Why Demi Lovato is an LGBT icon: Her fearless takes on sexuality, addiction and mental illness

Demi Lovato is a modern-day hero.

While many celebrities are scared of saying anything controversial for fear of hurting their brand, the “Sorry Not Sorry” singer has used her platform to open up about her sexuality and struggles with mental health and addiction.

Demi, who is now stable and awake in hospital after suffering a reported drug overdose yesterday (July 24), has been fearless in her activism despite being in the public eye since she was a child.

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 08: Singer Demi Lovato performs during the 2014 LA Gay Pride Festival on June 8, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty Images)

Demi performs during LA Pride (Chelsea Guglielmino/Getty)

The 25-year-old star revealed she was open to dating women in October after years of LGBT advocacy.

Demi went on to explain that she was “very fluid,” adding: “I think love is love.

“You can find it in any gender. I like the freedom of being able to flirt with whoever I want.”

SUNRISE, FL - DECEMBER 17: Demi Lovato performs at Y100's Jingle Ball 2017 at BB&T Center on December 17, 2017 in Sunrise, Florida. (Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

Demi and dancer (Gustavo Caballero/Getty)

But long before she opened up about her sexuality, the singer was leading the fight for LGBT rights, as demonstrated by GLAAD giving her its Vanguard Award in 2016.

When she picked up the honour, she said it meant “more than any music award” and teared up talking up growing up in Texas, “where it wasn’t very accepting of any sort of LGBT person.

“I grew up with friends that were gay and were afraid to come out,” she told the crowd, before saying that same-sex relationships were simply a part of life.

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 02:  Singer Demi Lovato accepts the Vanguard Award onstage during the 27th Annual GLAAD Media Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 2, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California.  (Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Demi accepting the GLAAD Vanguard Award in 2016 (Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

“It’s love, and people deserve to be able to love who they want to love,” said Demi.

The video for her 2014 hit song “Really Don’t Care” was filmed during her performance at LA Pride and featured a lesbian couple kissing and dancing transgender activists.

She also campaigned for equal marriage before it was legalised in the US in 2015, which included becoming the face of the Human Rights Campaign’s Americans for Marriage Equality Initiative.

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 28: Demi Lovato answered questions during the DEMI x JBL Tell Me You Love Me Pop Up event, celebrating her new album and partnership with JBL. The album listening party was held on September 28, 2017 at the Highline Gallery in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for JBL)

Demi was vocal in her support of marriage equality (Mike Coppola/Getty)

Demi may have hit the headlines this year when she kissed queer singer Kehlani during one of her concerts, but it wasn’t the first gay kiss to grace her stage.

In 2014, she was unapologetic in the face of criticism after two of her male backup dancers – one of whom was naked apart from a picture of President Putin’s face over his genitals – passionately embraced in front of her audience.

And the star has been equally brave in speaking about her mental health, revealing when she was still a teenager that she was dealing with depression, bulimia and the trauma of being bullied.

(YouTube/Demi Lovato)

Demi cries during her documentary, Simply Complicated (Demi Lovato/YouTube)

She has repeatedly opened up about how her struggles have caused her to self-medicate with hard drugs and alcohol self-harm and nearly overdose multiple times, and even offered free group therapy sessions to fans before concerts on her world tour this year.

Demi could provide those sessions because she co-owns CAST Centres, an organisation which offers mental health and wellness programmes, showing her commitment to helping others.

She has gone through more than her fair share of pain and suffering, which is why it was so inspiring to see her announce earlier this year that she was six years sober – and why it was so devastating when she revealed just a few months later in “Sober” that this was no longer true.

(YouTube/Demi Lovato)

Demi has endured struggles (Demi Lovato/YouTube)

The news was heartbreaking for her fans, and went against the classic redemption story that people like to tell around mental health and addiction, of the brave hero who overcomes their inner demons and never looks back.

It’s a tale thousands of years old, but all too often, it’s far from the truth – which is why it was so incredibly brave of Demi to publicise the end of her sobriety.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 24: Demi Lovato performs "Skyscraper" during the March for Our Lives rally on March 24, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, including students, teachers and parents gathered in Washington for the anti-gun violence rally organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14 that left 17 dead. More than 800 related events are taking place around the world to call for legislative action to address school safety and gun violence. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Demi Lovato performs “Skyscraper” at the March for Our Lives rally (Chip Somodevilla/Getty)

It is incalculably important for fans and the public to see a visible queer singer like Demi who consistently pushes for acceptance and understanding on multiple fronts by showing her scars to the world.

Today’s events have hopefully reminded all of us not to take her for granted.