What's it like to be famous and have skin affected by an autoimmune condition? Singer LeAnn Rimes reveals how she copes with her psoriasis and why she decided to go public.
By Jessie Sholl
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LeAnn Rimes knows what it's like to live under a spotlight: She appeared on "Star Search" when she was 8, her first album was released when she was just 11, and she's been a household name since, at 14, she won her first of two Grammy awards. She's sold more than 37 million albums, she's written children's books, and she's acted in movies and on television. But now the spotlight's glare has a specific focus, as she's become the face for the "Stop Hiding from Psoriasis" campaign, which aims to raise awareness of this often-misunderstood immune system disease characterized by red, scaly patches of skin.
Since the age of 2, Rimes has been afflicted with psoriasis, and now, for the first time, she's decided to go public about her own struggles in the hopes of educating the general public and letting other psoriasis sufferers know that they aren't alone.
EverydayHealth: What made you decide to start talking about having psoriasis?
LeAnn Rimes:I wanted to put a face with the disease. More than 7 million people are living with psoriasis, and I want people to know that there is hope. What people really don't understand is that psoriasis is a chronic immune disease that's been linked to heart disease, obesity, and depression. And it's not just physical: It's emotional, and it's social. The purpose of the "Stop Hiding" campaign is to let people know that treatment exists and also to educate the general public about what psoriasis is. The more we educate people, the easier it'll be for a psoriasis sufferer to walk outside with a pair of shorts on and feel comfortable.
Everyday Health: How does it feel to speak out about psoriasis? Is it a relief not to hide it?
LeAnn Rimes:Yeah, it is a relief! It's turning something negative into something positive and hopefully being able to help other people. People always used to compliment me on my skin, how beautiful it was, and I'd think, if you only knew what was underneath my shirt or my long dress! I always had to cover it up: jeans in the summer, long dress on the red carpet, two pairs of pantyhose onstage. And I was a kid with it, so I understand what kids go through, not wanting to be around people, not wanting to do normal activities. I was always afraid to be in a bathing suit in the summer. Every time I got a scratch playing a game, the psoriasis would come up, so I had to be incredibly careful.
As a little girl, it was like, "I'm not pretty, I'm not normal." But you learn very quickly where beauty comes from, which is a major life lesson for a child to have to learn: Beauty's not just my skin, it's not just on the outside. And the more you talk about it, I think the more it helps.
Everyday Health: Has psoriasis affected your career at all?
LeAnn Rimes:Psoriasis has never really stopped me from doing anything, though some of my medications have. Sometimes I would have to take heavier doses of medications than were recommended for a kid, just to try to clear up the psoriasis so I could perform. Then I'd be onstage and my skin would itch and crack and bleed, which was miserable. Also, I would get sicker quicker, and I was very fatigued most of the time. So I think the treatments affected me more in some ways than the psoriasis itself.
Everyday Health: Conversely, has your career affected your psoriasis?
LeAnn Rimes:Oh yeah, absolutely. Stress is a major trigger for my psoriasis. Being in the public eye, traveling all over the world, not getting enough sleep or enough time for myself — life lessons that are sometimes learned farther down the line, I had to learn early on. I had to learn the power of "No" and how saying that word was going to affect my health in a positive way.
And in terms of my career, well I kind of had to figure, OK, my career is going to be there and I have to start taking care of me because if I'm not there, nothing else is going to be either. So it became a positive thing. My parents were great about helping me take care of my psoriasis, but eventually you become an adult and you have to be responsible for yourself. I never gave up hope, and there are so many new drugs coming out these days, things have really changed for the better.
Everyday Health: What are some ways that you manage your psoriasis? Have you found effective treatments?
LeAnn Rimes:The biggest thing I can say is to look at your overall health and not just at the disease itself. Find a dermatologist who will help figure out what your treatment options are and what would work for your lifestyle. Other things that have helped me are yoga, working out, and being out in nature, which I find very calming. It's also important to really take a look at your diet. Those things will definitely help the treatments work better. Treatments are always the main focus, and trying to figure out what works for you as far as treatments go, but being able to look at your health completely is incredibly important.
Everyday Health: Your new CD (Family) is the first time you've written all the songs on an album. What's that been like?
LeAnn Rimes:It's been an incredible experience; I've written my whole life, but now I have my words out there that people are relating to and finding themselves within my songs. I've always had a deep connection with my fans, but it's much deeper now that these are all my words. There's so much more emoting that goes into singing those songs because it's my life. Some of the things I'm writing about are still right underneath my skin, so it's very emotional.
Everyday Health: Have you found that the response from fans has been different since you began writing your own lyrics?
LeAnn Rimes:I have. I have fans telling me their stories all the time now, about how my songs have touched them or thanking me for writing a song because it seemed like I was telling their life story … it's been really amazing.
Everyday Health: You've been in the spotlight for so long, yet unlike many other child stars, you seem so grounded. Is there anything you can attribute that to?
LeAnn Rimes:I don't know … maybe psoriasis in a way. I mean, it's definitely kept me grounded in a lot of ways. I've also got a really great family and good friends around me. I still have a lot of respect for myself, and my music was the main focus. I loved it so much, and I never wanted anything to overshadow that.
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