OMG... did you all know that Halle Berry is pregnant?!
The actress who is also a fellow PWD (person with diabetes) is having her second child. At age 46.
OK, celebrity dish fans may care more about this news than we do, but what makes it relevant to the Diabetes Community is the fact that we're talking about one of the most controversial famous-person PWDs... You know, that whole Halle Barry Diabetes Confusion Ruckus that still rubs many of us the wrong way? The one revolving around her confusing comments back in 2007, when she told everyone that she had "cured" herself of type 1 diabetes and somehow magically was able to wean herself off insulin thanks to a healthier diet?
Yes, that Halle Berry. Who also happens to star in catwoman movies.
Well, this Halle Berry discussion came up in my world recently at a local meetup, where a few friends and I connected to work on planning a fundraising event for our nearby diabetes camp later this year. There were four of us: myself, a fellow type 1 diagnosed about two decades ago in his 30s, a D-Dad who has a daughter with type 1, and a non-PWD who works in the marketing world. We met for a few hours at a local restaurant in Indianapolis, and afterward chatted casually in the parking lot for a few minutes before parting ways. Someone asked about any local celebs or "stars" that we could recruit to help bring more people to the event.
And that's when the name Halle Barry was tossed into the conversation, given her recent news cycle saturation.
LOL! I laughed out loud (for those perhaps not hip to texting language), and responded with: "Only if we can throw tomatoes at her on stage!"
My comment was met with blank stares and eyebrows raised in confusion.
"... Because she's such a terrible spokesperson to ever be representing diabetes," I added for context, expecting that to be enough.
It wasn't. My fellow event-planners didn't seem to know about the whole Halle Berry D-Confusion, and so I took a moment to educate them on it.
That quickly led back to, "Still, she has diabetes, and that star power would bring in so many people!"
I shook my head, knowing that we were only joking around anyhow because the likelihood of us hooking in Halle Berry is pretty darn low. But this brought up an interesting topic: Where's the line between netting a spokesperson with star-power, versus working with someone who may be viewed negatively as far as representing a particular cause? This goes back to the Paula Deen controversy, when so many were shocked that this "Queen of Butter-Soaked Southern Cooking" would suddenly be held up as a role model for people with diabetes. (She's appearing alongside Phil Southerland of Team Type 1 at this summer's AADE Annual Meeting, btw.)
Yes, Paula had a major change of heart in terms of cooking lighter, but doesn't she still represent The Problem more than The Solution?
Halle Berry's case is perhaps even more complicated in the sense that her connection with diabetes only seems to confound the public's confusion about diabetes types -- certainly not in the interest of the folks currently lobbying for more clarity there!
Personally, I would hope no one would ever consider Halle to be a great spokesperson for a diabetes cause. Yet, that hasn't stopped her from doing just that — raising diabetes awareness, particularly among African-Americans who are at higher risk of developing type 2. In fact, in 2004, she was tagged as the first ambassador for the National Diabetes Education — Diabetes Aware Campaign, with support from the Entertainment Industry Foundation and Novo Nordisk.
So, does that mean she's a worthy celeb to feature as a national "face of diabetes"?
IMHO, no. I don't think she's suited for that role. If Halle is completely off insulin, she does not now nor ever had type 1, no matter what she claims. If in fact she weaned herself off insulin as she claims, then it's most likely that she was misdiagnosed and should have been told she has type 2. Then, she could have explained this and helped the world at large to understand the differences.
But instead, she insisted on her initial claim that she "cured herself" of type 1. Even though our own D-Community has largely worked around her remarks and her latest news has brought the issue of healthy pregnancies with diabetes to the media's attention, Halle's comments have caused irreparable harm to PWDs who now must deal with comments from the general public like, "Halle Berry stopped taking insulin, so you can, too!"
Sure, she's not the only one and won't be the last to cause confusion like this. But others aren't touting themselves as "celeb spokespeople" like she is. Not someone I'd want to be affiliated with, as far as diabetes advocacy is concerned.
Wanting to make sure I'm not completely off-base in my thinking and overreacting here, I reached out to fellow D-Peep Kelly Kunik, who actually started her blog called Diabetesaliciousness because of this original Halle Berry ruckus. Kelly is one of our community's most outspoken and vocal advocates on all things related to media awareness and diabetes misinformation.
"WTF?!" and "Not again!," were Kelly's first reactions when she saw Halle in the news again, she tells us.
"I don't appreciate or like that she called diabetes 'a little disease,'" Kelly said. "It's not a little disease. It's complicated, complex and incredibly misunderstood by the public. And those of us living with diabetes don't think it's a little disease -- neither do our families. Diabetes is all-encompassing. And by calling it a little disease, she does a huge disservice to the millions living with type 1, type 1.5 (LADA), and type 2."
When asked if Halle could or should ever be a spokesperson for diabetes, Kelly responded with "NOT A GOOD IDEA" (yes, in all caps).
"She's not a good representation of people living with diabetes, nor do I believe she's a positive role model. And her attitude toward diabetes is not one that I want others to channel or replicate," Kelly adds.
Have to agree with you here, Kelly. No matter what kind of star power or celeb fame she could bring a D-Event, I'd be hard-pressed to be able to stomach having her as a spokesperson.
I wish Halle Berry well in her D-Management and acting career and family life, but I'd just assume not have her representing our community and causing more confusion -- unless of course she'd be willing to "clear the air" with a reality check on this disease and a little myth-busting. In that case, I would most definitely hold back the tomatoes.