While no one wants to hear their doctor tell them they have diabetes, the diagnosis doesn’t have to mark the end of life as you know it. In fact, many singers, actors, and athletes have enjoyed successful careers while managing either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Check out these famous people who have risen above their diabetes diagnosis— and let them inspire you to continue chasing your dreams.
When Halle Berry was diagnosed with diabetes after a week-long coma at age 22, doctors believed she had type 1. After all, the young star seemed too healthy and fit for type 2. Surprising doctors and fans alike, Halle Berry announced that she’d weaned herself off of insulin in 2007. Since those with type 1 can’t wean themselves off of insulin, it now seems more likely that the star was misdiagnosed and had type 2 all along. Either way, the star’s commitment to health and a life free of insulin medication is truly inspiring.
For some people, a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t come until later in life. Tom Hanks battled high blood pressure for years before being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 60. Weight gain and yo-yo dieting may have been partly to blame, as the actor had been known to gain and lose weight drastically to prepare for different roles. Despite the diagnosis, Tom Hanks continues to enjoy a fulfilling career and life.
Gary Hall, Jr.
When swimmer Gary Hall, Jr. was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, doctors told him he’d never compete at an Olympic level again. One year later, the athlete proved them wrong when he won his first individual gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle race. He now supports research for a cure and recently reminded attendees of a fundraiser for the Diabetes Research Institute, “Diabetes doesn’t have to stand between you and your dreams, and that is why we are all here.”
Oscar nominee Salma Hayek was diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with her daughter, Valentina. Although gestational diabetes typically only lasts for the duration of pregnancy, the diagnosis puts Hayek at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later— as does her family history of diabetes. So far, however, the star is enjoying her health and time with Valentina.
When Nick Jonas was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, his blood sugar was over 700. Doctors say that a healthy range is 70 to 120. The singer was also experiencing weight loss and severe thirst as symptoms of his disease. Type 1 diabetes was previously known as juvenile diabetes, since it often strikes before the age of 20. Despite his young age, the Jonas brother went public with his diagnosis in 2007 and used his fame to encourage other kids facing the same battle.
While diabetes can occur as a result of too much weight gain, rapid weight loss is actually a symptom of high blood pressure and type 1 diabetes. Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler lost 35 pounds and suffered from fatigue before he was diagnosed and treated in 2008. Although there’s no cure for type 1 diabetes, the football player hasn’t let the diagnosis hold him back. He told reporters that his condition is now “manageable” with the help of an insulin pump.
Jean Smart was 13 years old when she was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. That’s a tough age for a girl, even without health struggles, but the future actress didn’t let the news deter her from pursuing her dreams. Smart went on to enjoy a thriving acting career with multiple appearances in movies, plays, and TV shows. She now strives to encourage others as a fundraiser, mentor, and activist for those diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetic Crystal Bowersox was competing on American Idol in 2010 when diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) threatened to remove her from the competition. When executive producer Ken Warwick tried to tell her she was off the show, she responded, “No way I’ve come this far to let diabetes stop me!” Her courage and determination paid off when she finished the season as runner-up to the delight of her new fans.
Mary Tyler Moore
Although most are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in their youth, Mary Tyler Moore received the news at age 33. Today, the actress is in her 70s and has now lived with the diagnosis longer than she lived without it. Moore has become a leading voice in the call for further diabetes research, even serving as the international chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.
Poison’s lead singer Bret Michaels was only six years old when he was diagnosed with diabetes. Despite having to take four insulin injections and eight blood tests daily, the singer has continued to enjoy life as a rock star. After winning The Celebrity Apprentice in 2010, Michaels donated his $250,000 reward to the American Diabetes Association. His life and career serve as inspiring reminders that children with diabetes can grow up to achieve their dreams— even those of singing in a rock band.
When American Idol‘s Elliot Yamin was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 16, he was terrified. He later remembered, “I got really rebellious. I didn’t want to take my insulin and I didn’t want to believe I actually had diabetes. I was pissed. I thought the future was grim and I wouldn’t be able to do the things I always wanted to do.” Over time, the singer was able to accomplish all he hoped for and more— even taking third place in American Idol, where he used his platform to open up about his diagnosis to both fans and judges.
When asked about his type 1 diabetes, Damon Dash told reporters, “I don’t know if anyone knows I am diabetic—I think it’s important to let people know that it’s okay to be diabetic and to know how to take care of it.” It’s also important for people with diabetes to know they can do and be anything. Take Dash for example— he entered the spotlight after co-founding Roc-A-Fella Records with Jay-Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke.
Known for her buttery Southern dishes and extra sweet iced tea, celebrity chef Paula Deen built her life and career around an unhealthy diet. At age 64, Deen was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Rather than walk away from her love of good food, however, the chef lost 30 pounds by replacing high-calorie treats with healthier options. For example, where she once enjoyed potato chips and cookies, she now opts for Greek salads and sugar-free ice cream.
Television broadcaster Dick Clark was first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at age 64, though he didn’t go public with his diagnosis for another 10 years. Despite a stroke in 2004, Clark returned to the small screen to host the New Year’s Eve countdown in 2005-2006. The TV legend led a full life after his diagnosis until he passed away in 2012 at the age of 82.
Goodfellas and Law & Order actor Paul Sorvino suffered from fatigue and thirst for months before finally being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2006. His daughter Mira was determined to help her father turn his health and life around. With her support, Sorvino began eating healthier, exercising, taking his medication, and injecting insulin daily. As a result, he now has his diabetes under control and is able to continue enjoying life with Mira, as well as his other friends and family.
Family history and obesity are two key risk factors for diabetes, and American Idol judge Randy Jackson had both. His father was a diabetic, and the scale topped 300 pounds when he stepped on it in 2002. Despite the risk factors, the music producer was still shocked by his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Motivated to get healthy, the star underwent gastric bypass surgery, lost nearly 100 pounds, changed his diet, exercised daily, and got his diabetes under control.
Dorian Gregory, actor and host of Soul Train, has been managing type 1 diabetes since he was nine years old. His inspiring advice to others with the disease? “Make the maintenance of your diabetes fit your construct. If you’re forgetful, set alarms to remind you of what you [have to do]. Know that life is our medicine, not just the shots or pills we take. Exercise, food, sleep, [and] management of stress is also our medicine. Take all your medicine, and you will be well.”
When Mike Huckabee was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003, he applied the same drive that he displayed in the presidential race to his new journey— one toward better health. The Fox News host decreased his caloric intake from 3,000 calories a day to just 1,600. Within two years, he was running marathons and reported that all symptoms of his diabetes were gone.
When former Designing Women star Delta Burke was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 1997, she refused to let it stand in the way of a normal life. She told one reporter, “I learned how to, on the set, have certain kinds of snacks that were readily available to me. I test my blood sugar in public and I’ll give myself shots in front of people, and after a while it becomes normal.” Burke was ultimately able to improve her blood sugar with the help of medication and a healthier diet.
Billie Jean King
Tennis champion Billie Jean King was 63 years old when she was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Her family history and past eating disorder both put her at risk for the disease. The former athlete manages her diagnosis by exercising frequently, taking her medication, and testing her blood sugar daily. She now likes to encourage others with diabetes, saying, “Just know that you can live a normal, wonderful, terrific, active life.”
Grammy-award winner Pattie LaBelle was diagnosed with diabetes in 1994. She later confessed, “I was hooked on fried chicken and pasta,” though she didn’t know she was sick until she passed out while performing on stage. The star totally transformed her lifestyle, took on the nickname “the divabetic,” and released three diabetic-friendly cookbooks for others facing type 2 diabetes.
Larry King, CNN anchor and star of Larry King Live, was first put on diabetes medication in 1995, nearly ten years after suffering a heart attack in 1987. Despite the trials with his health, the talk show host didn’t retire until 2010. His book Taking on Heart Disease provides a look at the lifestyle changes he made in order to move forward in his life and career following his diagnosis.
Fans of The Price is Right may notice that host Drew Carey has lost a lot of weight since his days on Whose Line Is It Anyway? on ABC. That’s because the sitcom star used his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes as his motivation to cut carbs, hit the gym, and shed the extra weight responsible for his health problems. After losing 80 pounds, Carey reported, “I’m not diabetic anymore. No medication needed.”
Despite his career as a professional athlete, former Major League Baseball player David Wells battled unhealthy weight gain for years until he was ultimately diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007. Instead of accepting defeat, the left-handed pitcher used the diagnosis as the push he needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. Wells told ESPN that he was managing the disease by eliminating alcohol, rice, potatoes, white bread, and pasta from his diet.
Former NBA star Earl Monroe was shocked when doctors told him he had type 2 diabetes. He remembers, “I was always active and thought I ate well.” The diagnosis was a wake-up call and inspired Monroe to follow a stricter diet and look for more opportunities to exercise. As a result, the retired athlete got his blood sugar under control and was even able to cut back on his diabetes medications. He encourages others by saying, “I found that once you start eating better, it becomes automatic. Healthy eating gets easier.”