The 28-year-old singer and actress acknowledged the impact Franklin, Houston and other people of color have had on her music in an essay for Vogue published Monday.
Lovato said she's renewed her focus on advocacy work since the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was killed while jogging in February. Lovato said her focus on racial injustice stems from "knowing how much of myself comes from Black culture."
"I grew up listening to Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston and other soulful singers, but those two Black women in particular shaped me into the vocalist I am," the star said.
"If you look at my life, everything I have -- money, success, a roof over my head -- it's because of the inspiration those Black women gave me," she added. "I continue to be constantly inspired by people of color today."
Lovato said Arbery's death and the recent deaths of other Black people reminded her of her privilege and spurred her into action.
"At first, I was self-conscious about speaking out about these issues because I didn't want anyone to feel like it wasn't genuine," she said. "All I knew was that I hated that I shared the same skin color as the people accused of committing heinous crimes against Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and many, many other Black lives."
Lovato said she took time to educate herself and learned that being "a good ally" means being "willing to protect people at all costs."
"You have to step in if you see something happening that's not right: a racist act, a racist comment, a racist joke. And it's not just with Black Lives Matter. It's also with the Me Too movement," she said.
Lovato stressed the importance of inclusivity and urged the music industry and "the entire entertainment industry" to pay attention.
"Creating environments where women, people of color and trans people feel safe is important. Not just safe, but equal to their cis, white, male counterparts," she said.
"Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston. These women of color have shaped my musical journey. How am I supposed to appreciate what they've given me and not stand up for their community?" she said.