Transparency is central to Demi Lovato's brand, much like body positivity and fresh-faced, freckled selfies.
From the moment the former Disney star came clean about what had led to her decision to seek treatment in 2010—a debilitating combination of addiction issues, an eating disorder, a bipolar diagnosis and self-harm—no detail was too embarrassing to withhold in her ongoing efforts to let others dealing with mental health issues and substance abuse know they're not alone. When she let six years of hard-earned sobriety slip from her grasp earlier this year, not only did she admit as much to her fans, she wrote a whole song centered around her disappointment.
"The reason why I became so open about my story is because I know that there are people here tonight that need to ask for help and I want them to know that it's OK," she told the crowd at a March tour stop in NYC. "Mental health is something that we all need to talk about and we need to take the stigma away from it. So let's raise the awareness. Let's let everybody know it's OK to have a mental illness and addiction problem."
So when her relapse led to a late July overdose at her Hollywood Hills, Calif. mansion, you better believe she was going to be open about it with her fans.
"What I've learned is that this illness is not something that disappears or fades with time. It is something I must continue to overcome and have not done yet," she wrote in a message weeks later to the nearly 71 million Lovatics that follow her on Instagram. "I now need time to heal and focus on my sobriety and road to recovery," added the star, at the time still receiving treatment from the team of professionals at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in L.A. "The love you have all shown me will never be forgotten and I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side. I will keep fighting."
And now she's found herself a comrade in arms. The 26-year-old pop star's growing bond with sober companion Henry Levy, 27, has officially made the transition to romance, as evidenced by the pair's shared kiss outside Malibu's Nobu Saturday night. "Demi enjoys spending time with Henry because he is so supportive of her sobriety," an insider explains to E! News. "They have a deep connection because he has struggled too and is sober himself. She feels safe with him and like she can be herself."
That person is just slightly different than the Lovato who entered treatment this summer, the 90-day stay leaving her feeling especially enlightened. "She's working really hard on her sobriety and we're all so incredibly proud of her," younger sister Madison De La Garza shared during an October appearance on Millennial Hollywood with Dakota T. Jones. "It's been crazy for our family. It's been a lot."
But both her sister and her mom were encourage to see how readily the singer dove into her new normal, moving straight from her hospital room to the undisclosed rehabilitation center. "I couldn't be more thankful or more proud of her, because addiction, being a disease, it is work," Dianna De La Garza shared on the Conversations with Maria Menounos podcast this fall. "It's very hard, it's not easy, and there are no shortcuts."
Reinvigorated after her months of meetings and therapy sessions, her first in-patient stay since a 2013 stint in a sober living house, Lovato "feels she is a new version of herself and has a new perception of life," a source told E! News. "Treatment has really changed her and she is looking forward to remaining sober and her new outlook on life."
Determined to wipe the slate clean and weed out any bad influences and unhealthy habits, continued the source, "She really wants to start a new chapter."
And Levy, someone who's existed in her circle for years, figures to be a central character. Like Lovato, the founder of punk-influenced unisex apparel line Enfants Riches Déprimés has struggled with substance abuse since his teen years. "I was, like, a f--k up in high school," he recalled to Complex in 2016 of his years filtering in and out of boarding schools. "I was caught up in drugs and s--t like that." At 15 he landed at Visions Adolescent Treatment, a Malibu facility for underage addicts and he'd spend parts of the next decade at Cirque Lodge in Utah, Promises in Malibu, wilderness therapy treatment and several sober living homes. During one bright point, he was accepted into UCLA's art program, "Then I was so hyped that I got in, that I got all f--ked up again."
A stay at Oregon's no-nonsense Betty Ford treatment center straightened him out for good—"That's when it was on some not-flossy s--t. Like, came out and was sleeping in a bunk bed with a bunch of 50-year-old meth addicts trying to recover,"—and inspired the first gem of an idea for his clothing brand. The name, which translates from French to Depressed Rich Kids, was inspired by the kind of people he'd encountered again and again in rehab. "Just their absurd entitlement and everything, definitely had an influence," he told the mag. "They don't have to work a day in their lives, you know what I mean? Their complete existence is based around what other people think."
Launching in 2012, his line earned him fans in Jared Leto, Justin Bieber and Lovato. And when the "Sober" singer finished in-patient treatment in early November, Levy was on hand to help her transition back to L.A. life.
On Nov. 3, the duo were spotted grabbing sushi at Beverly Hills spot Matsuhisa, an onlooker noting that though they grasped hands at one point, they seemed more "like good friends who were catching up and excited to see one another," than a couple out on a date. Same went for their outing to grab iced coffees at Coffee Bean the next day.
In those early days, another insider insisted to E! News, Levy figured to be more of a close friend than a potential romantic lead.
Confirming that the pair's relationship was platonic, the insider told E! News, "He has been helping her through her recovery and has been serving as a sober companion. Demi wants to be around people who are like-minded and Henry is good energy for her. They spent a huge amount of time together, but Demi is not focused on dating."
Not wanting to put any undue stress on herself as she eased back into her regular scheduled programming, Lovato made the choice to put her career and public life on the back burner as well.
Her few Instagram posts have been to remind followers to vote and to share a post-workout selfie and though she certainly celebrated when "Fall In Line", her effort with Christina Aguilera, earned them a Grammy nod for best pop duo/group performance, she isn't rushing to reschedule the Tell Me You Love Me World Tour she was forced to cut short after her hospitalization.
"Her plan is it to take it easy and not expose herself to risky situation," explained a friend. "She really wants to realx and exercise and do everything she can to stay healthy. She wants to put what happened behind her and move forward committed to her health and making the right choices."
That includes mandatory check-ins with her team of doctors, some four nights a week spent at a sober facility and hours-long meetings and therapy sessions at a private wellness center several times a week. The exercise devotee ("I work out personally because of the way it makes me feel and the release of serotonin," she told Self last year) is also taking pains to stick to a healthy diet and schedule in jiu jitsu sessions at her beloved Unbreakable Performance Center in L.A., a place the Fabletics designer has called "my oasis." Says the friend, "She seems committed to staying healthy and having the right people around her."
That list, of course, includes Levy. And as the pair spent more and more time together, Lovato even shuffling between his pad, her mother's L.A.-area home and the sober living facility to avoid the four-bedroom Hollywood Hills mansion she intends to offload, an undeniable connection began brewing.
"They've gotten close," said the first insider, "and continue to hang out all the time."
Lovato's ex-boyfriend Wilmer Valderrama—the couple ended their six-year relationship in 2016—has continued to remain in the picture at least peripherally. The actor checks in on his dear friend "often" said a source and "they have seen each other since she's been staying in L.A." But it was Levy who was on the receiving end of her physical affection this past weekend during their night out at Nobu.
Neither has commented on their relationship status yet and, in fact, according to the insider it hasn't been firmly established. "She doesn't really know where it's going or question it," the insider says. Just as she's not putting too much pressure on herself as she starts this new phase of her life, she refuses to rush to define this new romance she's found herself entangled in. Says the insider, "She just knows she is very happy with him and wants to continue seeing him."