I remember that time in 2011.
She was singing “Skyscraper” - the quintessential Demi song at the time. Our anthem - those of us who loved her dearly, who became invested in her beyond the basic celebrity-to-peasant fanfare.
And so I was crying my eyes out. I stood right underneath the stage, ten feet away from her as she played the melody out on the piano, and I cried.
I had just moved out to Los Angeles not even a month before. I had bought a lemon of a car that was giving me hell, and my best friend and I were facing potential homelessness if we didn’t find a new place to stay in a week. The job hunt was proving to be impossible, and it was all so lonely.
Yet the first time I cried when I moved out to LA was at a Demi Lovato concert.
Everything just came swarming into my mind, my heart, my soul at once. The news of her entrance into rehab sunk claws into my heart - it ached as it pulsated. All of her issues hit too closely to another time with someone I had deeply cared about years before, and I had found myself whispering helplessly, “No, not again.” I’d spent the whole summer prior learning to love Demi beyond her music. Seeing her fall wasn’t celebrity gossip; it was like watching the demise of a friend.
But then she overcame it. And I was so happy for that. Because I cared. Because I was invested. And I was left in awe of the beautiful, strong woman she had become - who doesn’t love a redemption story? Especially when your favorite person was involved.
So she sang that song that characterized her struggles and her rise from them, and I cried hard. I tear up often enough (over stupid things, like sappy commercials when I’m about to start my period - stuff like that), but I never cry. Especially not hard, but I couldn’t stop as Demi sang, and I was overcome by relief. I was so proud of her, so glad that she was okay. I cried because of what she had gone through, then I cried because she’d made it through, better than ever.
I was moved, clearly - my tear-saturated eyes trained reverently on her. She moved to the bridge, then a mellowed down repeat of the chorus as she stood up from the piano and walked towards us. Caught up in everything, so connected and affected in this moment, it was natural reflex to reach my hand out to her as she approached.
We’d all been reaching our hands out to her that entire concert, because we were close enough that she could touch us. But this time was different. I wasn’t reaching out so she’d grab my hand, and she knew that. I was reaching out to connect to her, in soliditarity with her. It was the only effective way I knew in the moment to express everything I felt, every emotion I wish I could share with her. I wanted to connect to her in that moment - even more, because even just being there so closely to her as she sang, I felt connected already.
I said earlier “and she knew that” and not as a guess, but because I know she did. Because immediately she spotted my gesture, met my eyes and returned it. She reached right back out to me, holding her arm out for several seconds where in this room with thousands of people, it suddenly just because me and her.
It wasn’t some obsessive fan moment. I didn’t hyperventilate. I didn’t shake. I just lived in that moment fully as that connection between us fortified. It was the most natural thing. For those few seconds, we were right on the same page. We understood each other. We were there for each other.
At the time, I thought that was the culmination of it all. After two years of being an enthusiastic passionate Demi Lovato - back when no one really knew who she was yet except some kids who watched the Disney Channel and even in that demographic, Demi wasn’t as popular as her contemporaries - it had finally paid off. I was seeing her in concert from the pit, not from ridiculous nosebleeds I’d paid $15 for. And we actually had a moment.
Little did I know that it wasn’t the culmination, but the beginning of so many things.
Nina and I went back to the guest house we were staying at after the concert, and as Nina went to bed, I stayed out in the small kitchen area in a Demi-induced stupor. Everything within me was abuzz - that concert was one of the best experiences of my life. It was more than just watching her perform - Demi has this amazing way of really engaging with her audience. It feels less like a concert, and more like hanging out with an incredibly gorgeous and talented friend who decides to sing a bit for you. All guards are down with her when she’s on that stage - you’re getting all of her: free, natural, open and honest, and I love it.
Presented with such a raw view of this woman who had began to mean so much to me, and at such a close proximity - it overwhelmed me. Everything in my head was in a rush; I was feeling extraordinary things that I’d never felt because of a person before, and I distinctly remember my at-the-time “heterosexual-identifying” self thinking, “I can never be with a man if he can’t make me feel like Demi Lovato just did.”
Because no guy had ever even remotely close been able to get that out of me. Demi did.
It wasn’t always like that. For the 6th time, I saw her in concert tonight - just as close if not closer to her as I had been back in 2011, eager to just be as near to her as possible and soak in her presence, and I thought, “When did it come to this?” That I’m literally at a concert to just see her more so than to actually hear her perform her songs.
Because back in 2009 when I first started listening to her music, I was so insistent that I get to a concert of hers as soon as possible, just so I could listen to that amazing voice live and in person. I didn’t care how close I was, couldn’t careless about Demi as a person (she seemed cool, but those were the days where I much rather have been Miley’s BFF or even Selena’s), but I was desperate to get to witness in person these wonderful vocals that I had been obsessed with since my Pandora station played some obscure Demi Lovato song, and I realized that even though I didn’t particularly care for the song, I never skipped it because something about that voice…I realized I could listen to anything, as long as she was singing it.
I got to my first Demi concert on November 1, 2009, and it blew my expectations out of the water. She sounded flawless - even better in person than on the album, and I will never forget the encore number that defined that experience for me (and not just because it was of her song “Don’t Forget”).
Tonight, though, I mused that over the course of everything with Demi, I came for her voice, but stayed for her smile.
I want to remember, though, what it’s like to be caught up by her voice. There was such a magic to that time five years ago when I was discovering her for the first time, her music distilled from everything else. It’s funny, because I guess I’ve always been captivated by her, but just in different ways.
It was almost as if my 20 year old self could just sense something in her voice, more than just how good it sounded. Maybe her tone was rich with her essence, and that’s what I latched onto, unwittingly, not knowing that Demi Lovato would become much more than a voice.
It was latching onto the living quality of the voice that catapulted me into the Demi experience that didn’t culminate at the concert in 2011 like I thought it had, but kept expanding. Los Angeles afforded me more interactions with Demi. A small wave at an X-Factor taping. Finding out a guy I had gone to church small group with for a year co-wrote her song “Heart Attack” with her (Demi even tweeted about him). Getting to actually meet her, and having her genuinely laugh at what I said as we had a funny, playful exchange. A close friend of mine dating someone who is legitimate good friends with Demi.
Then tonight, when she went out of her way to touch my outstretched hand. Her set was over. The music had stopped. There were others around me with their hands stretched out, too. I didn’t make a noise to get her attention, but as she walked to head backstage, she saw me and changed directions to swing her hips my way so that her fingers could graze against the inside of mine.
And thus another moment between the two of us.
Pages and pages, and the surface has barely been scratched, but it’s not my aim to make anyone understand. I’m just processing, sharing a bit. Being the person I am, who especially on social media tends to operate with a specific agenda in mind with everything I post, I tend to admittedly exaggerate and embellish to make things funnier. I feign obsession with a tone of tongue-in-cheek that you may or may not catch onto, because it’s absurd and it’s ridiculous, but it’s funny. There’s a grain of truth to it, but that’s it.
And so people know how much I love Demi Lovato but when it comes to Facebook and the such, I tend to focus in on how attractive she is as I call her my future wife or bae (which is definitely done ironically), but I wonder if people realize that as shallow and ridiculous as I may make it seem, it isn’t just some meaningless yet obsessive celebrity crush on a woman who I think is incredibly hot.
And Demi is definitely incredibly hot. But it’s so much more than that, and I don’t know if I can properly even explain this journey that I, in a sense, have been on with her these past five years - dating back to when I didn’t even remotely find her attractive (and that wasn’t me being in denial - I just really didn’t).
I’d love her completely even if I was blind. Just as long as I could’ve still been able to hear her voice all those years ago and be opened up to the world of this deeply beautiful person who has affected me in so many ways.
Here’s to maybe actually getting to know her for real one of these days.
Sitting here listening to Skyscraper and trying not to cry because exactly three years ago (down to almost the exact hour), I reached my arm out to Demi Lovato as she sang this song, she saw me, and reached her arm back out to me.
We had a moment for a few seconds. I still remember distinctly the image of her eyes staring down at me.
It was one of my favorite days of my life so far. It was a beautiful day characterized by a beautiful moment. I love Demi so much <3
You know, sometimes you have plans.
Like saving enough money to fly out East for two weeks during the summer, so you can road trip from North Carolina to Tennessee to volunteer at the Bonnaroo Music Festival solely so you can fulfill your dream of seeing Paul McCartney perform live.
Then sometimes those plans don’t pan out.
But then, randomly, without planning for it, several months later, you end up seeing Paul McCartney perform live for free in your city - the self-proclaimed city of dreams - and you suddenly you don’t care at all that those other plans never panned out.
Or you keep missing Demi Lovato concerts, which shouldn’t be a big deal because you have seen her five times, after all, but back in 2009, you vowed you’d see her perform every time she came to whatever city you lived it, and you’d been making good on that for four years. But then 2013, and you just can’t seen to make it happen, and it’s a little upsetting on principal because you’ve her every single year since you became a fan, and time’s running out to keep up that yearly trend.
But at the very end of the year, you end up meeting her and not in that predictable, cliche “meet ‘n greet” way that everyone around you was meeting her, but a legitimate interaction where you bantered and made her laugh - not a polite titter, but her genuine, loud, goofy trademark laugh and okay, so you didn’t get to see her in concert that yet, but actually meeting her was a million times better.
I know it’s cliche, and I know it’s been said a million times, but sometimes things don’t work out how you want then, when you want them, but then with a little bit of patience and time, you get what you wanted after all - sometimes in a much better manifestation than you previously anticipated. Disappointments are temporary, and perhaps I can only really speak from the perspective of my own life and personal experiences, but things come through eventually.
It’s a nice hope to hold on, too. And I know there’s a growing unpopularity with the concept of a inter-personal God involved intimately in existence of humanity, and I know my anecdotes about meaningful celebrity encounters will convince no unbeliever - and that’s not my intent at all, but I just know so evidently that there’s someone much greater than all of us this, watching out for me in simple and huge things, and it’s a knowledge that allows me to breathe a lot easier throughout my days and not hold on to my plans so tightly.
Because things will work out, you know? I’m pretty sure of it. You deal with the downs until the ups come around.
It was amazing.
Such a simple, but effervescent joy.
To see all of these people like me, marching down the street.
The outcasted becoming the celebrated.
The outpouring of love from communities who stereotypically put us down.
The immediate connection; instantaneous formations of solidarity. A bond created right there on the spot, fostered by a spiritual understanding that we’ve come from the same place and now stand together in the same place. Strangers, yet we are all one.
The good friends beside me that I’ve had for years; straight, yet so so supportive.
The smile that wouldn’t leave my face.
That sense of belonging that constantly alludes me, finally found on a Sunday afternoon in West Hollywood.
The feel of freedom. The true mark of inclusiveness. My Sundays used to belong to church, but I could never breathe as easily in those sanctuaries as I could on that street.
My former community who promised “come as you are”, but pushed me away when I couldn’t conform into “then become what we want” - they left me shaken and unsteady; uncomfortable and unsettled. Failing to emulate the comfort, love, acceptance, understanding and empathy that I truly and honestly experience in Christ.
Yet this new community - a family I was adopted into without a moment of hesitance with open arms and big hearts has wrapped its arms so tightly around me. And I can just settle as the burdens that have forever set me apart slowly evaporate off of the skin that I’m now fully comfortable in.
That was Pride.
Not just an event, but swelling in my heart as I took in the beautiful community of diverse people surrounding me. Battered by the atmosphere of oppression cultivated by the powers that be, yet standing so strong despite of it; smiling so wide, despite of it.
Pride in myself. Not the pride whose antithesis is humility, but the pride whose enemy is shame. Society and culture exacerbate what makes me different then villainize it. Unable to separate it from myself - because though not all of who I am, it certainly is an integral part of me - I’d at times be so self-frustrated. I’d hate myself.
But not anymore. And today represented that transformation well. I am who I am. I accept who I am. I love who I am. And I know now that my sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. I can be proud of it - that subtle, assuring, affirming pride - because it’s apart of me.
Today, that pride was further affirmed and esteemed. All the burdens of being different, being a minority, being discriminated, being judged disappeared. In those moments, I could breathe easy. I was comfortable. I was settled.
And then at the very end, the grand finale, the woman who made me really confront my sexuality to begin with, who I’ve been enamored with before I even realized I was gay, tying it all together.
You have no idea how perfect that made everything. How confident that makes me in the belief that God has a strong hand in my narrative; He tosses me special touches every so often. Barely out a year, this was my first Pride event, and to have it punctuated by Demi Lovato just made it all the more meaningful. I lose my eloquence because I can’t even describe how much her being there means.
It was really just so perfect to see Demi today, ten feet away from me, at a celebration affirming my identity. It was like my two worlds coming perfectly together.
In many ways that I know people won’t understand, she’s given me so much already. But her vocal and very present support of our community; her stand of solidarity with us - it really makes me think that I was meant to fall into her voice the way I did five years ago, so seemingly randomly at the time, if it would lead us here now.
Kind of in the way I made a new best friend five years ago, before I had any remote inkling that I was gay (okay, okay, that’s a lie - there were definite signs that I blatantly ignored and swallowed back) who then ended up being my greatest supporter as I’ve come into my sexuality and was sitting there right with me at Pride today (That would be Nina).
So I’m grateful. I’m happy. I’m relaxed. Today was such a monumental and amazing day. The days that remind me that in spite of the worst, everything really will be alright.
So thank you, Pride, for giving me that today.
And thank You, God, for how You continually tie everything so wonderfully together and constantly affirm Your love for me with how You breathe it so diligently and evidently into my life.
Ok, Disney Channel fanatics of the late-00’s era!
Can we talk about how Demi is going on tour with MKTO? Who is half Tony Oller, who she was As The Bell Rings with.
Things come full circle. Former Disney Stars in total harmony <3