EXCLUSIVE// Anthony Anderson Talks Family, Health and Diabetes in The Black CommunityPublished by Justin D Joseph on Friday, December 9, 2011 at 5:30 am.
It’s an unusually warm fall afternoon in New York City, yet Anthony Anderson is dressed in a full suit and tie. The popular comedian is in town for Circle of Sisters, an annual expo hosted by local radio station WBLS, focused on promoting good health, beauty and lifestyles to African American women. Anderson, with his entourage—myself included—walks through the event greeting fans—many of whom stare in excitement of his presence—with a wave, smiles and a series of genuine hello’s.
For someone who has been working consistently and successfully in Hollywood for over 15 years, this type of attention is obviously nothing new, but Anderson’s response is marked by a high sense of gratitude—not just for his success alone, but for the opportunity to enjoy it.
A native of Los Angeles, the stand-up comedian turned actor got his first big break in 1996 on the NBC sitcom, Hang Time. His two year stint on that show eventually led to a movie career that would put him in the company of fellow funny men, Eddie Murphy, Martin Lawrence, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac.
After a diagnosis with type 2 diabetes almost threatened his career about eight years ago, Anderson has taken control of his health, and in the process has decided to help change the lives of others
Justin Joseph: So how did being diagnosed with diabetes change your quality of life?
Anthony Anderson: It changed it for the better. It forced me to become more self-conscious about my health and my well-being. [Diabetes] can take a turn for the worse, and that’s what it started to do. I [wasn’t] in any grave danger, but things weren’t where they [needed to be]. That’s when I decided that I needed to lose weight. I needed to get in the gym, [and] really cut certain stuff out [of] my diet.
J.J.: Is this something that runs in your family?
A.A.: I was the first one [officially] diagnosed with diabetes in my family, but my father passed away from diabetes. We had no idea how long he had it before he was diagnosed. [But], it was painful for him. He lived [about] seven [or] eight years after he was diagnosed, [and] a couple of years later, my mother was [also] diagnosed.
J.J.: What do you think that was attributed to? Was it fear?
A.A.: I don’t know. It could [have been] fear, it could be that someone wants to be consciously ignorant—‘I feel great, so therefore, I’m great.’—unfortunately, that could be our demise. I would tell our community— Black men in particular— [try to] get a check-up every six months
J.J.: So, many would say that the lack of healthcare affects not only the general United States, but more so the black community. What can the black community do to focus on creating better health habits and diabetes prevention?
A.A.: We are already predisposed to hypertension, high cholesterol [and sometimes] diabetes. Our diet isn’t the best diet around and that’s where it all stems from. More often times than not, a lot of the illnesses that we are afflicted with, can be prevented. We send our cars to the mechanic to get checked up to make sure [they're] working well, but we don’t do the same [type of maintenance] with our bodies. You can go to the doctor today and the doctor can tell you if you’re borderline or pre-diabetic, [but] it’s up to the patient to take heed to what the doctor’s saying, and that’s what we don’t do.
J.J.: For those that don’t have access to medical services because of lack of insurance, is there anything they can do?
A.A.: Control the portions that you’re eating. As opposed to picking up that fried piece of chicken, why not [baked]? As opposed to having collard greens with hammocks and fat back, have collard greens with smoked turkey. There are healthier alternatives that we can use. No one’s telling us to get rid of everything in our diet. Everything is good in moderation, but there are healthier substitutions that we can make.
J.J.: Aside from Patti Labelle, B.B King, and Halle Berry; not too many celebrities are vocal about disclosing if they have diabetes, from fear of it affecting their career. But you, along with singer Angie Stone, are a spokesperson for F.A.C.E. (Fearless African-Americans Connected and Empowered) Diabetes. Was there any initial trepidation?
A.A.: Not at all. I wanted to go public with it, because I [understand] how it’s affecting our community. When I was diagnosed, all I saw was Patti Labelle and B.B. King talk about diabetes. [I felt they don’t] speak to me, [because they have] an old person’s view on it—and I wasn’t alone in that.
J.J.: So what’s the significance of this organization and movement?
A.A.: The F.A.C.E campaign spreads the word [about diabetes] and brings awareness to [everyone]. If you want anything done in the black community, you definitely have to be in the black church, that’s where all the information is disseminated, [so] F.A.C.E [has] teamed up with all of the AME churches. That way if I’m not around, the information is still there.
For more information about F.A.C.E. Diabetes, visit face-diabetes.com