“Whatever they think happened is probably pretty far from what really did,” the director Michael Ratner recently said in an interview about his new four-part YouTube documentary, Demi Lovato: Dancing With the Devil, whose first two installments are now out. The “they” he refers to is the general public, and the “what” is the July 2018 incident that landed the now-28-year-old singer Demi Lovato in intensive care. Media reports have suggested that Lovato used hard drugs and nearly died. In Dancing With the Devil, Lovato says she smoked so much heroin—possibly laced with fentanyl—that she had three strokes and a heart attack, plus pneumonia and brain damage. So the general contours of what really happened, it turns out, fit with what people think happened. Dancing With the Devil just fills in the details for anyone concerned—or curious.
Those details are upsetting. Lovato is a former Disney Channel actor with a titanic voice, unshakable poise, and a very public history of mental-health struggles and addiction. In March 2018, she celebrated six years of sobriety from drugs and alcohol with a tweet and a tearful concert speech. A month later, Dancing With the Devil reveals, she opened a bottle of wine, and soon after, she tried meth, heroin, and crack cocaine for the first time in her life. On the night of her overdose, she says in the film, her drug dealer had sex with her when she was too high to consent. (The big rumor that the documentary does debunk is the allegation that one of Lovato’s backup dancers supplied her drugs.) When an assistant found Lovato passed out the next morning, she was minutes away from dying, according to her doctor. She awoke in the hospital with her vision severely impaired, and today she still has blind spots and cannot drive. She says she is off hard drugs now but does drink alcohol and smoke marijuana in moderation.