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Personal Stories

Finding the Rhythm: Singers and Musicians with Type 1 Diabetes

Chances are you’ve probably danced and sang along to a song by someone with diabetes! Behind the spotlight, several famous musicians also manage type 1 diabetes in between studio time and worldwide tours. 

Finding the Rhythm: Singers and Musicians with Type 1 Diabetes

Read on to meet some of the rockstars who are making hits while taking insulin!

Nick Jonas

As the frontman of the boy band Jonas Brothers, Nick Jonas embodies resilience in the face of adversity. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at the age of 13, Jonas has continued to advocate for diabetes causes and empowerment. 

In 2015, Jonas co-founded Beyond Type 1 to change what it means to live with a diabetes diagnosis. Jonas and his wife, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, still serve on the Board of Directors for Beyond Type 1 and remain committed to creating a better future for those living with the disease. 

Through his advocacy work, Jonas has illuminated the daily challenges of living with type 1 diabetes and inspired a generation to embrace their differences and pursue their passions. His unwavering commitment to both his craft and his health serves as a testament to the power of perseverance and proves that you can do anything with T1D. The singer is a celebrity spokesperson for the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and wears the Omnipod insulin pump.

The thing that drives me in a lot of ways is being able to help other people, talking about the real-life challenges of this disease and ways to approach it to make it easier. I want to build a community that is open to talking about diabetes…I didn’t know anything about diabetes before I was diagnosed. It’s about educating when you can and helping the overall cause and making people more aware.” (DiabetesTribe)

Crystal Bowersox

Crystal Bowersox, an American singer-songwriter and American Idol alumna captivated audiences not only with her soulful melodies but also with her indomitable spirit. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of six, Bowersox refused to let this condition stifle her musical aspirations. Instead, she transformed her journey with diabetes into a source of empowerment, using her platform to raise awareness and advocate for diabetes education and research.

Bowersox is a T1D role model and advocate who has attended meetings on Capitol Hill with Breakthrough T1D (formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).

“It’s made me stronger, and it’s presented challenges while touring, but it’s like anything else: you get through it and take care of yourself. I really have been focusing on that; like yesterday, I went and got a massage because I needed it. It’s also hard as a mother too, to make that a priority when I feel like I need to care for everything else around me. But still, I got to take care of me.” (Berkeley B-Side)

Bret Michaels

As the lead vocalist of the rock band Poison, Bret Michaels has carved a legacy defined by his electrifying performances and unyielding determination. However, behind the glitz and glamour lies a battle with type 1 diabetes that has shaped Michaels' journey in profound ways.

When Michaels was six years old, he became ill and spent nearly three weeks in the hospital with extremely high blood sugar numbers, where he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Michaels, however, did not let this slow him down. He went on to sell 65 million albums worldwide and appear in several TV shows and films. In 2010, he even earned $640,000 on behalf of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for competing in and ultimately winning the Celebrity Apprentice 3. 

“Every day is an absolute battle. I don't care what anyone says. You have to wake up and say to yourself, 'I accept that I have diabetes, and I'm not going to let it run my entire life.' It's a fine line, a Catch-22, a balancing act. I work to enjoy my life like a regular human being and at the same time keep my blood sugar levels as decent as possible.” (Buzzfeed)

Este Haim

Este Haim, bassist and vocalist of the band HAIM, is no stranger to the rhythms of resilience. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14, Haim is vocal about her experience with the disease and has no fear of showing off her continuous glucose monitor (CGM) in public (you can even see it in HAIM’s music 2019 music video, “Summer Girl!”).

In a post on X (formerly Twitter), Este shared that her verse in HAIM’s song “Hallelujah” was partly inspired by her experience with diabetes burnout and recent updates from her endocrinologist. Through the song, she delves into how she leans on her sisters for support during such times.

“The trick is to stay as healthy as possible. There are times when I think – 'Why do I have to put up with this and nobody else has to deal with it?' But it has become part of my life now." (Diabetes UK)

Eric Paslay

Eric Paslay, a country music artist known for his heartfelt lyrics and soulful performances, has emerged as a voice of hope for those living with type 1 diabetes. When Paslay was 10 years old, his grandmother, who worked as a nurse's assistant, started noticing some classic symptoms of diabetes in him, such as excessive thirst and blurry vision, and promptly took him to the doctor, where he was diagnosed with T1D.

Before becoming a musician, Paslay considered becoming a pediatric endocrinologist. But after he began writing songs, he realized his dream was to perform for a living. Through his music and advocacy, Paslay has become a source of inspiration for others living with diabetes and continues to work with children with Type 1.

“Live your life to the fullest. Don't let diabetes rule your life. If you have a dream, pursue it. There is nothing you can't be in life.” (NIH MedlinePlus)

Neil Young

Perhaps one of the less vocal musicians with type 1 is the rock legend Neil Young. As a child, Young was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, epilepsy, and polio. With time and proper care, Young was able to manage these conditions and began to explore his interest in music. Young went on to win several Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice.

Although Young shies away from speaking about his personal life, he has remained a steadfast advocate for many environmental and disability issues. He even co-founded the Benefit for Farm Aid and the Bridge School Benefit Concerts.

Interesting Fact: Other celebs with T1D include Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, model Lila Grace Moss, actor Victor Garber, racecar driver Ryan Reed, retired Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, actress Halle Berry, and Olympic gold medalist Gary Hall Jr. Actress Salma Hayek was diagnosed with gestational diabetes while pregnant with her daughter.

T1D Crooners

These musicians have become symbols of empowerment for those facing type 1 diabetes. While they’re rocking and rolling, routine blood tests, careful monitoring, and diligent management become part of their daily routine.

Those with type 2 diabetes can also lead amazing and successful careers, and it’s clear their talent is unconstrained. Musicians like Patti LaBelle, Randy Jackson, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, and Chaka Khan all received a type 2 diagnosis and learned how to manage the condition properly. 

These singers and musicians remind us that adversity can be transformed into art, and their work resonates far beyond the confines of the stage. Through their music, diabetes awareness and advocacy, they continue to inspire and uplift, proving that you can do anything with diabetes.

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