April 22, 2019
A migraine does not discriminate.
It does not look at how much money or success you have or if you’re better or worse off than someone else. It simply does not care – nobody who has migraines is immune from the disease. It is a great equalizer, knocking all sufferers down whenever it can, and that includes celebrities.
Even with fistfuls of money, doctors on call and a whole team ready to assist at a moment’s notice, migraine still finds a way to disrupt celebrities’ plans. Granted, celebrities do have easier access to medical professionals and relief techniques, but when it comes to a migraine attack, there is nothing they can do to keep it from happening.
Knowing that some of the most famous, wealthy and powerful people in the world get knocked down just as easily as we do is morbidly comforting. It’s not like migraineurs want anyone to go through the pain they experience, it’s just that we feel less alone. And when celebrities speak up about their struggle, it makes us feel seen and heard, which creates a community that helps fight that loneliness.
Here are six celebrities who have been open and honest about how migraines have impacted their lives.
The Broadway legend is one of the most vocal celebrities about migraine and was recently was honored as the keynote at the Migraine World Summit in March. Chenoweth suffered her first migraine at 25, while she was in the middle of a show rehearsal and has since been an important voice for those who have been diagnosed with migraine. Being a Broadway star, shows completely depend on Chenoweth’s ability to perform. There have been times where she had to miss performances, but even more where she powered through, even with bright stage lights being one of Chenoweth’s biggest triggers. One year, she skipped an Emmys afterparty due to a migraine attack. She stuck it out long enough to win an Emmy, though.
The Super Bowl-winning athlete, who also spoke at the World Migraine Summit, is easily the best example of strength during a migraine attack. For almost his entire life – Davis had his first migraine attack at nine years old – he has been fighting this disease. What’s inspiring about Davis is he does not let migraine take control of his life. During Super Bowl XXXII, the former Denver Broncos running back went up against the Green Bay Packers with a migraine. The attack affected his vision, but he refused to pull out of the Super Bowl. Instead, Davis summoned all his strength, rushed 157 yards and was the first player in history to score three rushing touchdowns. When the Broncos defeated the Packers, Davis was awarded MVP. He did all of this in the middle of a migraine attack.
The greatest athlete on the planet (I won’t hear any other opinion) still isn’t immune from migraine attacks. Williams has been an important voice to spread awareness about migraines for years and has admitted she’s had to forfeit matches due to the intense menstrual migraines she gets. In 2005 she launched Rally for Menstrual Migraine, which focuses on education and awareness for menstrual migraine. The campaign launched the first website just for the condition. The website is now defunct, but Williams has not stopped talking about menstrual migraine and how it affects so many people.
The actress was attending a Fendi runway show at Milan Fashion Week in 2012 when a migraine hit. The pain was so bad that Stone had to be rushed to the hospital. Like many busy actors, Stone still had responsibilities to tend to. After she was cleared by the hospital, she attended a previously scheduled AIDS benefit gala, where she served as chairwoman. This wasn’t the first scare for Stone, however. In 2001, she suffered a brain hemorrhage so serious that it took her nearly two years to fully regain her walking, reading and talking capabilities. Since that scare, Stone has been open about her experience, her brain health and how she changed her lifestyle in order to live as fully as she can.
In 2008, Janet Jackson had to be rushed to the hospital shortly after a soundcheck for a scheduled performance in Montreal. The reason was not initially disclosed, and fans started to worry after it was announced that she had to reschedule nine additional tour dates. Naturally, people started jumping to conclusions over what was going on with Jackson. The root of all the tour trouble? Vestibular migraine, a rare form of migraine that causes vertigo, dizziness and nausea. Unlike the kind of migraine many people are familiar with, vestibular migraine can happen with or without head pain. The attack was so intense that it took Jackson three weeks to recover from her one attack.
A migraine once kept Hugh Jackman from meeting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. At the time, Jackman was performing live in a production of "Oklahoma!" Blair attended. The migraine attack was so bad that Jackman had to run into the wings to throw up whenever he could get a chance to go offstage. After the show, Blair came backstage to meet the cast, except Jackman. He was busy throwing up during the meet and greet. All migraineurs completely understand prioritizing puke before prime ministers.
The Monthly Migraine is a series dedicated to migraine awareness and support. If you suffer from chronic migraines, you are not alone and we hope to amplify your voice through these pieces. Lindsay Patton-Carson can be reached on Twitter @LindsayPatton.