Lovato landed her first gig at age 7, singing the theme song on Barney & Friends. Things may have looked perfect to an outsider, but they were far from it.
"At the time, I was just so grateful to be on TV, but I was also really struggling," Lovato, now 20, tells the August issue of Cosmopolitan, on newsstands July 9.
"Looking back, there was a connection, probably between any kid who's ever sang that song to Barney, a little place in a child's heart, a void, that could be filled. And maybe Barney fills it. Even before Barney, I was suicidal. I was 7."
In the midst of her pain, Barney helped her through.
"I guess subliminally, I did have a relationship with this figure that was saving my life in a way," she says. "I've talked about being bullied and the years of being a teenager, but I went through things when I was younger that I've never talked about that probably caused me to turn out the way I ended up turning out."
The Meaning of 'Warrior'The X Factor judge also opens up – somewhat – about the haunting lyrics on "Warrior," a song about betrayal and innocence lost from her new album Demi. The song includes the lines: "There's a part of me I can't get back/A little girl grew up too fast/All it took was once, I'll never be the same/Now I'm taking back my life today."
"My family knows what it's about," Lovato says. "When I'm ready to open up that subject with the outside world, then I'll be free to talk about it. But right now, it's kind of one of those things where the lyrics speak for me. It's all in the song."
Elsewhere in the interview, Lovato talks about the cowardice of drug use – "If you're spending your entire early 20s chasing the next party, what are you running away from? That's not a badass … Being a badass is handling your shit" – and the milestone of her upcoming 21st birthday.
"I look at birthdays as celebrating another year of life," she says. "You've made it another year. An entire year. Some people don't make it to 21."