Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez go way, way back.
As in, for most of their lives.
Born within a month of each other in 1992, they first joined forces 10 years later on Barney & Friends, Lovato as “Angela” and Gomez as “Gianna” as they and a few of their peers sang, cooperated, used their imagination and otherwise looked enthused by a talking plush purple dinosaur. They even have regional similarities, both having grown up in Texas, Lovato in Dallas and Gomez in Grand Prairie.
But their enduring friendship is more than just a legacy connection, intact thanks primarily to nostalgia and the occasional red carpet reunion.
The 10-year-olds were, needless to say, cute as buttons, but it was impossible to guess that both would turn out to be defining stars of their generation, young women whose fans looked to not just for entertainment and fashion inspiration, but also as guides to lead them through the wilderness that is figuring out love, self-esteem, body image, standing up to bullies, addiction, depression and other aspects of growing up that can seem insurmountable.
Both Gomez and Lovato have risen to great heights and stumbled along the way. Both have sought treatment when their respective issues were in danger of winning. They haven’t always been there for each other, no more than any two non-celebrity friends whose paths have diverged don’t always know what’s going on behind the other’s scenes.
Their bond endures, however, because, simply, they get each other.
“Demi and Selena love each other and always will love each other,” Lovato’s mother, Dianna De La Garza, told People in February. Recalling all the time the girls spent together as children, including many hours at auditions, she added, “They started out together! We had some great times together. They will always will love each other. There’s nothing that will ever come between them.”
That could be a mother’s rosy-eyed recollection, but don’t moms know best?
“We enjoy doing everything together,” Gomez told People for a story about the BFF co-stars of Princess Protection Program in 2009. “But our favorite is to just chill at each other’s houses.”
“Definitely,” added Lovato. “We love watching movies too. Like on Halloween we watched so many scary movies together. It was awesome.”
They wouldn’t fight over boys, with Gomez preferring Zac Efron and Lovato picking Robert Pattinson, and they agreed that Kelly Clarkson‘s “Since U Been Gone” was their girl power song.
“That song has gotten us through good times, and it’s gotten us through rough times,” Gomez said.
By then, among other things Gomez had starred on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place for two years and Lovato had shot her first season of Sonny With a Chance, which Gomez had a cameo on as herself. The “rough times” didn’t yet include Justin Bieberor Wilmer Valderrama, but rather plenty of the other pains particular to growing up as a child star—and while Gomez had gone on a double date in Central Park with Nick Jonas, Lovato was crushing on Joe Jonasafter sharing her first-ever kiss with him on the set of 2008’s Camp Rock.
Behind the scenes of their video for “One in the Same,” which they described as being tied to Princess Protection Program and a lot like the casual YouTube videos they enjoyed making together, they told Access Hollywood about how cool they thought it was that it was Valentine’s Day “and we’re shooting a video about girl power,” Lovato said. “We don’t need boys, like…” “We’re both single,” Gomez added. “I think it’s nice that we can kind of share that with our fans. It’s like, this is what we normally do.”
“Independent, like, girls, you know what I mean?” Lovato said.
But the teens were already used to the ways of the entertainment machine and refused to give away anything that might be misconstrued as fodder for a feud.
When an interviewer from andPop asked Gomez at the premiere about Lovato admittedly acting a little “high-maintenance” while in character on the set of Princess Protection Program (“and Selena’s like, ‘whoa, chill out,'” Demi laughed telling the story), the ever-poised star replied, “I don’t think it was a diva side. I think she was just focusing more on the character—and it was so funny because she would always sit up proper,” she straightened her back, “and I was like, ‘oh, I don’t know about this…where’s my girl? Where’s the one that slouches?’ But she had to practice, it was part of the job.”
But after the fun of promoting PPP was over, there was some real drama coming their way.
“My music is my therapy,” Lovato also told andPop at that event, sharing that she had to tone down her darker inclinations a little bit for her latest album, Here We Go Again. “We definitely had to lighten it up,” she said.
So Team Demi wasn’t quite ready to let her grow all the way up in 2009.
By 2010, however, it’s as if everyone from the Disney Channel family came of age with a vengeance.
Those two simple words went on to represent peak disruption in the Selena-Demi force, Lovato’s reply to a fan who asked about Gomez just as the “Give Your Heart a Break” singer had arrived at her London hotel in January 2010.
“What I admire most about Taylor is that she focuses on all the positive things—and that’s what I love about her,” Gomez told MTV News in February 2010. “She won four Grammys. That was amazing.” Her career “is really what she’s passionate about. And that’s what she loves. She’s a very strong person, so that’s what she’s honoring and that’s what I’m proud of her for.”
Taylor being Taylor Swiftwhom Gomez met through the Jonas Brothersin 2008, when Swift was dating Joe and Gomez briefly dated Nick Jonas.
“It was hysterical, yeah,” Gomez recalled last year on KISS FM UK. “It was amazing because she was the girl with the big curly hair and all the bracelets and cowboy boots, and, ya know I was definitely up and coming. And, we just clicked.” She added, jokingly, “It was the best thing we got out of those relationships.”
So the two of them getting friendly didn’t instantaneously wrench Gomez and Lovato apart, obviously. Over a year went by before there seemed to be a Swift-shaped wrench in the proceedings. In fact, Lovato and Swift were spotted hanging out together multiple times in 2009 as well, including at the premiere of Hannah Montana: The Movie that April.
As 2009 wound down, Lovato shot Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam and then went on tour with the Jonas Brothers in 2010. She and Joe also dated for what she later recalled was just a month or two.
“It was my choice to break up but I love her as a friend,” Joe told People in May 2010. “She’s been there for me when I needed her. I will continue to be her friend and be there for her.”
In an interview with Girl’s Life in June 2010, Lovato named Miley Cyrus as a person she went to in times of crisis.
“I can text her that I’m crying and stressed out, and she’ll reply back: ‘All right, here’s what you do.’ She’s the sweetest thing in the world,” Lovato said.
Asked about Gomez, she replied, “We’re both busy, and I wish the best for her. True friends don’t let their friends or family be mean to you. If you can’t trust somebody, you can’t be friends with them.”
As the year went on, it turned out that Lovato was spiraling out of control. Battling substance addiction, an eating disorder and a self-harm habit, Lovato finally melted down in Peru in November, when she hit one of the tour dancers in the face. That hastened her first trip to rehab.
“I couldn’t go 30 minutes to an hour without cocaine and I would bring it on airplanes,” Lovato told Access Hollywood in 2013. “I would smuggle it basically and just wait until everyone in first class would go to sleep and I would do it right there. I’d sneak to the bathroom and I’d do it…And that was even with somebody [with me], I had a sober companion, somebody who was watching me 24/7 and living with me, I was able to hide it from them as well.”
Meanwhile, Gomez’s A Year Without Rain Tour had started in October 2010. But Lovato later revealed to Access Hollywood that Gomez was one of the few people who reached out to her during that incredibly tough time, as did Nick Jonas, Cyrus—and Swift.
“Taylor Swift sent me an email saying, ‘Hey, I don’t know if you have a phone right now, but are you OK?'” Lovato said.
But “Nick, especially—he’s always been there for me,” Lovato recalled the friends who showed up for her. “And Selena, because she called me crying when I was in there and was just so worried. I was like, ‘Look, I should be the one crying, it’s all good!’ But she was so worried and ever since then we’ve gotten closer.”
It makes sense, doesn’t it, that if you’re talking in real life there’s no need to splashily send your regards via social media? More on that later.
Lovato’s crisis may have helped her and Gomez reconnect, but despite the reach-out, she continued to give Swift proverbial side-eye.
“A lot of celebrities don’t open up to their fans, they just tell them what they want to hear,” Lovato, whose 2011 album Unbroken was unabashedly autobiographical, said on the radio that year. “They don’t really tell them things that can benefit their lives, they just, you know, maybe flaunt around a boyfriend and sell a couple of albums. That’s not what my career is about.”
No names were named, but…come on.
Gomez, however, was back in the picture, and she and Lovato cuddled up at both the 2011 Kids’ Choice Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards.
Then, as part of her ongoing fight against addiction, Lovato rented a room in a sober living house and stayed for over a year, including while she was working on The X Factor—and no one outside her inner circle knew until January 2013.
Meanwhile, along came a boy named Justin Bieber in 2011—and the effort and energy that Gomez devoted to that relationship, which ended for the first time in 2012 but would continue to flip off and on like a light switch for years, would have tested the most solid and enduring of friendships. Luckily, Demi got it.
Lovato had met Bieber for the first time when he was about 14, so around 2008, before tens of millions of people Beliebed, and she recalled him being “so young and adorable.”
But being firmly on Team Selena, there was no love lost for Bieber down the road, especially when it became clear that his and Gomez’s relationship rested on unstable ground.
TMZ reported in July 2013 that, while serving as a judge on The X Factor, after a hopeful auditioned with Justin’s “As Long as You Love Me,” Lovato commented, “Well finally someone can sing the song the way it was meant to be sung.”
Earlier that spring, after Gomez had released “Come and Get It,” Lovato said on MTV that she loved her friend’s single and it was awesome to see Gomez’s success.
“And we’ve been through a lot together,” she said, “we’ve had periods of time where, like, we grew apart and we just didn’t really talk. But now we’re in a place where I think, um, we realize that life is so short and that when you have people in your life that love you so much then, you should just always be around them. She’s going to be a big sister, and I want to be around for that. So, everything about her, she has a great soul, she’s talented, she’s beautiful, and she will always be really, really close to my heart.” (Selena’s little sis, Gracie Teefey, was born that June.)
Not talking every single day “doesn’t invalidate” the friendship at all, Lovato explained. “You know when you can pick up with someone right where you left off.”
“It’s just the evidence of forever. No matter what @ddlovato,” Gomez captioned an Instagram pic of the two of them that November when she was at The X Factor to perform.
Lovato even FaceTimed with Gomez and Swift while the latter two were hanging out over cups of tea in late December.
At the beginning of 2014, Gomez voluntarily spent two weeks at a treatment center to, as her rep explained, “clear her head.” Lovato later told E! News, “I’ve known her for 14 years and we’ve been best friends. That’s all of her business, and I just want to let her do her thing. And yeah, she’s amazing. I love her.”
Meanwhile, Lovato’s resilience and candor—including the way she opened up to her fans, warts and all, and was very generous with her time when it came to interacting with them on social media, while at the same time not being too polite to abstain from putting haters in their place—had inspired Gomez as well.
“Demi’s very, very strong,” Gomez explained to Seventeen for its March 2014 issue in an interview published that January. “She’s the only person that I would tell the deepest, darkest secrets to. The only person.”
She also acknowledged not always being there for Lovato as her friend was spiraling in 2010.
“I’ve known her since we were 7, and we did fall apart for a while,” Gomez admitted. “She was going through things and I was so young and it was confusing. I processed it saying, ‘OK, I don’t understand what she’s going through so I’m just going to do this.’ I don’t think it was fair, and I’m so happy that I have her back in my life now.”
Gomez continued, “I feel like we’re all given what we can handle, and clearly someone thought she could handle so much—and she could, and she did. And she’s incredible for that. I couldn’t imagine going through some of the things that she went through, and the fact that she is who she is today is insane—she’s one of my inspirations.”
The day after that interview was published and, incidentally, Gomez’s ex-boyfriend was arrested in Miami for allegedly drag-racing while under the influence, the ladies grabbed dinner together in West Hollywood.
Gomez gave her friend a shout-out in February while getting the Young Visionary Award for her work with UNICEF at the unite4:good gala, at which Lovato was also presented with the Young Luminary Award and performed “Skyscraper.” That was the last time they were photographed together for over a year.
“I’m thankful for you. You inspire me everyday,” Selena told Demi. “I hope together we can inspire people to focus on what’s really important.”
But suddenly that summer, their friendship took a turn again—quite possibly because Gomez and Bieber were having another go-round in what felt like a reenactment of the never-ending story at the time.
“Swimming away, from your bullsh*t, bye b*tch,” Lovato happened to post, in a meme that featured her swimming, on Instagram in July.
In August, Lovato admitted on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen that she had unfollowed Gomez on social media. (She also unsurprisingly killed off Bieber during a game of “Shag, Marry, Kill.”)
“I think it’s just one of those things where people change,” Lovato said, carefully but with a defiantly confident expression on her face, “and people grow apart.”
The following month, at the 2014 MTV VMAs, all of a sudden Lovato and Swift were acting chummy again, and in October 2014 the “Cool for the Summer” singer told ET Canada that Swift was the “one person that I feel like, one of the few people I’ve maintained a friendship with in this industry. [Fame] just changes people and it’s hard because you have incredible friendships and people change.”
But as the world turns…
Demi re-followed Selena on Instagram, and Selena reached out on Demi’s birthday in July 2015, tweeting, “@ddlovato IM so grateful you were born. #nomatterwhat #forever #haveTHEbestbday.” Lovato followed suit for Gomez’s b-day in August, tweeting,”@selenagomez I’m so glad you were born too… 😛 #forever #nomatterwhat.”
Then they snapped a selfie that September and fans breathed a sigh of relief. But you know how it is when you’re dealing with family. One day you’re not speaking, and the next…all is forgiven.
“We went to a dinner, I think it was two weeks ago,” Gomez told Entertainment Tonight on Sept. 10 during New York Fashion Week. “We were at the dinner, we were talking about her record, my record, just kind of catching up. I love her. She’s like family at this point. It’s just nice to be able to see people that you grew up with succeed.”
Interestingly, also that month, Lovato stuck up for Bieber on Jimmy Kimmel Live after he ended his 2015 VMAs performance in tears.
Lovato guessed that it wasn’t an act, telling Kimmel,”because if you were Justin Bieber for that many years…you would maybe celebrate if people [had previously] booed you for so long and then they cheered.” She’d be happy for such a strong positive reaction, too, she added.
In 2016, it was Gomez who found herself on uneven footing again. Not long after leaving an ill-advised comment on Bieber’s Instagram, which she soon regretted, Gomez—who has lupus—announced that August that she was suffering from panic attacks, anxiety and depression and had decided to take a break (including from social media) to focus on her health.
Lovato ended up filling the vacant spot left by Gomez at the 2016 Global Citizen Festival, benefiting mental health, well-being and gender equality, that September.
Gomez made a radiant return to the public eye at the 2016 American Music Awards in November 2016, admitting in a revealingly emotional speech that she had felt “absolutely broken inside” by the time she was compelled to take action, but her struggles weren’t over.
Also in relation to her lupus battle, Gomez ended up needing a kidney transplant last summer, so she quietly took care of that with the help of her friend of 10 years Francia Raísa. “I think that she is a very strong woman,” Lovato told People the day after Gomez went public with the news. “I’m very happy and proud of her.”
When Gomez and Lovato reunited last October at the 2017 InStyle Awards, it’s as if both had climbed a mountain just to be there, smiling and looking healthy in glamorous evening wear.
Also last October the documentary Demi Lovato: Simply Complicated revealed that the pop star had continued to struggle with her sobriety after her trip to rehab in 2010, and her eating disorder remained a battle.
“The last decade has taught me a lifetime of lessons. I’ve learned that secrets make you sick,” Lovato said in the film. “I’m learning how to be a voice and not a victim. I’ve learned sex is natural. I’ve learned that love is necessary, heartbreak is unavoidable and loneliness is brutal. I’ve learned that the key to being happy is to tell your truth and be OK without all the answers.”
“This was beautiful. I’m so happy for you,” Gomez complimented Lovato via Instagram. You always continue to [be] bold and real. I wish more people were like you. Love you.”
But the perfect storm of fame, money, unhealthy influences and an addiction problem sadly culminated in Lovato accidentally overdosing after a night of partying in July. She was rushed to the hospital, where she remained for two weeks before going straight to rehab.
When she heard the news, Gomez was crushed.
“Selena has reached out to Demi’s family members to share her love and prayers, and she is really distraught about her health,” a source told E! News. “She hates that Demi has been suffering.”
Six days after her friend of 19 years was hospitalized, Gomez told Elle—in what was her first and since then only time publicly speaking about what happened—that she had reached out personally.
“I didn’t do a public thing. I didn’t want to,” she explained. “I…I love her. I’ve known her since I was seven. So…it’s…that’s what I’ll say.”
A lot has changed since Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez were 7, and their level and closeness has risen and fallen like the tide—but once again, when Demi was in crisis, Selena showed up.
And that’s pretty much the best you can hope for in a life-long friendship.