Celebrities You Didn’t Know Were Living with Diabetes

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An estimated 10.5-percent of the U.S. population is actively living with diabetes with another 34.5-percent considered to be prediabetic. It’s safe to say it’s widespread. It should be no surprise then that many of the celebrities you watch, follow, and listen to are actively living with some form of diabetes too.

As we’ll no doubt learn today, a diabetes diagnosis isn’t as catastrophic as it may sometimes feel. Thanks to the medical community’s storied legacy of discovery and innovation, diabetes is no longer a barrier to experiencing or accomplishing incredible things.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a few individuals who chose to be defined by their accomplishments instead of their diagnosis. Let’s look at 15 celebrities you didn’t know were living with diabetes.

Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas didn’t let his type 1 diabetes diagnosis get in the way of building his best life. Jonas has been living with the condition since 13-years old. A condition that has never stopped him from touring the globe, acting, or philanthropy.

A cause close to Nick Jonas’ heart is diabetes itself. He’s dedicated much of his platform to create a sense of normalcy around the disease and showing the world how manageable it really can be.

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Bret Michaels

Bret Michaels didn’t exactly plan to open up about his diagnosis. What happened was that the “Poison” lead singer injected but failed to eat right before a show and inevitably collapsed on stage after only six songs.

Michaels was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes at the tender age of six and says he relies on a small dose of diabetes medicine before performing, and a restricted diet to manage life as a diabetic rockstar.

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Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks is used to the spotlight, but he no doubt had to get used to living with diabetes after having been diagnosed in his late 50s. The Oscar award-winning actor spoke openly about living with the symptoms of prediabetes as well as his eventual diagnosis on a 2010 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.

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Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams has led quite an interesting life. The first African American woman to wear the Miss America crown as well as the first to resign. Williams bounced back from that controversy and has since enjoyed a successful career in singing, acting, and more.

She details all of her ups and downs, including being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 10-years old, in her memoir, “You Have No Idea.”

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Halle Berry

American actress, Halle Berry was diagnosed with diabetes at the young age of 19. Since her diagnosis, she has cut out most processed sugars and bread from her diet.

While she was initially scared of her diagnosis, she said the diagnosis turned out to be a gift. Berry told the Daily Mail, “It gave me strength and toughness because I had to face reality, no matter how uncomfortable or painful it was.”

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George Lucas

Decades before birthing one of the most profitable movie franchises ever made, a 23-year-old George Lucas was drafted for the Vietnam War. He was prepared to go until a subsequent medical examination discovered that he had type 2 diabetes and was therefore ineligible to serve. Just ten years later, Lucas would pen Star Wars: A New Hope.

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Sonia Sotomayor

Type 1 diabetes didn’t stop Justice Sonia Sotomayor from reaching the highest court in America. Sotomayor became just the third woman ever named to the Supreme Court of the United States in 2009. Sotomayor discusses her relationship with diabetes extensively in her autobiography, “My Beloved World.”

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Theresa May

The Right Honorable Lady May, also known as former UK Prime Minister Theresa May, thought that she was just coming down with a cold. But a subsequent blood test shockingly revealed type 1 diabetes. That was in 2013, and May would go on to become the longest-serving Home Secretary the UK had seen in over 60-years and just the second female prime minister in history.

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Randy Jackson

The reality TV star turned type-2 diabetes advocate, Randy Jackson, used his 2003 diagnosis as fuel for positive change. Growing up in Louisiana, Jackson relied on a diet rich in southern fried foods.

Now, in between episodes of American Idol, he manages his condition with a combination of exercise, diabetes medicine, nutritious food, and regular doctor visits.

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Jay Cutler

Jay Cutler took some time to break down how he managed to balance the day-to-day reality of type 1 diabetes and a successful NFL career.

Diagnosed at the age of 24, Cutler said it forced him to re-think what he puts in his body and when he does it. Eating proteins and fruit, and cutting out carbs and sweets, is how Cutler felt the biggest impact.

Sherri Shepherd

Sherri Shepherd has enjoyed an incredible acting career including regular appearances on 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, The Jamie Foxx Show, and more. Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007, Shepherd is singing the praises of the ketogenic diet and the transformative impact it’s had on her health.

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Larry King

American talk-show host Larry King had one of CNN’s longest-running (and arguably most popular) shows on the network. King was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1995, just 8-years after surviving a bypass surgery from a heart attack. Since his diagnosis, King quit smoking and developed a healthier lifestyle like eating healthily and walking a lot.

King faced more health challenges too. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999 and lung cancer in 2017. Unfortunately, he passed away at the age of 87 in January 2021 from sepsis which led to lung and kidney failure.

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Paula Deen

Food Network star chef Paula Deen’s 2012, type 2 diabetes reveal sparked tons of criticism online. Deen’s cookbooks aren’t exactly health-centric. But the conversation surrounding Deen’s diagnosis and her actions since have done a lot to build awareness of the condition.

Deen would go on to spearhead a diabetes awareness campaign and donate a substantial sum of money to the American Diabetes Association.

Patti LaBelle

An icon isn’t a grand enough word to describe the great Patti LaBelle. The frontwoman of the group that would inevitably become the first of African-American descent to land the cover of Rolling Stone, Patti LaBelle enjoyed a long and decorated musical and acting career that included 2 Grammys.

LaBelle was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1995 and wholeheartedly embraced the necessary changes to her lifestyle that she was required to make. Her family has a history of diabetes, and as such LaBelle was very familiar with the complications associated with untreated and uncared for diabetes.

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Penny Marshall

Penny Marshall may be best known for her role as Laverne in the 1970s show Laverne & Shirley, but she was also a renowned director and producer. In fact, in 1988, she was the first woman to direct a movie that grossed more than $100 million. Unfortunately, Marshall passed away from complications related to diabetes in December 2018 at the age of 75.

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The Takeaway

It doesn’t matter how famous you are, or how much money you have either. Diabetes affects millions of Americans, celebrities included.

Complications of diabetes can be very serious and even life-threatening, which is what makes focused and diligent daily care so important. Get to know your doctor, ask questions, and do what you can to keep your condition in check. If you do, there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Chris is a Canadian who loves ice-hockey, espresso, and really long books. He’s an early riser that relies on a combination of meditation, yoga, indoor cycling, and long walks to keep fit. Chris is also a multi-platform content creator with a portfolio that includes terrestrial radio, television, the written word, and YouTube. For more content, check out his podcast, “Black Sheep Radio,” or follow @notTHATcb on Twitter and Instagram