called “Sexy Dirty Love”—who are you writing this song for?

Demi Lovato: I was writing this song for somebody that I was really interested in—somebody that I had been talking to, that I had a crush on. And, you know, when you go into the studio, you feel very inspired by the things that are happening in your daily life and this was where I was at. I was feeling confident, feeling sexy and I wanted to write a song about it.

Ailsa Chang: Your new album also has this really strong R&B feel to it. Is that something new you brought in through your vocals?

Demi Lovato: It’s something I wanted to explore when I started making this album because recently [during] the Grammys performance, I was able to showcase my vocals more than my pop music was doing. People…had known my songs, but they didn’t know I could sing the way that I can. I knew with this album it was a goal of mine to show the world the voice that I have. And I wanted to go more soulful with it, because that’s the type of music that I have fun singing.

Read the blog post “Demi Lovato’s Story” from 2016 here.

“It Affects People We Just Really Love”

Not very long ago, there was a debilitating stigma around breast cancer. After Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s quick and public announcement this week revealing that she has been diagnosed with breast cancer, USA Today published a great piece tracing how the stigma has been largely overcome. Are there some lessons here for breaking the stigma around mental health? Let’s hope so!

 

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Looking at “some of the big moments that took breast cancer out of the dark and into the pink,” the article starts with Terese Lasser, “the very first true activist… who bumped against the system.” Lasser questioned her surgeon’s indifference, and eventually formed the Reach to Recovery program to support women coping with breast cancer.

Perhaps we need more Terese Lassers bumping “against the system” in mental health.

The article cites a “huge event”—when then-First Lady Betty Ford announced publicly, in 1974, that she had breast cancer.

Thankfully, more and more public figures are “going public” with their mental health struggles. But more often than not, these testimonials are either overlooked by the media, or overshadowed by coverage of behaviors related to the public figures’ disorders.

The article reports on how in 1982 Nancy Brinker founded the first organization to target fundraising for breast cancer research, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In 2015, Susan G. Komen, just one of many organizations doing this work, reported revenue of $118.4 million. One in 8 women get breast cancer.

Mental health advocates must find more effective ways to fund mental health research. By contrast, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in 2015 raised less than one-fifth of that—$19.4 million—for its research and advocacy programs. An important organization dealing more broadly with mental health research, the Child Mind Institute, pulled in $11.2 million. An estimated 1 in 5 Americans experienced mental illness in 2015.

USA Today notes how more women were elected to Congress in 1992, and some of them took up the breast cancer cause (including some with personal family experience).

Former Republican Senator Gordan H. Smith of Utah was one such champion for mental health in Congress. After his son died by suicide at age 21 in 2003, Smith pushed for passage of the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. It has provided millions in government funds for suicide prevention projects across the nation.

Explaining the success of the fight against breast cancer, a spokesman for the Susan H. Komen foundation remarked: “It affects people we just really love. Our moms and our daughters. Our grandmothers and our sisters. And in some cases our dads.”

Mental illness, too, affects people we just really love.

Caption: The semicolon is a symbol of suicide prevention, the brainchild of Project Semicolon whose slogan holds that “your story isn’t over yet.”

The Great Ithaca Cupcake Bake Off

Warm up your ovens! The 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest will be held in the Commons on Saturday October 14.

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Contestants of all ages are invited to enter their tasty masterpieces, which will be eligible for more than $500 in prizes. The contest is open to amateur bakers only.

The contest is organized by The Sophie Fund, which was established in 2016 in memory of Cornell University art student Sophie Hack MacLeod to support mental health initiatives aiding young people.

The 2nd Annual Ithaca Cupcake Baking Contest is sponsored by the GreenStar Natural Foods Market, Alternatives Federal Credit Union, and La Tourelle Hotel, Bistro and Spa. It is also supported by Waffle Frolic, Active Minds of Ithaca College, and Alpha Phi Omega, Phi Sigma Pi and Cornell Minds Matter of Cornell University.

Sophie’s own longstanding passion for baking and cupcakes inspired the launch of the contest. At the time of her death by suicide at age 23, while on a medical leave of absence from Cornell, Sophie was active in Ithaca’s vibrant culinary scene. According to her family, she hoped to open her own bakery after completing her Cornell degree.

To enter the cupcake contest, entrants are asked to bring their submissions to the Bernie Milton Pavilion in the Ithaca Commons from 10–11:30 a.m. on Saturday October 14. The winners will be announced and prizes awarded at a ceremony in the Pavilion later the same day at 3 p.m.

Last year, 57 contestants participated in the bake off, with Monica Lee Cotto taking home the top prize with a pumpkin cheesecake cupcake, set in a chocolate cage and topped with a confectionery yellow and coral rose and a butterfly crisp. The Best Youth Award went to 9-year-old Natalie McCaskill-Myers, who submitted a batch of lemon cherry cupcakes laced with lavender.

Sophie was born in Johannesburg and spent her childhood living in South Africa, then France, and eventually Egypt. But she adopted Ithaca as her hometown, spending five summers in the violin program of the Suzuki Institutes at Ithaca College and then enrolling at Cornell in 2010.

In conjunction with the contest, The Sophie Fund is organizing a fundraising campaign, with monies donated to suicide prevention causes in Ithaca and Tompkins County.

Click here for all the information on contest procedures and rules, and to download a registration form.

What a Weekend in Ithaca

“One of the best places on earth.” —Sam Harris, vocalist of Ithaca’s own X Ambassadors rock band.

Hard to argue that sentiment after another amazing weekend in Ithaca, which saw the successful debut of the Cayuga Sound Festival and the 11th edition of the Porchfest music extravaganza.

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Harris and the Billboard-nominated XA crew (“Renegades,” “Unsteady”) headlined 13 musical acts at Stewart Park-centered Cayuga Sound on Saturday, and no fewer than 180 performers took part in Fall Creek/Northside’s Porchfest on Sunday.

Along with Cayuga Sound producer Dan Smalls of DSP Shows, XA passed up their concert fees so that maximum proceeds could be channeled to Ithaca nonprofits including organizations supporting young people—an act of philanthropy hailed by Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick.

Harris’s philanthropy is especially heartfelt because he and his brother and bandmate Casey Harris spent childhood summers at day camp in Stewart Park and he later served as a counselor there.

“I’ll start crying if I think about it too hard,” he told the Ithaca Journal. “It’s so cool that we’re able to give back to GIAC and Ithaca Youth Bureau and CSMA and Vitamin L—groups in Ithaca that we benefited from as kids.”

Smalls wrote on Facebook afterwards: “Yesterday was amazing. The best thing I have ever done in 28 years in the music biz.”

Ithaca Voice has a wonderful photo galleries of Cayuga Sound and Porchfest.

Jim Catalano had a great preview piece in the Ithaca Journal on Cayuga Sound, including the interview with Sam Harris.

Billboard wrote about the hometown boy and the plans for Cayuga Sound last April.

Thank You, Active Minds

Congratulations to Active Minds of Ithaca College, the top fundraising team at Saturday’s Out of the Darkness Ithaca Walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The 16-member Active Minds Team raised $1,060, followed by $953 by Team Hope, $706 by Bob’s Angels, $700 by Team Scott, and $555 by the Cornell University Childcare Center.

Out of the Darkness walks raise awareness about suicide prevention and raise monies for new research, educational programs, advocacy for public policy, and supporting survivors of suicide loss. This year’s Ithaca Walk raised a total of $9,629.

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Active Minds Co-President S. Makai Andrews, who served as AM’s Team Captain for the Ithaca Walk, was the third-highest individual fundraiser with $555 in donations. AM Social Media Chair Kristin Butler brought in another $210.

Andrews said she joined the walk wanting to give hope to people who may be battling suicidal feelings. “There is still an incredible degree of shame and disapproval associated with those who struggle with their mental health,” she said. “Though we know what bipolar disorder is now, that doesn’t mean that those experiencing manic or depressive episodes are always given the time off work that they may need. Though we know what depression is, we’re still telling people to perk up.”

Elizabeth Mortlock was the second-highest individual fundraiser with $782 in donations.

The Ithaca Walk’s No. 1 individual fundraiser was Clara Scher, who brought in $825 donations. Scher said she sought to spread awareness and raise money in memory of her friend and teammate Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old University of Pennsylvania track and field student athlete who took her own life in January 2014.

Scher was one of several walkers who said they were driven to help prevent suicide after experiencing the devastating loss of a friend or loved one. “This tragedy exposed the debilitating effects of major depression, and motivated me to devote my career in the field of psychology to help prevent the loss of others to this horrific disease,” Scher said.

Donations to the Ithaca Walk can be made through December 31—click here to contribute through the Active Minds Team.

[If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.]

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S. Makai Andrews and Kristin Butler

 

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Ithaca Walk Registration

 

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Ithaca Walkers gathering at Cass Park

 

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Spreading the message with AFSP merch

 

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Active Minds table at the Ithaca Walk

 

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Out of the Darkness walks

Photos courtesy of Active Minds of Ithaca College