According to the American Diabetes Association, about 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with one of the different types of diabetes every year. Diabetes, which includes Type 1, Type 2 and Type 1.5, is a group of health conditions that affect the way your body is able to use food for energy. When you have diabetes, your body doesn’t use a natural hormone called insulin the way it’s meant to. This causes sugar from the food you eat to stay in your bloodstream, and this can result in a number of other conditions that affect your overall health and quality of life.
The various types of diabetes affect people of all ages and from all walks of life. That includes celebrities, who have to factor their diagnoses into their fast-paced lifestyles. This goes to show that diabetes doesn’t have to slow you down. The following celebrities haven’t let their diabetes stop them from living active and fulfilling lives — they’ve even used their platforms to help advocate for diabetes awareness and research and empower people around the world who live with the condition.
Nick Jonas Founded a Diabetes Nonprofit
Singer Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2005 at age 13. Before his diagnosis, Jonas began experiencing unusual thirst and weight loss, which are both symptoms that commonly arise due to the condition. When his symptoms didn’t disappear and his brothers began noticing, Jonas went straight to the hospital — where doctors determined his blood sugar level was over 900 mg/dL. For reference, typical blood sugar levels for people without diabetes are often around 100 mg/dL, depending on when they last ate.
Since his diagnosis, Jonas has learned how to live well with his condition. “This experience has shaped how I approach my health — working out, eating well, and always thinking about my blood sugar and insulin needs,” Jonas wrote in a 2019 Instagram post. His experiences with managing the condition were also what led him to co-found Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit organization that advocates for diabetes research funding and education. Through Beyond Type 1, Jonas aims to “make sure no one feels alone with this diagnosis” and “share how [anyone] can thrive with Type 1 diabetes.”
Sonia Sotomayor Writes Books for Kids With Diabetes
Appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor is the first Latina and first woman of color Supreme Court Justice in history. Long before she set career goals to become a judge, however, she was living with Type 1 diabetes. Sotomayor was diagnosed with the condition at age 7, and since then, she’s taken insulin injections every day to manage her diabetes.
Throughout her life, Sotomayor sometimes faced difficulties explaining her diabetes to other people; she recounted to NPR an experience when people assumed she was misusing drugs when she’d actually been injecting her regular dose of insulin. This led Justice Sotomayor to begin advocating for people with diabetes, and even encouraged her to write a children’s book to help young readers learn to celebrate their differences. The book, called Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, is about embracing being unique and features children with different conditions — from diabetes to Tourette’s syndrome to autism — working together to grow a garden.
Vanessa Williams Works With Charities Often
After becoming the first Black woman to win the Miss America pageant in 1983, Vanessa Williams went on to enjoy a fruitful life as both an actress and a singer. And, she’s done it all while having Type 1 diabetes. Williams received her diagnosis fairly early on in her career, and she’s since learned how to not only live with the condition but to thrive as well.
While most people who have Type 1 diabetes are diagnosed in childhood — it’s often called juvenile diabetes — Williams was diagnosed as an adult. Since then, she’s devoted herself to raising awareness about the condition, often working with diabetes and other health-related charities and organizations. In particular, she advocates for children who are impacted by Type 1 diabetes; Williams’ grandmother also lived with this condition, and she understands that kids may need some extra help understanding what a diagnosis means for them or a family member.
Tom Hanks Completely Reshaped His Lifestyle
In 2013, Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks announced to David Letterman on The Late Show that he’d been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. “I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated. You’ve got Type 2 diabetes,” Hanks told Letterman. Before Hanks went public with his diagnosis, the actor had lost a noticeable amount of weight. It’s typical for Hanks’ weight to fluctuate based on the roles he’s playing for films at any given moment, but this time he did it for a much more important reason: his health.
Losing weight was one part of getting his diabetes under control, and Hanks explained that he made big changes to his diet and overall lifestyle to reach new health goals. Since his diagnosis, Hanks has committed to eating well and exercising regularly, and he’s no longer taking on roles that require him to gain large amounts of weight — something he believes may, along with a genetic predisposition, have led him to develop Type 2 diabetes.
Valerie June Found the Career Push She Needed
Memphis-based singer-songwriter and musician Valerie June was diagnosed with latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, or LADA, at age 27. It was 2009, and she was in the early stages of getting her music career rolling. June began experiencing extreme fatigue and recalls that she found it difficult to get through interviews without falling asleep. Then, she collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with LADA.
June explains that, immediately following her diabetes diagnosis, “I was really sick and wasn’t able to basically cross the room and had no energy. I was pretty much in bed all the time.” That led her to quit all of her “real jobs” and focus on music, something she could do whenever her body was up to it. She played local venues several times a week to pay the bills. Looking back, she now realizes that the health and life choices that came out of having diabetes helped get her where she is today. Following her diagnosis, June learned to thrive — and she now frequently appears on the pages of Rolling Stone.
“Statistics About Diabetes” via American Diabetes Association
“What is diabetes?” via Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
“Nick Jonas Opens Up About Managing Type 1 Diabetes” via People
“Diabetes – Diagnosis and treatment” via Mayo Clinic
“Tom Hanks – Actor with Type 2 Diabetes” via Diabetes UK