The celebrities we see on the pages of magazines and on our television screens often have more than a few skeletons stashed in the closet. For some of them, trying to keep their personal lives as private as possible is a serious issue.
In other cases, it’s simply that the condition they have isn’t pretty or salacious enough for it to be talked about. With conditions that don’t show on the surface, it’s easy to hide them for as long as that person might desire – and even when they make the big reveal, not everyone will catch on at first.
The celebrities on this list are all suffering from a disease or syndrome which has a long-term effect on their lives. Looking at their Photoshopped smiles on magazine covers, you would never know it was there. It’s necessary to look a little past the surface, and soon all is revealed. These hidden diseases are totally shocking, especially when you consider that many stars are living silently with life-threatening conditions every day.
15 LeAnn Rimes
Like Kim K, LeAnn suffers from psoriasis, a recurring condition which covers the skin with red blotches. She had it over 80% of her body at one point, and hid her disease for many years before revealing that she had it. Even then, she only went public with her condition once she had a coping strategy in place. Rimes swears by a healthy lifestyle combined with various treatments. She is now involved with the “Stop Hiding and Start Living” campaign designed to get sufferers back to a place of higher self-esteem, as the condition can cause feelings of depression. There are around 7 million US citizens with psoriasis alone, many of whom do not receive any treatment.
Though she’s still going strong after decades in the music and showbiz industry, Cher has a hidden disease that affects her everyday life. She has never kept it a secret, but it’s one of those trivial facts that most people just aren’t aware of. She suffers from Epstein-Barr Virus, a recurring issue that can reactivate at any time and always remains within the body. It causes chronic fatigue as well as depression, and sometimes mononucleosis. “Boy, it was devastating for me… I wasn’t able to work for almost three years,” the singer told the BBC when first discussing her illness.
13 Sinead O’Connor
The outspoken singer first came clean about her illness in 2003. Sinead is a sufferer of fibromyalgia, a condition which is often misunderstood because it is so hard to define. There’s no way to diagnose it – rather, you have to eliminate all other possibilities – and no cure. Sufferers simply have to learn to manage their lifestyle to reduce the symptoms as much as possible. It can result in chronic fatigue, pain, and increased sensitivity to things like pressure, temperature, and emotional drains. Sinead was keen to speak out about the issues she has suffered with fibro, as those who have it often go undiagnosed for many years thanks to poor understanding even from doctors.
12 Alec Baldwin
If you didn’t know that Alec Baldwin has Lyme Disease, you wouldn’t be alone. He is very tight-lipped about the condition, speaking about it only on the rarest of occasions. He revealed all in an interview with the New York Times in 2011, telling them that he suffers from fatigue at around the same time of year, every year. Lyme is transferred to humans through bites from a certain type of tick, and can be treated within the first 48 hours; after that, symptoms may be recurrent for the rest of the sufferer’s life. Avril Lavigne is a fellow sufferer.
11 Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone dropped out of the limelight for a while, and you may not have realised why. In the early 2000s, the actress actually suffered a brain aneurysm. This devastating event caused her significant problems, and she had to relearn just about everything in order to return to normal levels of functionality. She is now just about fully recovered, but the years she spent battling with the problems stemming from her aneurysm were a dark time. She was, of course, one of the lucky ones – aneurysms can cause death instantly, as well as leading to permanent conditions such as paralysis for some.
10 Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga had an aunt who passed away from complications with lupus, so it must have been difficult when she herself realised that she tested ‘borderline positive’ for it. She now faces a long-running battle to ensure that she does not fall victim to the condition, and must prioritize her health as much as possible. "The truth is I don't show any signs, any symptoms of lupus. But I have tested borderline positive for the disease. So as of right now... I do not have it. But I have to take good care of myself,” she told Larry King in 2010.
9 Missy Elliot
Missy Elliott is another star who seemed to disappear from showbiz without explanation, but it wasn’t a case of simply not being popular anymore. In fact, the opposite was true. Elliot was at the height of her fame when she was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease, forcing her to take a step back and try to get her health under control. The symptoms include weight loss, anxiety, frequently needing to go to the toilet, bulging eyes, tremors in the hands, and heart palpitations. It’s caused by thyroid hormones being overproduced, though the reason for this happening in the first place isn’t clear.
8 Shannen Doherty
Shannen Doherty is another celebrity who has admitted she has a certain disease, but then refused to give any concrete details about it. In her case, she says that it wouldn’t be proper to share such information about her bowel movements – which is fair enough! Shannen has Crohn’s, a condition which has received more coverage in recent years as plenty of brave sufferers step forward to let people know what it’s like to live with the disease. It appears as though it may not be as debilitating for Shannen as it is for some others, though she faces a lifelong battle to keep it that way.
7 Lena Dunham
Lena Dunham made waves when she wrote about her personal experiences with endometriosis in her eighth Lenny newsletter. She experienced the awful symptoms through high school, college, and the first season of Girls, and was previously unable to talk about them as they are seen as somewhat taboo. Horrific stomach cramps, non-stop bleeding even when not on her period, mood swings, and exhaustion haunted her throughout this time. Many women experiencing the same thing are misdiagnosed, and may even be dismissed as whining about natural bodily functions – but the reality is much more serious. Lena now receives treatment after finally getting an accurate diagnosis.
6 Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman has leading man looks, but what you may not know is that they are frequently at risk of being destroyed. The actor has a recurring case of skin cancer, which appears on his nose and has to be removed – at least three times to date. Although not everyone has learned about this condition, he isn’t keeping it a secret. He wants to use his case as a warning to everyone else who might be putting themselves at risk by not using proper sun protection or looking after their skin properly – and to check out any suspect lumps or moles with a doctor as soon as possible.
5 Lil Wayne
The rapper is not one to keep his mouth shut, so it’s somewhat surprising that not everyone knows about his epilepsy. There was a lot of concern in 2012 and 2013 when he had a run of seizures which became more and more serious, ending with him being hospitalised. At the time, his publicist denied that anything was wrong with him, but he eventually admitted that he suffered from the condition. He in fact stated that he had experienced it for a while. "This isn't my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh seizure. I've had a bunch of seizures. Y'all just never hear about them. But this time, it got real bad because I had three of them in a row," he said.
4 Venus Williams
Out of any celebrity most likely to harbour a disease, a professional athlete still in their prime is probably the last to come to mind. But Venus Williams is actually one of those on our list! The tennis star actually suffers from Sjögren's syndrome, which she was diagnosed with only a few years ago. Recurring illnesses had affected her games for the duration of a season before she finally dropped out of a tournament after her diagnosis. The syndrome causes profound fatigue, chronic pain, and cognitive impairment, as well as a whole host of other problems – some sufferers can also end up with disabilities.
3 Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez suddenly cancelled tour dates, stopped appearing in public, and dropped out of the public eye. Rumours abounded, mostly centred on the thought that she was probably in rehab for drug or alcohol addiction. “I was diagnosed with lupus, and I’ve been through chemotherapy. That’s what my break was really about. I could’ve had a stroke," Gomez revealed at a later date. She was upset by the speculation, particularly given the severity of her illness – chemotherapy is usually a last resort for only the most severe lupus cases. She is now living with the disease and hoping to overcome it through her life.
2 Charlie Sheen
Of all of the diseases it’s possible to contract, HIV and AIDS are the ones that celebrities are the keenest to keep secret. After all, this is one of the problems that has had a lot of stigma attached to it in the past: once upon a time, it was believed that only homosexual men could catch it. In this day and age, however, it is much better understood – which is why we wonder about how long it took Charlie Sheen to come clean. He was forced to admit it after a source leaked the details of a mystery celebrity man hiding the disease. He came forward after weeks of speculation.
This singer is full of attitude, and her girl-power pop anthems were huge in the early 2000s. With so much confidence and such a big voice, you might think that she’s perfectly healthy underneath – but it’s not the case. She became known for wearing coloured glasses simply because she had sight problems, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. She was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at the age of 13 and had to learn how to walk again, fell ill with breast cancer at 34, and had supraventricular tachycardia at 39. At 44, she was diagnosed with breast cancer yet again and underwent a double mastectomy.