For three years, soul singer Angie Stone has been a celebrity face of Eli Lilly and Company’s FACE (Fearless African Americans Connected and Empowered) Diabetes campaign, which aims to help African-Americans manage their diabetes more effectively and improve their health. Diabetes Self-Management’s Quinn Phillips interviewed Stone about the campaign and her own experience with Type 2 diabetes.
Quinn Phillips: Why did you choose to get involved with FACE Diabetes?
Angie Stone: I got involved because being a singer and having a lot of attention from the African-American community, it was very viable for me to speak up and let people know that I, too, am a diabetic. And that better management — knowing how to take care of yourself — can actually help you live a more comfortable life. So I got involved because I thought people would listen.
At every symposium that we have, you have a lot of people that go out and actually get tested for diabetes. A lot of people didn’t know what’s going on but now have a clearer picture of what could possibly be going on, as a result of the program.
QP: Part of your role in FACE Diabetes is to promote healthy lifestyle changes. Did you make immediate changes after your diabetes diagnosis?
AS: No, I was in denial. I was in denial for a very long time. But then there was a gradual change. It’s something that you have to practice doing. After an initial shock and denial period, then you go into learning to deal with the fact that you have diabetes. So it was definitely an experience where once you get it under control, you realize it wasn’t so bad after all.
QP: How aware of diabetes were you before your diagnosis?
AS: That’s a good question because when you think you’re at the top of your game and you’re healthy and there’s nothing to fear, that is when tragedy strikes. My aunt — my mom’s only sister — passed away with diabetes, and then my mother was actually recently diagnosed. I was aware of diabetes, but at that time I thought it was on older folk’s disease, that there was no way this was going to happen to me because I was so young.
QP: How old were you?
AS: I was in my thirties. I had my son when I was 34, and it was a little beyond that when I was diagnosed.
QP: The FACE Diabetes campaign encourages people with diabetes to “make over” their meals. How have your meals changed?
AS: A lot of the things that I used to overindulge in, like fried things, a whole bunch of fried things are definitely out of the question. I eat lighter. I eat smaller portions of food. I eat more salads. I drink less fruit punch, and a lot more water. I use sugar substitutes. And I still manage to eat some of the great foods that I love, but I just proportion them differently.
QP: What are some of those foods that you love?
AS: Well, I love all kinds of vegetables: cabbage, collard greens, yams. I can have baked chicken; I can have fish; I can have some macaroni and cheese. If they’re moderately proportioned, you don’t have to stop eating some of the things that you love altogether. But we have to monitor the way we prepare our foods, and watch the size. We’re advised to eat smaller portions of food throughout the day.
QP: How did you go about making dietary changes?
AS: Being a part of the FACE campaign, I’m exposed to all of the things that people should learn. Which is why we send people to the Web site, www.face-diabetes.com. You have dietitians there; you have all of the basics of what we should learn, being diabetic, right there at your fingertips.
QP: Is your life better since you began to make these changes?
AS: Well, of course my life is definitely better. I’ve lost weight; I feel good because I look good. I’m no longer tempted to overindulge in the wrong things. Once you begin to discipline yourself in how and what you eat, then you have a handle on things. It’s not so bad, and you begin to set an example for others.
QP: How does exercise factor in?
AS: Well, it’s a lot easier to exercise these days because my weight has come down quite tremendously. I’ve added a workout room to my house, so I have a treadmill, I have a bike, I have all the stuff right down in my basement. I’m committed to being healthy.
QP: Has navigating diabetes had an effect on your work — your music?
AS: I think that early on when I was first diagnosed, the shock and denial brought about a lot of pain, a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of self-pity. As a result of learning how to better manage my diabetes, I’m vivacious, I’m more outgoing, I’m more confident. It’s been a complete turnaround. This didn’t change my music; it changed my mindset for the music. It just made me more aware of what I need to be thankful for, and that was life itself.
I would encourage everybody to get tested for diabetes, log on to www.face-diabetes.com, go and see where you fit into the equation and make a difference for yourself and your community.
Were you aware of the FACE Diabetes campaign? What else should be done to address the diabetes epidemic in the African-American community? Leave a comment below!
Click here for more resources on diabetes and African-Americans, from the National Institutes of Health.