Britney’s strip show at the 2000 VMAs. Christina’s Stripped era. Bieber’s shirtless obsession. Miley and twerkgate.
Almost inevitably, every pop star who blew up as a kid has had some type of coming-of-age, take-my-clothes-off era, as an attempt to strip away their child-star image and be taken seriously as an adult. Demi Lovato’s is happening now via the subject matter and visuals behind her upcoming Confident album, but if you’re quickly writing her off as the next Disney star to go bad, you’re not paying attention.
In November 2010, Lovato entered the Timberline Knolls rehab center for depression, self-harm and an eating disorder. The latter issue, bulimia and severe diet restrictions, came as a lasting result of childhood bullying.
“When I would ask them why they were being so mean to me,” she recalled to ABC News, “they would just say, ‘Well, you’re fat.'” Lovato secretly cut herself as “a way of expressing my own shame, of myself, on my own body.” Following the stay, Demi committed to a life of clean living (she lived in an L.A. “sober house” in January 2011) and has become an outspoken advocate for body and mental health issues.
The singer’s two albums which followed her rehab stint (2011’s Unbroken and 2013’s Demi) situated Lovato as pop’s well-mannered, well-spoken powerhouse next door. She could slay a ballad like Unbroken‘s title track, and also smash a catchy pop tune like “Heart Attack” or “Give Your Heart a Break.” But as the star began rolling out her fifth album, something was different. Lovato was becoming more explicitly sexual in her imaging and lyrical content.
The cover art for Confident’‘s lead single “Cool for the Summer” was the first taste of new Demi as she posed in a sizzling one-piece bathing suit. The song itself was a 2015 version of “I Kissed a Girl” and kicked off a series of sexy music videos, photoshoots and magazine covers. It was a particular shoot with Cosmopolitan, the September cover, where she posed in tiny dresses and her underwear that got people really chatting. Namely, the National Center on Sexual Exploitation who launched a “Cosmo Harms Minors” campaign and asked for supermarkets to have an overlay on the mag to shield minors from the cover.
The “controversy” forced the star to speak up and gave insight into her new professional presentation. She wrote on Instagram:
“What these individuals who are protesting don’t understand is that for the first time in a long time I feel incredibly EMPOWERED and the MOST BEAUTIFUL I’ve ever felt on this magazine. It’s so liberating to be able to show the world how confident a woman can be once she learns to love herself. It took soul searching and a bit of time before I learned to embrace my body therefore I could not have been more excited to do this shoot. I think what’s more important is showing women there’s NOTHING WRONG with embracing their bodies and sexuality. I am confident in my own skin and A PROUD @COSMOPOLITAN COVER GIRL!”
She further explained herself to E! News saying, “If anything, it’s showing all of my fans who know my story and my journey that I’ve gone from hating every inch of my body to doing a photo shoot in my underwear in front of the entire world. That’s more of statement to me than just looking sexy on a magazine cover.”
Lovato is making a statement with these pictorials—which have since included a photoshop-free, no-makeup, 100-percent-naked photoshoot with Vanity Fair. Going from hating and hurting your body to being confident and showing it off in all its glory—which is tough, no matter what your relationship is with your body—is a journey that should be celebrated.
“What’s wrong with being confident?” Lovato asks on the hook of her latest single, “Confident.” Demi isn’t going for shock value or trying to prove that she’s adult with that question — she’s aiming at empowerment. To call her another “sexy pop star” because she is ripping her clothes off is not only incorrect, but degrading to anyone who’s overcome eating and body issues. The 23-year-old is already in her own league when it comes to powerhouse vocals; now, she’s confirmed she’s in her own lane when it comes to the presentation of her sexy image.
There’s nothing wrong with being confident. Instead of the missing clothes, let’s focus on that.