Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore compare notes on child stardom: ‘We can relate to each other’

·4-min read

While they grew up in Hollywood decades apart, Demi Lovato and Drew Barrymore have found a lot of common ground as recovering child stars. On the new 4D With Demi Lovato podcast, they spoke about addiction, being institutionalized and shedding their child star images.

“I'm not sure you can remember what you were doing at 8 years old," Lovato, 28, said at the top of the episode. "I was on Barney & Friends being a kid but in many ways feeling like an adult," as the family breadwinner. "I read that you have to reconstruct the past so that you can deconstruct its meaning. So today I’m exploring my childhood story, how I’ve grown and how I’ve healed and who I am now, alongside someone who has had a fascinating life of her own,” referring to 46-year-old Barrymore, who was in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial at 7.

Like Lovato, Barrymore had her own drug and alcohol addiction struggle. She first got sober at 13 when her mom had her institutionalized.

"She didn't know what to do with me," Barrymore said of her mom, who would take her to clubs in the '80s. "She created a monster." Locked away at Van Nuys Psychiatric Hospital for 18 months, "I was so upset at having my freedom taken away like that. I just thought it would screw me up for life.”

Barrymore said being institutionalized was nothing like the rehab facilities people see late-night ads for.

"I didn't get the 30-day Malibu treatment center," Barrymore said. "It was nothing like I was in. I was in hardcore Van Nuys Psychiatric. You acted out, you got thrown into the stretcher restraints or the solitary confinement room," the latter being the "better of the two choices," she said.

Lovato, who uses they/them pronouns, talked about being institutionalized as well, though not giving the time frame — whether it was amid the 2018 overdose or before as they've battled addiction, eating disorders and self-harm from an early age.

"Me neither!" Lovato said after Barrymore said she never wants to relive her institution days. "First of all, you were Van Nuys. I was San Bernardino," referring to a psychiatric facility in the nearby city.

They both laughed at the coincidence with Lovato saying, "Wow, I'm glad that we can relate to each other."

Barrymore said what she learned is that the healing from that "takes a long time." While her story was very public at the time, she felt empathy for Lovato in the social media age where her addiction and overdose played out in real-time.

Barrymore also spoke about getting out of the institution, being emancipated and moving into her own apartment. Just 14, she had a fourth grade education. She admitted things were very "messy" at first, made worse because she wasn't fully sober. While she had a"mid-life crisis" at 15, she slowly built her life and career back — though it was an uphill struggle as she'd been "blacklisted" and told she was uninsurable due to her personal problems.

Barrymore talked about turning to sexier roles at first, appearing in 1992's Poison Ivy and played "Long Island Lolita" Amy Fisher in 1993. She did it to help shed Gertie, her E.T. role, but also because those were the only offers she was getting. For a while, she said she was typecast with all the scripts calling for a "very sexy, cokehead-ish, screwed up girl."

Lovato related telling Barrymore that "after Disney Channel, I wanted to be super sexy," to leave behind Mitchie. "I did the same thing. I wanted to totally distance myself." They imagined saying to themself at the time, "Let me show you Camp Rock."

Barrymore said, "Your Camp Rock was my Gertie. It's the same thing."

They also spoke about supporting their parents as child stars and how complicated it was for the parent-child dynamic.

"When they would try and ground me at 17, I would say, 'I pay the bills'" Lovato admitted. "I cringe now when I think about the attitude. But when the world is putting you on the pedestal, you think you can do no wrong."

Barrymore talked about her and her mother being "throw in a blender" as far as parent and child. She said her mom would use her to get to the front of the line at clubs including Studio 54. However, Barrymore didn't mind missing school to go to a club. While they've reconciled now, they were famously estranged for many years.

"Boy was there some toxic s*** there," Barrymore said. "Even stuff people don't know about. Just crazy, crazy, crazy."

But Barrymore said she ultimately wouldn't change any of it, even the bad. "I just wouldn't change a thing," said the mom of two. "If everything hadn't happened the way it was — and you took one thing out of the Jenga game — maybe you wouldn't come out the other side."

Lovato's podcast debuted last month and in the first episode, they came out as non-binary, meaning, gender is a spectrum and not exclusively identifying as a man nor a woman. The singer and actor announced a change in their pronouns to they/them.

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