She was a squeaky-clean Disney dream, the one parents were happy to see on their tween’s iPod. Then Demi Lovato hit the skids. Now, channeling the languid fall style of her brat-pack-era namesake, she discusses her ordeal with a spectacular honesty—setting the tone for a bold new career.
Demi Lovato’s laugh precedes her down the wide, powder-blue stairs of New York’s Mondrian hotel. It’s the unmistakable lilt of a Disney Channel princess—one who, only three years ago, was inducted into the network’s teen-millionaire-making machine via the smash TV movie Camp Rock. The Jonas Brothers’ answer to the High School Musical franchise starred 15-year-old Lovato as an effervescent music-camper whose voice wins over a young rocker played by Joe Jonas, the middle and studliest of the good-Christian-boys brood. That led to another widely coveted offscreen role as Joe Jonas’ real-life girlfriend. And the Demi Lovato phenom—charming, enviable, bankable—was born.
Jonas wasn’t the only one to fall for Lovato. “She has a voice like she swallowed Pat Benatar,” says Rich Ross, the former Disney Channel president (now Disney Studios chair) who took the network from edu-tainment ghetto to hit-maker, largely by creating megastars such as Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus. Some pegged Lovato as the new Cyrus: a natural double threat with, according to Ross, the vulnerable-yet-spunky charm of Mary Tyler Moore, perfectly repackaged for the Twitter generation.