8 Celebrities Who Have Shared Their Experiences With Lupus

Christopher Polk/ NBC | Getty
Christopher Polk/ NBC | Getty

Being diagnosed with a chronic condition like lupus can feel isolating, especially if you don't know anyone else who has gone through it. The autoimmune condition can cause inflammation of the skin, heart, kidneys, lungs, joints, and other parts of the body. Side effects include overwhelming fatigue, skin rashes, chronic pain, fevers, kidney damage, heart problems, depression, and changes in weight.

Although The Lupus Foundation estimates that 1.5 million Americans live with some form of lupus, it's not always talked about in mainstream media. Lupus is considered an "invisible illness," meaning the symptoms don't always manifest in a way you can see. This may lead others to underestimate and invalidate the severity of the condition, which can feel just as debilitating as the physical symptoms.

Fortunately, with celebrities like Selena Gomez, Toni Braxton, and Nick Cannon speaking out about their own diagnoses, more and more people are learning what it looks like to live with lupus. These celebs have all used their platforms to bring more attention to the condition, educating the public on how chronic illness affects their own lives, and how it impacts the lives of others. Ahead, check out seven celebrities who have shared their candid experiences with lupus.

— Additional reporting by Chandler Plante

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder in 2015. Since then, she's undergone chemotherapy and received a kidney transplant from her friend Francia Raísa to address the condition. As part of her treatment regimen, Gomez takes medication that helps to reduce her lupus symptoms. And she has been open about the side effects, some of which resulted in an influx of hurtful comments from body shamers on social media.

"My weight would constantly fluctuate because I would be on certain medications. And obviously, people just ran with it," she shared on an episode of AppleTV+'s "Dear..." released in March. "It was like they couldn't wait to find a thing to bring me down. I was being shamed for gaining weight because of my lupus."

Gomez, however, has refused to let those comments get her down or prevent her from doing what's best for her body. "I just want people to know that you're beautiful and you're wonderful," she said during a TikTok Live in February. "We have days where maybe we feel like sh*t, but I would much rather be healthy and take care of myself." Gomez went on to say: "My medications are important and I believe they are what helps me."

Kristen Johnston
David Livingston | Getty

Kristen Johnston

In December 2013, Kristen Johnston revealed she was diagnosed with lupus myelitis, which is a form of transverse myelitis, a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord, according to Mayo Clinic.

She wrote on Facebook that she had been experiencing "[f]ull body muscle weakness" and needed a neck brace to keep her head up. Johnston said that it took four months, 17 doctors, and "2 fun-filled weeks in November partying at The Mayo Clinic" before she was finally diagnosed. Johnston later said her condition was so severe, it felt as though she was "swimming in molasses." She treated her lupus with chemotherapy and steroids, and says she's grateful her health has improved. "Every single day is a gift, and I don't take one second of it for granted."

Toni Braxton

Diagnosed in 2008 with systemic lupus erythematosus, the most common form of lupus, Toni Braxton underwent a serious heart procedure in September 2022 to address the impact of the condition after somewhat ignoring her health, she told People.

Despite being hospitalized "more times than I care to admit," the Grammy-winning artist confessed that she wasn't staying on top of routine urine and blood tests to assess how the disease was affecting her organs. "I kept putting it off thinking, 'Oh, I'm fine. I'll be okay.' But my doctor was persistent and I went to get tested in the last week of September. I did a specialized test and they looked at my heart and saw some abnormalities," Braxton told People. "I found out that I needed a coronary stent. My left main coronary artery was 80% blocked. The doctors told me I could've had a massive heart attack, I would not have survived."

She's acutely aware of the danger she put herself in and committed to not missing future tests. "Had I not gotten that test, my life would've been different. . . . If all I have to do for my lupus and my kidney health is pee in a cup, I can pee in a cup," she said. "How many times do you need me to pee? If all I gotta do is get my arm pricked for some blood? Oh yes, I can do that. How many vials do you need?"

Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon has spoken openly about how lupus almost ended his life at 31 years old. "Ten years ago, I experienced a sudden and mysterious illness that almost took my life," the actor and host shared on an October 2021 episode of his eponymous talk show, per "Entertainment Tonight." At the time, I had no idea it was lupus. And, you know me, I always have to have a camera on. So, I would literally open up my phone, grab my camera and I would talk to the camera, and I documented the entire health journey."

In 2012, he was diagnosed with lupus, which began a decade of close calls, blood transfusions, chemotherapy, and hospitalizations. "Throughout this journey," he said in the same episode, according to Today, "I had to change everything about the way I live my life and it wasn't easy."

Lady Gaga

While Lady Gaga hasn't experienced obvious symptoms of the autoimmune disease, she tested borderline positive for lupus in 2010. The pop star has made it her mission to draw attention to the condition.

"So as of right now . . . I do not have it. But I have to take good care of myself," she confirmed on an episode of "Larry King Live" in June 2010.

In 2016, she released an album inspired by her aunt Joanne, who died of lupus in 1974. Relatives of people with lupus have a greater chance of developing lupus, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. And it's possible for the disease to lie dormant for decades and be triggered by a variety of factors, including stress, medication, or infection.


Seal's facial scars are the result of discoid lupus, which gets its name from the coin-shaped lesions the disease causes.

"Something that had kind of been initially traumatizing turned out to be something that has made me instantly recognizable," he told Yahoo in 2020. He added: "My lupus first arrived when I was 21. It's not as serious as systemic [lupus], which affects the organs."

While initially self-conscious about his scars, he said, "I quickly realized this body is not who we are. I got off lightly."

Shannon Boxx

World Cup champion Shannon Boxx was diagnosed with lupus in 2007 while playing for the US national team, but she didn't go public with the news until 2012. "As an elite athlete, it is my job to maintain a high fitness level, as well as sustain a strong mentality," she told CNN in 2012 when asked how lupus impacts her work. "Now add in a disease where my main symptoms are extreme fatigue and joint pain, and that standard becomes a little bit more difficult to maintain." Boxx explained that her symptoms can flare up at any time, and although the disease is somewhat controlled with medication, it is a lifelong problem.

Paula Abdul
Getty | Jerod Harris

Paula Abdul

Although Paula Abdul says her lupus has been in remission for several years (thanks to lifestyle changes related to diet and movement), she previously dealt with rheumatoid lupus for well over a decade. Since then, she continues to speak out and educate her followers about lupus on social media. In 2023, she also attended Lupus LA's "Stories Under The Stars" event, presenting an award and raising awareness about the condition. She also deals with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, finding reprieve in positivity and routine. "When I was diagnosed, I was like, 'Oh my God, it's finally caught up with me,'" she tells Parade, referencing her intense performing career. "But I don't let this slow me down. I have a lot more living in me and a lot more performing that I want to do."

Melanie Whyte was a contributing staff writer for POPSUGAR. Based in NYC, she writes about LGBTQ identity, sex and relationships, pop culture hot takes, mental health, and home improvement.

Chandler Plante is an assistant editor for POPSUGAR Health & Fitness. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant for People magazine and contributed to Ladygunn, Millie, and Bustle Digital Group. In her free time, she overshares on the internet, creating content about chronic illness, beauty, and disability.