Celebs Who Have Been Open About Their Invisible Illnesses

Celebrities often feel unattainable, like they have their whole lives together in a picture-perfect, Hollywood-movie way. But, as fans have come to see with more public figures sharing their vulnerabilities on social media and in the press in recent years, those who are famous face just as many struggles as the average person. These difficulties include — but are not limited to — problems with both celebrities' mental health and their physical health.

Living with an invisible illness often comes with a ton of stigma, as people who don't understand the condition often think the sufferer is exaggerating their pain. As such, when celebrities — effectively role models with a huge platform — go public with their own invisible illness diagnoses, it can have an amazing impact on people's awareness of various conditions. Bringing attention to the illness can help reduce the stigma for those who suffer from the same condition. 

Because celebrities are sometimes viewed as a trusted source, they use their power to discuss the various invisible illnesses they've faced. Doing so allows them to not only live closer to their truth, but also gives them the ability to help those like them, inspiring countless others along the way. 

Selma Blair has become a multiple sclerosis advocate

Selma Blair, star of "Legally Blonde" and "Cruel Intentions," bravely disclosed that she was living with multiple sclerosis back in 2018. In a detailed Instagram caption that started by describing how the costumer on her Netflix show at the time helped her get dressed for her scenes, she wrote, in part, "I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken gps. But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don't know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best."

Having learned to live with her difficult diagnosis, Blair has been extremely open about her life with MS ever since — especially how she sees the silver linings. "I'm very comfortable in my body, mostly because I am now making a deeper positive connection with it," she told Town & Country in 2021. "I am fascinated by this body and this life. I am humbled and pleased to be any inspiration for people."

The actor has also become a champion for other people living with MS, through being open about her own experience with the illness, but also by participating in philanthropic campaigns. One such campaign was Natural Beauties, coordinated by makeup artist Gucci Westman, which featured women of "all ages, all complexions, all attitudes," each of whom picked a charity to support through the initiative.

Zoe Saldana revealed she has Hashimoto's thyroiditis

In a candid interview with The Edit in 2016 (via CNN), "Avatar" star Zoe Saldana disclosed that she was living with an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, which she revealed ran in her family, as her mother and sister both had it as well. 

Describing what the disease did, she said, "Your body doesn't have the energy it needs to filter toxins, causing it to believe that it has an infection, so it's always inflamed. You create antibodies that attack your glands, so you have to eat clean." Otherwise, she explained, the body would begin attacking itself. A self-proclaimed "foodie," Saldana mentioned that she's had to change her diet quite a bit to maintain her health. For Saldana and her husband since 2013, Marco Perego Saldana, that meant they had to cut out gluten and dairy. And for the Italian-born Perego, taking pasta off the table was understandably a big sacrifice. 

However, changing his diet wasn't the only sign of commitment he made to Saldana. When they married, he added her last name to his. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2014, Saldana said, "as soon as we decided we were going to get married, we didn't wait. We did it three weeks later. That part was very, very quick." And to think until they met neither of them wanted to get married at all.

Nick Jonas has learned to manage life with Type 1 diabetes

In 2021, Nick Jonas partnered with The Global Movement for Time in Range, a platform attempting to raise awareness for a powerful new kind of technology that would help people living with diabetes lead a full life. Amid the partnership, Jonas spoke to Healthline about how he's felt living with the condition since he was 13 years old, in the early days of the Jonas Brothers phenomenon.

For him, letting Type 1 diabetes rule his life was never on the table. "I've always been very determined and passionate about the work that I do," he told Healthline. "This was a scary kind of reality that I had to face, but not something where I was going to, for a single second, let it slow me down." His determination has gotten him far: The Jonas Brothers recently reunited as a musical act and created a Netflix special, and Jonas and his wife, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, recently welcomed their first child together.

Jonas has stated he's felt honored to be able to share his experience of living with Type 1 diabetes. "What's interesting about diabetes is that it affects so many people, not just the individual themselves, but their friends, family. ... Should someone see something on my channel whether they are diabetic or not and being able to share that with someone they know who lives with the disease, is a really interesting and exciting thing to get to do."

Gabrielle Union was diagnosed with adenomyosis

When Gabrielle Union was ready to have a baby with her husband, Dwyane Wade, she had more trouble getting pregnant than she had originally anticipated. After a series of miscarriages, ("I lost track, it's somewhere like eight or nine," she told Dr. Oz in 2018), she was finally given some clarity as to what was going on with her body.

"So, towards the end of my fertility journey, I finally got some answers," she said during the BlogHer conference in 2018. "Because everyone had just sort of chalked it up to, 'you're a career woman, you've prioritized your career, you've waited too long, and now you're just too old to have a kid, and that's on you for wanting a career.' The reality is, I actually have adenomyosis, which is endometriosis of the muscle." She went on to explain, understandably frustrated, that she had symptoms of the condition since her early twenties, with heavy periods lasting up to 10 days, but that nobody was able to explain to her what was happening, instead putting her on birth control to treat the symptoms, not the cause, of her disease.

In the end, Union and Wade welcomed their baby girl Kaavia in 2018 via surrogate, as the actor announced on Twitter. Posting on Instagram on Christmas Day 2021, Union called her daughter her "Best Gift." We think Union is a gift, too, spreading awareness about women's fertility health.

Lena Dunham had a hysterectomy to deal with her endometriosis

In 2018, at just 31 years old, Lena Dunham made one of the most difficult decisions of her life: She underwent a hysterectomy — which is surgery to remove a patient's uterus, according to WebMD — because the pain brought about by her endometriosis became too much for her to bear. In an incredibly vulnerable essay for Vogue, peppered with the actor and filmmaker's trademark blunt humor, she detailed what that experience was like for her.

Writing in Vogue, Dunham revealed that she had always wanted to become pregnant — but she knew intuitively "that something is wrong with my uterus." While doctors seemed to prioritize her chances of having a child, Dunham had to take her health into her own hands. "With pain like this, I will never be able to be anyone's mother," she remembered thinking as her pain grew and grew. "Even if I could get pregnant, there's nothing I can offer." So, after convincing medical professionals that this was what she really wanted, she was able to have the hysterectomy, which turned out to be the best choice for her. "I may have felt choiceless before, but I know I have choices now," she wrote.

Unfortunately, endometriosis is an all-too-common condition, and Dunham is far from the only public figure to have shared her diagnosis. Amy Schumer, Chrissy Teigen, and Halsey are just some of the famous names who also have struggled with the condition.

Selena Gomez received a kidney from a friend

In 2015, Selena Gomez revealed she had been diagnosed with lupus. In an interview with Billboard, she got candid about the real reason she checked into rehab in 2013, and what it was like enduring the public's assumptions about her stay. "I wanted so badly to say, 'You guys have no idea. I'm in chemotherapy. You're a**holes,'" she told the publication about rumors that she was an addict. "But I was angry I even felt the need to say that. It's awful walking into a restaurant and having the whole room look at you, knowing what they're saying. I locked myself away until I was confident and comfortable again."

Since then, the actor and singer has been incredibly vulnerable about her diagnosis, in particular when she shared she had received a kidney transplant from her friend, the actor Francia Raisa, in 2017. "So I found out I needed to get a kidney transplant due to my Lupus and was recovering," Gomez wrote on Instagram, explaining why she had been absent from the media. "It was what I needed to do for my overall health. I honestly look forward to sharing with you, soon my journey through these past several months as I have always wanted to do with you."

Gomez has endured many difficult things in her life, but what got her through the situation was thinking about how sharing those experiences could help others, she told ELLE in 2021.

Bella Hadid battles with Lyme disease

Bella Hadid hasn't spoken much about her experience of living with Lyme disease, but on the rare occasions she has, she has shared heartbreaking details. Posting on her Instagram Stories to educate people about the wide range of symptoms experienced by those with Lyme in 2020, Hadid wrote, "Every day I feel at least 10 of these attributes without fail ... since I was probably 14, but more aggressively when I turned 18," (via Health).

In 2016, Hadid, who shares her diagnosis with mother Yolanda and brother Anwar, attended the Global Lyme Alliance gala, while she was still dating The Weeknd. "He's great with it, he's definitely been learning a lot about it," the model said of how the musician dealt with her condition. "When I say I'm sick, he understands and kind of leaves it alone." In 2021, she shared a photo of herself on Instagram hooked up to an IV. "Living with a few chronic auto immune disorders = always finding time for my IVs," she wrote.

Lyme disease is unfortunately a fairly common condition, and a number of other famous people have revealed they have been affected by it as well, among them, Ben Stiller and Avril Lavigne. The latter wrote about it in a letter published to her official website in 2018 (via The Independent). "I spent the last few years at home sick fighting Lyme disease," she wrote. "I felt like I was drowning." 

Jessie J has a hereditary heart condition

Musician Jessie J has shared that she lives with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart condition that causes tachycardia due to "an extra signaling pathway between the heart's upper and lower chambers," per Mayo Clinic

Jessie J revealed to People that she shared the syndrome with her father and grandfather. Living with the diagnosis means she has to constantly check in with her body, she explained. "I do have to make sure I stay healthy and look after myself. I kind of love that I have something that pushes me to be healthier." Explaining that her parents were always there for her as she struggled with her illness, she got a little lyrical explaining how her condition impacted her love life. "I go out with nice boys who don't break my heart," she said. "Cause it's sore already."

Jessie J's illness has made her who she is — in a very good way. "You know, the weirdest thing is that being that sick made me Jessie J ... I started writing songs because that was my [way to] get out of feeling unwell and down," she told Mornings in 2015 (via MamaMia). She mentioned that her diagnosis has made her a stronger, more creative person. "I do have to manage my life in a certain way," she stated. "Sometimes I'm not [fine], but there's loads of people who aren't. I'm fine. I'm very proud of myself. I've done a lot more than I thought I could."

Lil Wayne is living with epilepsy

Over the years, rapper Lil Wayne has been candidly open about his experience of living with epilepsy, a diagnosis he once told Katie Couric he received as a child, per NPR

As fans of Wayne know, the hip hop mogul has dealt with seizures his whole life, but wouldn't know about them if his loved ones and medical team didn't explain what was happening. "I told them the other day, 'Y'all can tell me right now that y'all was lying', like 'You know what? We lyin' ain't nothin,' and I'd have to believe them because I don't know," he told MTV News' RapFix Live in 2013. "I go to sleep and wake up in the hospital. I don't feel anything. I'm 100, I just hope it stops happening."

In 2017, TMZ reported that Lil Wayne had once again suffered a bout of seizures while he was staying in Chicago. He was hospitalized and had to cancel an upcoming concert in Las Vegas. TMZ had previously reported two separate occasions when the rapper had unfortunately had to deal with more seizures. While some have blamed Weezy's use of codeine as the cause, the rapper has stated he sometimes forgets to take his medication, which leads to the seizures.

Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome

Venus Williams is a world-class tennis champion, but her success on the court has not been without its struggles. Williams shared that she is living with Sjögren's syndrome, a type of autoimmune disease.

"As a world champion, I know what it's like to be on top," Williams said as part of a PSA for the American College of Rheumatology. "But I also know what it's like to be one of 54 million Americans battling a rheumatic disease. After six years of swollen joints, fatigue, and eye-mouth dryness, I was finally diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome. Today, I follow my rheumatologist's treatment plan, and I am back on top of my game."

Before her diagnosis, Williams sacrificed a lot, including the one thing that was most important to her. "Unfortunately, that's typical of people with autoimmune disease," she told Prevention.com in 2019. "They're misdiagnosed or too sick to function. I literally had professional tennis taken away from me before I got the right diagnosis." Thankfully, with the right treatment and certain lifestyle changes, Williams has been able to effectively manage her condition. In addition to taking medication, she switched to a plant-based diet. "​​Once I started I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible," she told Health in 2017. "Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I'm doing the right thing for me."

Gina Rodriguez found out she had Hashimoto's disease at 26

Gina Rodriguez is an incredible actor and producer — she also lives with Hashimoto's disease. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disorder that affects a person's thyroid, per Mayo Clinic. And while Rodriguez knew of her diagnosis, she tried to ignore her symptoms and carry on as normal. 

Eventually, though, it all caught up with her, causing her to reevaluate how she addressed her health. "[Hashimoto's] affects so many aspects of your life," she told SELF in 2018 (via People). "I've had it for so many years ... that rebellion of not taking care of myself can't exist anymore." Having changed up the way she eats, "so many of my ailments are gone," Rodriguez told SELF. "It feels like freedom. This is new. I'm 33. It's taken me a while."

She further described her early symptoms in a 2016 interview with People (via Health). "It was difficult for me to stay in the comfortable zone of my weight," she explained. "I was very tired. My fatigue was through the roof. When everyone else was cold, I was sweating bullets." The consequence was that, for a long time, Rodriguez struggled with her body image and worried she would lose out on work because of her weight fluctuations. "I was like, 'Okay I want ... to be a leading lady.' But now I am being told there is no way I can because [leading ladies] are way skinnier, which was very destructive to me."

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's at a very young age

Michael J. Fox, the legendary star of the "Back to the Future" movie trilogy, found out he had early onset Parkinson's disease at only 29 years old. Seven years later, he disclosed his diagnosis to the world and used his experience to advocate for advances in Parkinson's research. He launched The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research in 2000, promising to help others like him live with their condition and, one day, heal from it entirely.

In a 2021 interview with CBS News, Fox reflected on the devastating moment he received his diagnosis, just three years after marrying his wife Tracy Pollan (whom he's still married to today). "So very early in the marriage she got this dumped on her," the actor recalled. "And the moment that I told her I was realizing was the last time we cried about it together. We haven't cried about Parkinson's since. We've just dealt with it and lived our lives. But we cried about it that first time."

Fox is able to appreciate all the blessings in his life, despite living with the disease. "I have a hard time getting to a restaurant and up the stairs to where my family's eating perhaps at a dinner," he told CBS News. "But then I'm there with my son and my three daughters and my wife, and friends of ours. And it's just like, that's great."

Lady Gaga is living with fibromyalgia

Lady Gaga has lived with fibromyalgia, which causes nerve pain, for years. The "Star Is Born" actor has explained she thinks the physical condition stemmed from the emotional toll of being sexually assaulted — another difficult experience she has been extremely vulnerable about. In other words, she believes her physical health is tied to her mental health, an idea that's far from novel.

For Gaga, one of the most frustrating aspects of her condition is that people dismiss it, implying that she's somehow making it up. "I get so irritated with people who don't believe fibromyalgia is real," she told Vogue in 2018. "For me, and I think for many others, it's really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it's every day waking up not knowing how you're going to feel."

In 2017, the star disclosed her diagnosis to the world, in the spirit of the honesty she always strives for with her "Little Monsters," and to announce that she had to cancel her European tour. "As I get stronger and when I feel ready, I will tell my story in more depth, and plan to take this on strongly so I can not only raise awareness, but expand research for others who suffer as I do," she wrote on Instagram.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Singing may have helped Pink manage her asthma

"Family Portrait" singer Pink lives with asthma, a condition that has gotten pretty serious for her over the years. In 2006, she had to go to the hospital because of "severe asthma attacks," according to CBS News, though that wasn't the only time her asthma gave her a bad health scare. In 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, Pink and her family contracted COVID-19. It began with her son, Jameson, who was only three years old at the time.

"It's been probably 30 years since I needed a nebulizer breathing treatment in the hospital, or anything like that, and at a certain point, maybe around March 18, March 19, March 20, when [Jameson's] fever was staying and going up, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't breathe, and I needed a nebulizer for the first time in 30 years," she told Ellen DeGeneres via video conference.

While her asthma has caused Pink many difficulties over the years, it thankfully hasn't negatively affected her singing career. In fact, it's possible that singing has helped alleviate some of her symptoms. "Singer @Pink won a lifetime achievement award at the #Brits this week — celebrating her successful career despite her #asthma," Asthma UK tweeted in 2019. "Did you know singing can actually help asthma symptoms?" Pink herself has also talked about how being upside down onstage actually helps her breathe better. As she wisely says, "who knew?!"