13 Celebrities Who Have RAby Jerilyn Covert Health Writer
Millions of people live with rheumatoid arthritis. Some of them happen to be famous. You may be surprised who’s on the list.
The Emmy-winning actress wasn’t herself in 2004, and not because she was playing a role. The Practice star’s hands hurt so badly she could barely hold a pen and she was too tired to run alongside her son as he learned to ride his bike. Eight months and several doctors later, she was diagnosed with RA. “You have to get the proper diagnosis and then the proper treatment,” she told People. Look for Manheim in the ABC drama Stumptown.
Known for her roles on The Middle and Grey’s Anatomy, Bannon was diagnosed with RA when she was just 15. At the time, she could barely get up the stairs because of the pain. She teamed up with the Arthritis Foundation to bring awareness to juvenile RA, and even posted a video of herself administering her daily arthritis shot on Instagram.
American Ninja Warrior features athletes doing extraordinary things, and turns out, the show’s host is pretty extraordinary too. A doctor turned stand-up comic and actor, Iseman is a strong supporter of the Arthritis Foundation and even won Celebrity Apprentice on the charity’s behalf. Iseman manages symptoms through a combination of medication, exercise, and positive thinking. “Changing my mindset has been important,” he told HealthCentral. “So much of dealing with this disease is mental, figuring out how you decide to view it.”
The world-renowned tennis player had just won the 2018 Australian Open, achieving her first Grand Slam victory and reclaiming number-one world status, when she started having debilitating pain and fatigue. Several months later, she went public with her RA diagnosis, leading people to speculate on the future of her career. She continues to compete, saying, “You figure out what to do.” Her strategy: Take it one day at a time.
She was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1980s (starring in hits like Body Heat and Romancing the Stone), but Turner all but vanished from the screen after her RA diagnosis, when debilitating pain stalled her career for several years. “I suppose there was a feeling of loss,” she confessed in an interview with Vulture. "But you work with what you have, as best you can,” she says.
Best known for her role as Tony Soprano's sister, Janice, on The Sopranos, Turturro (diagnosed with RA at 12) has worked with the Arthritis Foundation as a national spokesperson. She talked about her journey with the disease, how to manage it, and pursue a successful career in spite of it. “You learn as an actor to not show you’re in pain,” she’s said. “That’s what I do. I act.” Catch her on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The Blacklist.
A professional figure skater turned American fashion designer, Kuluva created the arthritis-friendly fashion brand Tumbler and Tipsy. Inspired by his own experience living with RA (he was diagnosed at 28), Kuluva’s mission is to make fashion more accessible with details like substituting magnetic closures for buttons. His advice: “Don’t be afraid of clothing, but be smart about what you are putting on.”
People tend not to think of rheumatoid arthritis as a blessing, but that’s exactly how the pro golfer describes it. Diagnosed at age 11, McPherson took up golf because she was no longer able to play running or jumping sports. She became a regular on the LPGA Tour for nine years, rising to 14th in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. After three years off the tour, she has recently returned. Her advice for living with RA: “Stay active!”
Read our full interview with Kristy McPherson on her life with RA.
After being crowned Mrs. Georgia, Boyd (diagnosed with RA as a teenager) used her title to promote arthritis awareness, serving as a spokesperson for the Arthritis Foundation. Unable to take RA medications because of another condition, Boyd has used cortisone shots, physical therapy, and surgeries to help treat the disease. “I’m in pain all day, every day, since I was 15–that was 29 years ago," she says. "Arthritis doesn’t take a day off and neither do I." Boyd has a thriving career as celebrity makeup artist, and she even founded her own makeup line, Meredith Boyd Cosmetics. "It's my mission to encourage others newly diagnosed with this disease."
The famous stage and movie actress of the 1930s appeared in such memorable films as His Girl Friday and Auntie Mame. A five-time Golden Globe winner, Russell was diagnosed with RA in 1969, and died of breast cancer and complications from her RA in 1976. She once attributed her acting success, and beauty, to one thing: “Joy in living.”
After three years of searching for the right treatment, the former Steelers quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer partnered with the American College of Rheumatology to raise awareness and encourage people with rheumatic diseases to live well and be proactive. He’s also been open about his struggles with depression (which often accompanies RA). His advice: At the end of the day, tell yourself one good thing that happened to you.
No stranger to adversity, the Oscar-winning actress and producer struggled to find the right combination of medications to treat her RA, landing in the hospital with pneumonia multiple times after a bad reaction to the RA drug methotrexate (one side effect is lung toxicity). “I had no idea that the medication would have any effect on my lungs,” she shared in a video with physician Raj Dasgupta, M.D. “You really have to be schooled by your doctor on what a medication is and how it can affect you.”