Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Famous People with Lupus

I recently posted an infographic on lupus that listed 6 celebrities with lupus. 
I didn't actually create this infographic (because I haven't figured out how to do that), so there are a few things I would change on it if I could.

The list of celebrities on the infographic is:
  • Michael Jackson
  • Seal
  • Nick Cannon
  • Lady Gaga
  • Tim Raines (baseball player)
  • Millie the Dog (Bush I's dog)

I don't know where the creator got the confirmation that Michael Jackson had lupus, although I do remember some hubbub and speculation about that after his death, including from Deepak Choprah. Michael Jackson never admitted to it.

Seal has discoid lupus, the kind of lupus that affects only the skin, not internal organs.

Nick Cannon, when interviewed on TV (I was watching it live), did not really commit to the word lupus. He said he had something "lupus-like." (I can relate. I didn't want to use the "L" word in reference to myself, either. Kinda still don't want to). He has since been more open about his diagnosis and he and I handle our health in a very similar fashion:

Lady Gaga said she tested positive for "borderline lupus." None of us who know about lupus have ever heard of that term. But at least she's a big name and owning it. Sort of.

Clearly, not all these celebrities with lupus want people to know about it.  Some say Anna Nicole Smith had it, but she never admitted it. And I'm pretty sure Millie the dog didn't write that book herself. I suspect she had a ghost writer and maybe didn't even give permission for that tell-all book to be published.

Back in 2007, I wrote a post about how we needed a celebrity to "admit" (as if it were shameful) to having lupus. I feel like we need a spokesperson to get the illness into the spotlight so that it is taken more seriously and diagnosed more quickly.

In 2007, there weren't really any celebrities actually publicly saying they had lupus. There has been some progress since this original post, where I discuss why people are so hesitant to admit to the diagnosis: . Then, I gave a longer list of people, but with fewer actual celebrities- more like celebrities whose relatives had lupus:

  • Flannery O'Connor, writer, died of lupus in 1964.
  • Rapper/ Music Producer J Dilla/Jay Dee died of lupus in Feb 2006
  • Sharon Stone's sister
  • James Garner's (the Rockford Files) daughter (not Jennifer Garner). 
  • Anna Nicole Smith? (not confirmed)
  • Michael Jackson (probably)
  • Mary McDonough, "Erin" from "The Waltons." 
  • Millie the dog
  • Seal: discoid (skin) lupus 
  • Richard Dreyfuss' first wife
  • Mercedes Yvette, runner up on season 2 of America's Top Model
  • Backstreet Boy Howie D's sister, Caroline, died from lupus
  • Wayne Newton's sister-in-law
  • American Idol contestant (2007) Leslie Hunt, who made it to the top 20 finalists. 
  • Dani Miura, Actress, To Catch a Predator

I get why people don't want to talk about their illness openly. You get drama, baggage, dumb questions and stupid comments. And if you're trying to have a career as an entertainer, people would rather hire someone who is healthy and reliable (and insurable).

But since that time, there has been one celebrity who has been very honest about her diagnosis. Toni Braxton has openly talked about her struggles with lupus. She belongs at the top of the "celebrities with lupus" section, because she has been very open about her illness, and that is risky for someone who is still actively pursuing a career in entertainment. Cheers and thank you to Toni for her courage during May, Lupus Awareness Month.

Carla Ulbrich
The Singing Patient: Author, Health Speaker, Humorous Songwriter and Entertainer - funny songs - Carla's book "How Can You NOT Laugh at a Time Like This?"