Famous Faces of MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that targets the brain and spinal cord. It affects the coverings to nerve cells that can diminish spinal and brain function such as vision problems, tingling in extremities, and pain.
While MS can seem challenging, many people have worked past their disease to accomplish great things. Click “next” to learn who just a few of them are. You may be surprised.
Annette Funicello is by far the most famous Disney Mouseketeer. After dropping the mouse ears, she starred in numerous beach-themed movies alongside Frankie Avalon. While filming the 1987 movie Back to the Beach, Annette first had signs of MS. In 1992, she publically announced she had the disease and retired from acting. In 1993, she started the Annette Funicello Fund for Neurological Disorders at the California Community Foundation to help fund research of multiple sclerosis.
(Photo courtesy of i-collect.com)
Richard Pryor is often called the best comedian ever and was the inspiration for many of the most successful comedians in the last three decades. Using profane and vulgar language, this Emmy and Grammy Award-winning actor and comedian gave society an uncompromising view of contemporary culture, politics, and racism. In 1986, Pryor was diagnosed with MS, which slowed his career until he retired for health reasons. He died in 2005 at the age of 65.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Light)
Montel Williams is a decorated Naval leader and Emmy-award winning talk show host. His popular program, The Montel Williams Show, aired from 1991 to 2008. In 1999, Williams was diagnosed with MS. Shortly thereafter, he created the MS Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and research of multiple sclerosis.
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy)
Richard Cohen won three Emmys as a journalist with CBS news, long after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1973 at the age of 25. He was often reluctant to talk about his MS because he didn’t want to be defined by the disease.
He explains living with MS for 30 years—along with two bouts of colon cancer— in his memoir, Blindsided: Lifting a Life Above Illness: A Reluctant Memoir. He is married to TV host Meredith Vieira.
(Photo courtesy of broadwayworld.com)
Another veteran journalist, Neil Cavuto, also has MS, but continues to get the stories. Now as Senior Vice President of Business News for Fox News Corp., Cavuto has been named “the best interviewer in broadcast business news.”
Cavuto’s continuation to work boggles even his doctors: after cancer and with MS, brain scans show he shouldn’t even be able to walk or talk.
(Photo courtesy of Fox News)
Clive Burr may only have been the drummer for the band Iron Maiden from 1980 to 1982, but he provided the percussion for their breakthrough record The Number of the Beast. After Iron Maiden, he didn’t play in many big bands before being confined to a wheelchair due to his MS.
The concert series Clive Aid that began in 2004 is named after Burr to raise awareness and money for MS and cancer programs.
Comedienne and actress Teri Garr was in a string of successful movies in the mid-1970s and early 1980s. She was even nominated for an Oscar for her role in the 1982 movie Tootsie. In 2002, she publically announced she was diagnosed with MS to let others know they weren’t alone. She has been extremely active as a steward for MS research and education. She was given the Ambassador of the Year Award by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
(Photo courtesy of Alan Light)
Joan Didion is an award-winning writer of creative nonfiction, New Journalism, novels, plays, and screenplays. An intimate and candid writer, she shares her perspectives, thoughts, and dramatic experiences through her pieces.
Didion touches on her surprise diagnosis of MS in one of her most famous works, 1979’s The White Album. The illness blinded her for six weeks. She continues to create notable works. The most recent, Blue Nights, was published in 2011.
Perhaps best known for being the son of heavy metal innovator Ozzy Osbourne, Jack Osbourne made a name for himself as a cast member of the MTV reality show The Osbournes.
Viewers watched as Osbourne experienced family life as a celebrity son. He went on to star in reality shows of his own. He was diagnosed with MS in June 2012 at the age of 26, only two months after the birth of his first child.
Ann Romney, wife of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, was diagnosed with MS in 1998. Despite the illness, she played a large role in her husband’s election campaigns, even speaking at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
The mother of five sons, Romney said she was very sick at the time of her diagnosis. Her treatment has included intravenous steroids and alternative therapies like acupuncture and reflexology. She also supports the use of adult stem cells for possible MS research.
Country singer Clay Walker learned of his MS in 1996, at the age of 26. At the time, his fourth studio album had just been completed, and his star was rising, but he could hardly handle a guitar pick. The Texas native has gone on to sell over 10 million albums and score multiple number one hits thanks to effective treatment.
Walker is also an involved MS activist. He established the fundraising and educational non-profit Band Against MS in 2003 and a fundraising charity golf tournament in 2008.
Tamia Hill is a Grammy-nominated R&B singer, actress, and wife of NBA star Grant Hill. She was diagnosed with MS in 2003. Hill, who goes by Tamia in the music world, released multiple gold records, including More and Between Friends, after her diagnosis.
Hill continues to perform and record. She also works with Habitat for Humanity and with MS awareness charities in Canada, her home country.
David Lander appeared as “Squiggy” in over 200 episodes of TV’s Laverne and Shirley from 1976-1983. But he’s more than half of “Lenny and Squiggy.” Lander also appeared in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, A League of Their Own, and numerous other TV shows. To top it off, he is also a talent scout for Major League Baseball teams.
Lander was silent about his MS diagnosis for 14 years. However, he became an ambassador for the National MS Society after coming forward about his illness in 1999.
As you just read, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful life. With proper treatments for multiple sclerosis, the disease is becoming easier to manage and these aforementioned celebrities are only a glimpse of the proof.
If you are concerned that you might have some of the symptoms, learn the early signs of MS to see if it’s time to see your doctor and get the help you need.