| Dialysis | Kidney disease | Patient stories | Transplant

6 Celebrities with Kidney Disease

November 08, 2023, 1:15pm EST

Two people walking down the red carpet with photographers on either side

This article is the first in a series that showcases how these icons have courageously faced the challenges of kidney disease while pursuing their passions. Their journeys remind us that kidney disease cannot stop you from leaving a lasting mark on the world.

1. Tina Turner

The "Queen of Rock' n Roll', Tina Turner, was diagnosed with uncontrolled hypertension or high blood pressure in 1978 but didn't take the diagnosis too seriously. In 2009, she had a stroke and learned that high blood pressure had seriously affected her kidney function. Still, Turner hated how the hypertension pills made her feel and struggled to stick to them. Eventually, she went on dialysis for nine months before receiving a kidney transplant from her husband, Erwin, in 2017.

"I had not been aware that chronic kidney failure is called a "silent killer" because symptoms do not become noticeable until 80 percent of renal tissue is lost. As it happened to me, hypertension is one of the most frequent causes of kidney failure. I was lucky that Erwin offered to donate one of his kidneys to me," said Tina Turner. "My kidneys are victims of me denying the fact that my hypertension needed therapy with conventional medicine. I put myself in great danger by refusing to accept the reality that I required daily medication for the rest of my life. I considered my body an invulnerable and indestructible bastion for way too long."

Tina Turner passed away in May 2023 at eighty-three. 

Here are six ways to help improve blood pressure.

2. Nick Cannon

Nick Cannon, best known for hosting The Nick Cannon Show, America's Got Talent, and The Masked Singer, was hospitalized with acute kidney injury and diagnosed with lupus nephritis in 2012. Lupus is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells. Lupus nephritis occurs when the body targets and damages the kidney vessels that filter wastes. He recovered and chaired a National Kidney Foundation Kidney Walk one year later to raise awareness. Find a Kidney Walk near you

"This walk will help those at risk take the lifesaving step of getting their kidneys checked," said Cannon. "By participating, we're all helping get the word out about screening and the importance of a healthy lifestyle in preventing kidney disease. I had very unhealthy eating habits but now I know that eating a low-fat, sodium, and sugar diet and keeping blood pressure and blood sugar under control can prevent kidney damage."

Learn more about lupus nephritis

3. Nate Robinson

Nate Robinson, an NBA champion, has been battling kidney disease for over 16 years. He first learned that high blood pressure was damaging his kidneys in 2006, but he focused more on playing and less on his kidney function. Robinson's kidneys failed in 2018. While his basketball career has ended, he refuses to let kidney failure bring him down. 

"I thought I was young and invincible. I didn't know it was going to catch up to me. I wanted to enjoy my time in the league and play for as long as possible. I tried to keep it [the diagnosis] deep down, live my life, and enjoy the time I had in the NBA," Robinson said. "My whole life has been overcoming obstacles. This is something else that I'm going to overcome. I can't wait for the results to come as I beat this, hopefully extending my life a little longer than it was supposed to be."

Read Robinson's full story.

4. Sarah Hyland

Sarah Hyland, an actress best known for playing Haley Dunphy on Modern Family, was born with kidney dysplasia meaning her kidneys never appropriately developed while in the womb. By age 21, Hyland's kidneys had failed, and she received a transplant from her father. Four years later, that kidney failed, and she had to start dialysis. Luckily, her brother, Ian, quickly stepped up to donate one of his. While Ian's donation got Hyland off dialysis, it also affected her mental health.

Are you struggling with dialysis or your transplant? Join NKF Peers to speak with a mentor who's been in your shoes.

"I was very depressed. When a family member gives you a second chance at life, and it fails, it almost feels like it's your fault. It's not. But it does," said Hyland during an interview with Self Magazine. "My work is my therapy. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my work. I'm so grateful for my entire family, especially my brother, dad, and my mom."

Learn more about Sarah Hyland's story.

5. Angelica Hale

Angelica Hale is a talented singer, runner-up on America's Got Talent in 2017, and NKF's first Kid Ambassador. She was only four when she endured double pneumonia and sepsis that destroyed her kidneys. Angelica spent over a year on dialysis before receiving a kidney transplant from her mother in 2013. 

"My mom is my hero because she brought me and my dreams of singing back to life. I'm glad I get to be a hero by helping kidney patients like me, so they can reach their own dreams," Angelica Hale said. "Raising awareness for both kidney disease as well as the AAPI discrimination we're facing today is extremely important. There is no better time than now for us to come together as a community. Representation matters, and the fact that I get to stand up and use my voice as an Asian-American, a group that has been historically under-represented here in the United States, is both humbling and rewarding."

Now 15, Angelica is continuing her singing career and started voice acting for an upcoming animated series called Maya Unstoppable

Read Angelica Hale’s full story.

6. Zavion Michael Davenport (Chi Chi DeVayne)

Zavion Michael Davenport, a renowned drag queen better known as Chi Chi DeVayne, came in fourth on the eighth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. Davenport had systemic scleroderma, an autoimmune disorder that damages blood vessels and internal organs like the kidneys. She was first hospitalized in July 2020 with suspected kidney failure and high blood pressure. Davenport began dialysis and was discharged but returned to the hospital one month later with pneumonia and passed away. Davenport’s final words were, "Never give up!"

Are you at risk of kidney disease? Take this one-minute quiz to find out and stay tuned for the next article in this series!

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