From a field of former Disney teen stars -- think Selena, Miley, plus their older pop sisters Britney and Christina -- Demi Lovato, 21, is one of the most relatable. In 2010, she entered a rehab facility to deal with issues of depression, bulimia, addiction, and cutting, and she's been equally forthright about her subsequent journey to health. Now, the youngest X Factor judge has a new self-titled album that documents that journey. We caught up with her in between tour dates -- and after surgery to have her tonsils removed -- to ask how she's feeling, emotionally and physically, in the months after her father's sudden passing.
How did your throat surgery go? And how soon until we hear your voice again?
It was tough, but I'm feeling so much better now. I felt like I had a terrible sore throat for at least 2 weeks. I was really nervous before the surgery: I asked the doctor if he'd ever had anyone die from anesthesia before. (In case you're wondering, he said, "No.") I'm going to be singing again very soon!
Did this surgery offer a permanent remedy?
I had enlarged and impacted tonsils, so I've been dealing with chronic tonsillitis for as long as I can remember. I'd get sick every couple of weeks. Awful! I was supposed to get my tonsils out when I was 15, but my schedule was [too] crazy. Now that my tonsils are removed, I should be good.
You also broke your foot earlier this year. Are you fully recovered?
I'm a bit clumsy sometimes. Honestly, it was so challenging to not be able to use my leg. It really made me thankful for everyday things, like getting up to get myself [a glass of] water. It was a long recovery process -- about 3 months -- but I'm good as new. I had to perform in a medical boot, because I had tour dates in Asia and Russia right after the accident. I had my boot studded and covered in leather, then hit the stage!
How do you stay healthy and balanced while touring?
I drink a ton of water, and I try to make sure I get plenty of sleep. It's really hard to do that when you're traveling and dealing with crazy time changes. If I'm having a hard time, I'll go to the hotel gym and try to wear myself out. I've even brought a trainer/nutritionist on the road. He finds the health food stores in each city and buys sushi and salads. He also makes fresh juices with kale, spinach, ginger, and so forth to make sure I'm getting enough veggies every day.
It's been a challenging few months for you, with the recent passing of your father. Do you have a good support system in place?
My family has been amazing, and we've really leaned on each other to pull through. I'm surrounded by such supportive people at work as well, which is pretty amazing! I also have some great friends who stand by me, no matter what.
How are you coping with grief?
It was a very tough and sad moment in my life, but I'm dealing with it. My dad and I did not have the best relationship, but it was still so painful. He suffered from mental health issues -- after he passed away, I realized he was never able to get the help he needed. I decided to start The Lovato Treatment Scholarship program [in partnership with CAST Recovery, a therapeutic outpatient organization]. My father no longer has the chance to get the help he needed, but it makes me feel better to offer help to others.
How does the scholarship work?
The goal is to cover expenses for someone struggling with mental health and/or addiction issues, including the costs for one of CAST Recovery's transitional living homes, plus clinical services provided at CAST's outpatient program. I've struggled with mental health issues, so I truly know what's at stake. Effective treatment is costly, and many can't afford the care they need. I feel the most fulfilled when I can give back to others. It's a really important part of my own recovery. I've been so lucky to work with CAST Recovery for the past couple years. They've taught me to deal with my own demons.
Get help and talk to someone. You need support, and you need someone to teach you the tools needed to get well. You can get well. I'm living proof that it gets better. It is slow and steady, but it feels amazing when you can look back over a year or two and see the progress you've made. Trust you can do it.
Do you have a favorite single from the new album?
I can never pick one single. It's like picking a favorite child! I'm loving performing "Made in the USA" right now. It's such a catchy song. The album is better than anything I've ever done, and I'm so proud of it. It's a celebration of life, but with realness and honesty. I co-wrote a lot of the songs, so there's a piece of me in each.
What's most exciting about the latest season of FOX's reality-TV music competition, The X Factor?
I love to work with the contestants. It's amazing to see their excitement and energy. There's some talent that [will] surprise everyone. Also, my category is by far the best -- and, no, I cannot tell you what category that is!
Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers just named you his favorite Disney alum. Flattered?
Joe, Nick, Kevin, and I have a great history together, and I'm so glad that I can call them friends.
With your busy schedule, how do you find time for friends and family?
In all relationships, romantic and platonic, you need to make time to focus on the relationships that matter to you. I make time to go to dinner with friends or hop on the phone when my schedule is too packed. Without friends and family, life is very lonely.
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