Chronic Illness

5 Hollywood Celebrities Living Chronically Ill Life Out In The Open

What do Jameela Jamil, Selma Blair, Serena Gomez, Michael J. Fox, and Lena Dunham have in common? A chronic illness they're not ashamed of.

In the age of social media, celebrities are becoming more honest than ever. Instead of hiding behind a glossy Hollywood exterior, many actors are using their platforms to speak out on a variety of issues. And while it would be only too easy to hide a chronic condition or disability from the world, several celebs are speaking out about how their diagnoses affect them, and what they’ve had to overcome in their day-to-day lives as a result. 

Selma Blair (Multiple Sclerosis)

When Selma Blair—whose film appearances include the Hellboy series, Cruel Intentions, and Legally Blonde—was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, she announced it on Instagram.

“It wasn’t about announcing a dramatic diagnosis,” she told Vanity Fair in 2019.“ I had no idea, for some reason, that news outlets would pick it up or anything. When they did, I was kind of uncomfortable. Then I was worried, thinking: Will anyone hire me?”

But Blair’s fanbase only rallied around her after her diagnosis. And since then, Blair has publicly documented her battle with the condition.

When disease-modifying treatments didn’t work for her, Blair started chemotherapy and underwent a stem cell transplant, both aggressive treatments only currently used in highly-active multiple sclerosis cases.

She also started using her platform as a way to raise awareness. When Blair star took to the red carpet for the Oscars in 2019, she did so with a cane, and has since discussed her desire to make fashion more accessible

Michael J. Fox (Parkinson’s Disease)

All ’80s and ’90s kids know Michael J. Fox from Back to the Future movies and his hit sitcom Family Ties, but the winsome actor was forced to reevaluate his career when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991.

During an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman in 2015, Fox revealed that when he was diagnosed with the condition at 29, he was told he had ten years left to work as an actor. Luckily, his career has lasted much longer than that.

It’s true that in 2002, Fox left his hit political sitcom Spin City because the show’s aggressive filming schedule was too hard on his symptoms. But Fox has had a robust career since then in smaller roles and guest appearances on shows like Scrubs.

“I don’t think I was very good in it,” Fox told The New York Times in 2019. “But I enjoyed being back on set… Acting is what I do. And I needed to find a way to do it with my new instrument. Ultimately I found that the ‘less is more’ philosophy works for me. Which is convenient because I have less.”

Fox has since appeared in popular shows such as The Good Wife and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He founded The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000.

Selena Gomez (Lupus)

In 2015, Rare singer Selena Gomez revealed that she was diagnosed with lupus two years previously, leading her to cancel her tour and ultimately undergo chemotherapy. Eventually, in 2017, Gomez was forced to undergo a kidney transplant due to the disease, which was donated by her friend Francia Raisa, and shared the news on Instagram.

You’d think such transparency about having a serious health condition would garner support from your fans, but some critics started mocking her for weight fluctuations caused by all of the medications the singer has to be on. In an interview with Giving Back Generation, the star said: “That got me big time. That really messed me up for a bit.”

Even so, Gomez has continued to be public about her health troubles, including the mental health issues such as anxiety and depression that are common side-effects of an autoimmune condition like lupus: proving that the most glamorous thing you can do when living with a chronic illness is live your life in the open.

Jameela Jamil (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome)

The hit NBC existential sitcom The Good Place catapulted British actress Jameela Jamil to stardom. Funny, intelligent, statuesque, and beautiful, it might be hard to believe at first that Jamil has a disfiguring health condition like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome… but as she sees it, that makes it all the more important for her to raise awareness of it.

In an Instagram post in June 2019, the actress opened up and stressed the importance of normalizing living with a health condition. “I have such severe eczema all over that my legs are covered in huge patches of pigment loss from scratching. I have a tonne of stretch marks, and because I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, *every* time I cut, I scar. I *refuse* to have these normal human marks weaponized against me.”

Accepting the Patient Advocate of The Year Award 2019 at The Ehlers-Danlos Society‘s Global Learning Conference, Jamil said: “I am sorry it took me so long to speak publicly about my condition. I think I was afraid of being discriminated against, and I think I feel, I felt, discouraged by how little information there is about it publicly, and still how little research is being done around this condition.”

That’s a fear any ill or disabled person can understand.

Lena Dunham (Endometriosis)

Jameela Jamil is not the only actress with Ehler-Danlos. When paparazzi photos of Girls creator Lena Dunham using a cane surfaced, she chose to address her conditions head on.

She wrote on Instagram: “This is what life is like when I’m struggling most with chronic illness. An Ehler-Danlos syndrome flare means that I need support from more than just my friends… so thank you, sweet cane. I could choose to be embarrassed by these paparazzi pics… but I’m really not.”

Dunham has also been an outspoken advocate for women living with endometriosis. In 2018, the actress revealed in a Vogue op-ed that she’d undergone a total hysterectomy in the hopes of ending the pain she’d been experiencing as a result of “battling endometriosis for a decade.” 

Dunham also discussed the changes she’d made in her life on Instagram and told fans: “disability and pain don’t have to mean the end of your dreams—just the beginning of a new dream.” Words to live by.