Last night, MTV premiered “Demi Lovato: Stay Strong,” an intimate documentary with the pop star. And while at first, I was concerned it would be exploitative and glorify Lovato’s struggles with eating disorders, depression, and self-harm, instead, it’s a real, hard, painful, but positive look at how difficult recovery really is. And I think it will inspire a lot of women to open up about what they’re battling, which, if I learned anything from last week’s Eating Disorder Awareness push, is necessary to tackle this deadly epidemic.
What I really loved about Lovato’s narrative is that, unlike other eating disorder-specific documentaries and films (HBO’s “THIN” comes to mind), it’s not triggering–there are no scary before-and-after shots, there are no scales, there are no specifics about her actual eating disorder or self-harm. Instead, the story surrounds Lovato’s path leading up to and through treatment and recovery. It doesn’t dwell on the sickness, it focuses on what it takes to get healthy.
And health really is the focal point. Not weight loss, not thinness, not the actions and behaviors of an eating disorder. Instead, Lovato’s main message is that every woman is worth recovery, and worth celebrating.
“You’re worth more than harming yourself,” she tells the women at the recovery center she once attended.
At 19 years old, Lovato has made a difficult decision–it’s likely that her struggle with mental illness may, for many, overshadow her powerful singing voice and musical career–but one that is admirable in so many ways. Celebrities (especially thin, beautiful ones) consistently remain closeted when it comes to their own troubles, which can lead fans to feel like they’re the only ones who feel “not good enough.”
Lovato’s fans, however, have an ally onstage. The quotations from them that are used in the documentary–while doubtlessly carefully selected, but powerful nonetheless–are both heart-breaking and wonderful. One by one, her fans admit that Lovato’s honesty encouraged them to be more honest about their own demons. Some of them even sought treatment because, “if Demi can do it, so can I.”
MTV has made “Stay Strong” available on its website for free. You can watch it here.