Demi Lovato turns 21 on August 20—and she’s thankful to be around for the big day. “I look at birthdays as celebrating another year of life. You’ve made it another year. An entire year. Some people don’t make it to 21,” she says in the new August issue of Cosmopolitan.
The singer, who in the past struggled through bulimia and cutting, admits she could have easily been just another grim statistic. Growing up, Demi had to turn to an unlikely figure in her life just to survive the pain: Barney. “At the time, I was just so grateful to be on TV, but I was also really struggling,” Demi says of her two-year stint on the kids show Barney & Friends, which ended in 2004. “Even before Barney, I was suicidal. I was 7. With Barney, I guess subliminally, I did have a relationship with this figure that was saving my life in a way.”
Demi’s journey to adulthood didn’t get easier. “I’ve talked about being bullied and the years of being a teenager, but I went through things when I was younger that I’ve never talked about that probably caused me to turn out the way I ended up turning out,” reveals Demi.
Though Demi won’t discuss what happened to her—she notes her “family knows what it’s about”—she turns to her lyrics to work through the pain. It’s an ongoing battle to heal, and Demi has a message for those who use their music and fame to block out the realities of life. “When I look at someone who’s out there partying excessively or rappers rapping about doing drugs, who people look up to, and think, Oh that’s a G; that’s a gangster. I think, You’re actually being a giant pussy,” she says. “Sorry, but those rockers in the ‘80s were the furthest thing from rock stars. They were so insecure and so lonely that they had to do these things to get them through the day.”
“If you’re spending your entire early 20s chasing the next party, what are you running away from?” asks Demi. “That’s not a badass. What’s a badass is when you can sit through your problems and feel emotions when you don’t want to have them. There have been nights where I’ve had to sit on my hands, because I want to act out, because I physically can’t sit still in the pain I’m dealing with, from looking back and being bullied or other things that happened. And now, as hard as it may be, I will do that. That’s what makes me a badass. Being a badass is handling your shit.”
Which of Demi’s songs or lyrics mean the most to you? Tell us in the comments section or on Twitter @OKMagazine.