9 Celebrities With Sickle Cell Disease
September is National Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, which you should already be aware of. But did you know that 1 in 12 Blacks has the sickle cell trait?
Sickle-cell anemia is a disease that occurs when the red blood cells in the body are shaped like crescents, which can block blood flow in the blood vessels of the limbs and organs. Blocked blood flow can cause pain and organ damage and also raises the risk for infection.
It is estimated that between 90 to 100,000 Americans are living with sickle-cell anemia, many of them people of color, which includes these notable celebrities with Sickle Cell Disease.
Larenz Tate was born in Chicago but he moved to California with his family and followed his two older brothers, Lahmard and Larron, into acting. Since becoming famous, the three siblings created the Tate Brothers Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing an awareness to sickle-cell anemia. Larenz Tate, who suffers from the disease, also focuses on educating people with sickle cell about how to avoid iron overload with the “Be Sickle Smart: Ask About Iron” campaign.
Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins
After releasing two multi-platinum selling albums as part of TLC, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins was on top of the world but she was brought back down to reality when she had to tell the group and the public that she suffered from a serious disease. Watkins revealed that she had Sickle Cell and using her celebrity status as a platform, she later became one of the spokespeople for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America. In 2002, Watkins was hospitalized for four months due to a flare-up of the disease but stated that her optimistic attitude and faith in God keeps her moving forward.
Many consider veteran rap group Mobb Deep pioneers in the industry because their classic “The Infamous” album helped usher in the dark, gritty and grimy sound that helped define New York rap in the 90’s. 20 years later, the hip-hop duo are still going strong but many would be surprised to know that member Prodigy suffers from Sickle Cell. In addition to a successful career as part of the group, the Queens native has also branched out as a solo artist.
Paul Williams of The Temptations
The Temptations was a legendary R&B group that helped define the Motown sound and ushered in a new wave of music. But the group has gone through many members. Singer Paul Williams was one of the original Temptations and was with them during its “Classic Five” era. But the baritone singer suffered from Sickle Cell Anemia and his deteriorating health had a negative effect on his music career. In too much pain to perform, oftentimes Williams would self-medicate with alcohol. Two years after he left the group, Williams was found dead in his car in an apparent suicide.
Legendary jazz musician Miles Davis died almost a decade and a half ago but his legacy still lives on. Considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, Davis has been an innovator and his contributions to music were recognized when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Davis also suffered from Sickle Cell Anemia. The famed trumpeter, composer and bandleader passed away from combined effects of a stroke, pneumonia and respiratory failure at the age of 65.
In 1997, Tiki Barber was drafted by the New York Giants. He spent his entire career with the team and when he retired in 2006, he walked away holding team record for all-time rushing and receptions leader. The former running back became involved with increasing Sickle Cell awareness by spearheading “Be Sickle Smart: Ask Tiki About Iron.” The campaigned aimed at helping those, who are like Barber and suffer from the disease, take a more active and informed role in their health.
Kiki Shepard may not suffer from Sickle Cell Anemia, but after watching a close friend suffer for years before succumbing to the disease, the longtime co-host of “Showtime at the Apollo” has dedicated much of her time to help finding a cure. The voiceover actress founded The K.I.S. Foundation aimed at raising awareness through community outreach and scholarships. Each year the organization holds its celebrity bowling challenge where proceeds go towards research aimed at finding a universal cure.
Washington Redskins safety Ryan Clark has been spared the full-blown debilitation of Sickle Cell Disease but he has been sidelined numerous times by the effects of carrying the Sickle Cell trait. In 2007, Clark was sent into sickle cell crisis during a game in Denver due to the city’s high altitude and low oxygen levels which cause hypoxia. The incident ended Clark’s season and cost him his spleen and gallbladder. Since that time, he’s sat on the sidelines when his team’s faced the Denver Broncos.