"Combat Diabetes Before It Combats You;" That's The Message Singer- Songwriter Angie Stone Is Taking To African Americans in Eli Lilly's F.A.C.E. Campaign

(Editor's Note: On April 15, Eli Lilly launched its national "Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered"(F.A.C.E.) diabetes campaign to encourage African-Americans with diabetes to take control and learn how to better manage their disease. The company asked Grammy-nominated "neo-soul" singer-songwriter Angie Stone, a type 2 diagnosed eight years ago, to be the campaign's spokeswoman. Diabetes Health spoke with her the day of the announcement.)

Apr 21, 2008

How did Lilly approach you to be F.A.C.E.’s spokeswoman? How long will you do it?
Before Lilly even contacted me, which they did through my manager, I’d been pretty outspoken about my diabetes. After discussing it, we agreed that my role is to get out and meet and greet people, and talk about diabetes. One of the things I’d like to get across is that celebrities are more than just stars – they’re real human beings with real human problems and concerns.

As for being a spokesperson, I’m open to going out on Lilly’s behalf indefinitely.

How does enlisting celebrity support help the cause?

The point of a national campaign like this is to create greater awareness by showing that celebrities aren’t afraid to talk about having diabetes. A lot of people are coming out and saying they have it, and that it’s not something to be ashamed of or that can’t be dealt with. There are so many hopeful new developments going on right now, and I’m happy to pass that news on.

Is your diabetes something that you ever mention on stage?

I certainly don’t mention it on stage. It wouldn’t help anybody for me to say, “Hey, I know you’re here for a good time but I want to tell you first that I’m a diabetic.”

Once you become a spokeswoman, a lot of questions start coming your way. Some of them I answer when I talk to fans after a show – I can’t wait for the opportunity to be asked and talk about it. In every city or town I visit, I send people to our website [see below] where they can find the kind of answers to questions that are on everybody’s mind and help with managing diabetes.

Is there a lot of temptation to stray from your diabetes management routine when you’re on the road?

Well, I’m always on the go – I travel half the year. But when I’m home, it’s easier to fall because you have time get bored or tempted. On the road there’s no time to ponder what to eat or to be tempted. You just go with what you know works and is good for you because your mind has to be somewhere else.

Does you diabetes affect the people who work with you?

It doesn’t really affect the people around me. They know what’s going on with me. They also know that diet is the key – when we’re on the road, they know what foods are allowed and not allowed on the bus, so problems that way rarely come up.

What’s a practical tip you can give African Americans who are wondering if they have diabetes?

One of the most practical things I can tell them is that if they think they have diabetes they should go go check their family tree. Look to see if your grandfather or grandmother had it, or other close relatives. It will give you an idea of whether it may run in your family and what your risk is.

After eight years living with type 2 diabetes, what can you tell people who are newly diagnosed?

Probably the biggest lesson is that once you become aware of how to deal with the disease and what your ranges are, and what you have to do, you learn to manage. You learn to live with it. In the end, you realize that you need to combat diabetes before it combats you.

What’s next for you?

We’re starting a 10-day tour on April 21 that will take us to London, Zurich and Belgium.  

About Angie Stone

South Carolina native Angie Stone began singing at First Nazareth Baptist Church as a child and by the age of 16, she had formed the rap trio The Sequence.  Their hits for Sugarhill Records showcased Angie’s vocal chops to the world beyond her Carolina home, and by the mid ‘80s, she had worked with top producers in the music world as well as signed with A&M Records with her neo-soul trio, Vertical Hold.  

In 1999, Stone released her much-heralded debut solo album, “Black Diamond,” on Arista Records. The word on Angie was that she was a modern-day Aretha Franklin, providing an exuberant return to classic soul.  Stone quickly became a certified gold CD artist as well as an international star.  

Recently, she was nominated for a Grammy for the song “Baby” from “The Art of Love & War,” her latest debut CD for the newly reactivated Stax Records. Writing more than 90 percent of the songs she sings, Stone uses the album to highlight her journey through love, pain, joy and empowerment, showcasing every nuance of her vast vocal range.

About the F.A.C.E. Campaign (http://www.face-diabetes.com)

The Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered (F.A.C.E.) Diabetes Campaign is a grassroots movement targeting African-Americans in the United States to help individuals, families and neighborhoods overcome barriers to success in living with diabetes.

Supported by Eli Lilly and Company, and national and local health

advocacy organizations, the campaign will implement a series of practical, sustainable programs that will help foster behavioral and attitudinal changes in areas critical to success in managing diabetes. These include nutrition and cooking, physical activity, health and overall well-being.

The campaign is a response to the fact that despite significant treatment advances and a wide variety of patient education and support programs, the incidence of diabetes and its resulting medical complications continues to rapidly rise.  

Moreover, African-Americans in the United States are disproportionately affected by diabetes.  According to the American Diabetes Association, more than 3 million African-Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, and additional research suggests that nearly 1 million more remain undiagnosed.   

“The disproportionate impact of diabetes on African-Americans is staggering. However, just because there is a high prevalence in our community, it doesn’t mean we should accept diabetes as something we can’t change,” says Dr. Eugene Wright, diabetes specialist and Medical Director, Primary Care and Specialty Practices of North Carolina Cape Fear Valley Health System. “There is a need for programs like the F.A.C.E. diabetes campaign that complement the information and the treatment regimens doctors  provide, and that provide resources and support to those patients who need it most.  I encourage our community to take a stance against diabetes and get involved with the F.A.C.E. campaign.”

Based on in-depth research of African-Americans with diabetes, insights from physicians, and various national and local health advocacy organizations, as well as a successful pilot program in Chicago, F.A.C.E. is launching nationally and will roll out in various metropolitan area throughout the year, starting with Atlanta in May, followed by Washington, D.C. and Indianapolis.

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