BY DAVID MARTINDALE
Special to the Star-Telegram
For Demi Lovato, every day of the past two years has been like living a “Cinderella story.”
It wasn’t so long ago that the singer and actress from Dallas dreamed of getting that elusive big break.
Then came Camp Rock, the Disney Channel musical that was cable TV’s top-rated original movie of 2008.
It was life-changing for Lovato. It introduced her in a big, big way to a “tween” audience that adores her and supports every career move.
“It’s crazy, and I’m so thankful for it,” says Lovato, who turned 18 last month. “It surpassed and exceeded my expectations. I had no idea it would be so popular.”
Now she’s back at the summer music camp that made it all happen. Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, in which she plays wannabe music star Mitchie Torres, premieres at 7 p.m. Friday on the Disney Channel.
Fellow North Texas teen idols Joe, Nick and Kevin Jonas also have returned, meaning Lovato has no reason to be surprised this time. Camp Rock 2 has ratings-hit inevitability written all over it.
For Lovato, Camp Rock was a launch pad to a hit TV series, Disney Channel’s Sonny With a Chance, and a couple of chart-topping albums. But it’s inaccurate to think of her as an overnight success.
She has been a show-business professional for more than a decade, dating back to her days as one of the Barney & Friends kids alongside longtime friend and fellow Disney Channel star Selena Gomez.
What Camp Rock did was give Lovato the forum to showcase talent that had long been present.
There’s a lot of Demi in Mitchie and a lot of Mitchie in Demi, Lovato says, so the role was the ideal vehicle for her to prove herself.
“I was an aspiring singer and actress when I got cast as Mitchie,” she said in an e-mail interview with the Star-Telegram. “She and I were in the same place.”
The parallel between actress and character was most evident when Lovato sang the prophetic lyrics “Now I’ve found who I am/There’s no way to hold it in/No more hiding who I wanna be” in the song This Is Me.
“I felt like I was coming into myself, just like my character was,” Lovato recalls.
It’s also inaccurate to characterize her fan base as being exclusively teens and preteens. She says that she is often surprised to encounter older fans who don’t fit the profile. “It makes me feel good to know my music is reaching out to different ages and audiences,” she says.
The new movie creates a rival and a new challenge for Mitchie and her Camp Rock friends.
Across the lake is another summer music camp, Camp Star, which is run by a scheming record executive who holds a grudge against guitar legend and Camp Rock founder Brown Cesario. Camp Star’s boss wants to drive Camp Rock out of business.
The competition escalates to the point that the two camps perform head-to-head on national TV, with the future of Camp Rock hanging in the balance.
Camp Star embodies an approach, Lovato says, that many people see as a problem in the music business: too much emphasis on sizzle, not enough on substance. “But real music lasts forever,” she says.
As for her own musical tastes, they’re quite eclectic. If one were to go through Lovato’s CD collection or hit shuffle on her iPod, there’s no telling what musical artists might turn up.
“The ones that represent my music best are Kelly Clarkson and John Mayer,” she says. “But you might be surprised by (rapper) Biggie and (metal band) Job for a Cowboy. What I’m listening to at the moment is Lady Antebellum and Rascal Flatts.”
The career that she has today, Lovato says, is everything that she dreamed it would be and more. “Sometimes I forget that it’s work,” she says.
Alas, it will never be entirely perfect. “I always miss Texas,” says Lovato, who lives in Los Angeles. “I miss things like going to Cowboys games and eating at Texas Roadhouse.”