It’s always hard being the new girl in school. But when Britney Spears makes her debut in the fall as the fresh judge on the panel of “X Factor” , she’ll have come fine company in the form of Demi Lovato. With show creator Simon Cowell and record label boss L.A. Reid returning as the wily veterans with decades of experience in the game, Demi and Britney will be the relative newbies in the mix.
The two women will also have something else in common: Both were child stars who grew up in the public eye and then struggled through a series of headline-grabbing difficulties only to brush themselves off and regain their star status.
“I think it’s good for both of them to have each other on the show,” People magazine senior writer Joey Bartolomeo said. “For one thing, because they’re both new to [‘Factor’] and it’s not one person coming in to be with three other judges. They have each other.”
Their paths, and struggles, have been very different, but Bartolomeo said the two can likely relate to each other on a personal level, though we shouldn’t expect them to do any therapeutic work on live TV. “Everyone loves a good comeback story,” she said. “Britney has been doing well the past couple of years … but seeing her on a weekly basis with this kind of job is another step in that process … People want to root for people to have success; now they have two people on a show who’ve been through a lot, and people will tune in to see how they are.”
Lovato, 19, went from being the young star of such Disney shows as “Sonny With a Chance” and “Camp Rock” to a successful touring and recording career that was derailed in 2010 when she entered a rehab center for physical and emotional issues. She has since become a spokesperson for anti-bullying causes, spoken out about her body-image issues, eating disorder, depression, self-abuse and substance problems.
Spears, 30, also came up in the Disney machine as a star on “The New Mickey Mouse Club,” and after a series of erratic incidents and public meltdowns, she ended up in a rehabilitation facility in 2007 and was put on a psychiatric hold in January 2008 after refusing to give up her two children to their father, ex-husband Kevin Federline.
While Lovato has spoken publicly about her struggles and appears to have gotten her career back on track, Spears has been kept on lockdown by her team. The singer is under a strict conservatorship that has handed control of her assets to her father and, recently, her boyfriend/agent, Jason Trawick. Britney’s career has rebounded, with hit albums, singles and tours, but she has participated in only sporadic press interviews, which were, by most accounts, tightly controlled and allowed for little deviation from a predetermined script.
“I think they could help support each other, but their [personal] problems are very different,” said Us Weekly senior music editor Ian Drew, who questioned the choice of Spears for the “Factor” panel. “Knowing the way Britney works, nobody is going to be able to speak to her. It’s a very odd choice. … I don’t know what Demi will add [either].”
Drew said he understood “X Factor” had to add two new judges because of the structure of the show, but he wonders how the pair will fit into the mix. “Demi is very honest and says what’s on her mind, so maybe they need someone like that,” he said. “But I don’t think anyone will tune in to see Demi.”
Celebuzz editor Amber James also acknowledged that the women have dealt with their problems in totally different ways, but said their shared struggle might add an interesting dynamic to the show as it tries to build on the first season’s solid-but-not-smashing success. “I believe Demi’s bubbly personality and kindness will prove to bring Britney out of her shell,” predicted James. “They seem like they’d bounce off each other well and provide a nurturing and safe atmosphere, where Britney can really get into her role, without fear of saying the wrong thing and truly be herself.”
And even if they don’t become instant besties, the pair will at least be able to fend off the intimidating presences of Cowell and Reid while trying to find their feet on the show. “Maybe the two of them will gang up on Simon and L.A.,” Bartolomeo said.