The superstar has captivated us with chart-topping hits—with a major tour coming up this month—all while battling lupus
To say Toni Braxton is famous for her voice is an understatement. She has dominated the charts as a top R&B artist and brought home seven Grammy awards including Best New Artist, seven American Music Awards, five Billboard Music Awards and an NAACP Image Award, to name a few. Braxton also became a television personality when she competed on the seventh season of Dancing with the Stars and, with her own reality series, Braxton Family Values, which she executive produces. And she accomplished all this despite battling lupus.
“Surviving lupus, I have a lot of body aches and pains,” Braxton says. “It can affect any organ in the body, and I’m constantly uncomfortable, especially in my joints and muscles.” She went public with her struggle with the chronic autoimmune disease in November 2010.
According to the Lupus Foundation of America, approximately 1.5 million Americans have a form of the illness, and at least five million people worldwide struggle with it. Lupus mostly affects women of childbearing age, when the immune system attacks its own healthy tissue. It can cause a range of symptoms, including rashes, joint pain and inflammation of the heart, lungs and other organs. Lupus has even affected Braxton’s singing. “I’ve had issues in my throat with inflammation,” she says. “My silver lining is I always stay positive.”
To help ease the symptoms associated with lupus, Braxton turns to Uncle Bud’s, a collection of natural hemp-infused products for pain relief and skincare. “This product, once I used it, I fell in love with it and I had to become a part of it,” she says. Now a partner of the brand, she originally discovered it in a gift bag from an awards show.
“People listen to me, being a celebrity. And if I can help people, I’m always an advocate of that.”
“I was looking for my prescription medication and I couldn’t find it,” Braxton recalls. “I found Uncle Bud’s. I put it on my knee and I promise you that 20 minutes later I forgot that my knee was aching. I told my manager about it and he said, ‘But that’s the stuff I sent you. I was telling you about this product that you should try.’ Some things are destiny—you’re supposed to do it. That’s the true story of how I got involved with this product.”
Braxton likes Uncle Bud’s so much that she shares it with her two sons, including one who is a high school basketball player. “There’s no THC in it and that’s what I like about it because my kids use it,” she says. “It’s safe; it’s not habit forming; it’s family friendly. I can throw it in my purse, I can go to the airport with it. It’s a safe, natural product.”
Autism has also affected Braxton’s life, as her youngest son, Diezel, was diagnosed with it when he was three years old. Now 15, he no longer has autism, but Braxton is still dedicated to the cause. She is a spokeswoman for Autism Speaks and also volunteers with Lupus LA.
“When I was diagnosed with lupus a few years ago, a friend of mine introduced me to Lupus LA,” she says. “They gave me so much information. I wanted to be part of the cause, specifically through raising my voice. People listen to me, being a celebrity. And if I can help people, I’m always an advocate of that.”
Battling lupus makes practicing self-care especially important to Braxton. “For me, it’s my diet, where I am incredibly good and terrible at the same time,” she laughs. “My cravings, oh my, I have a sweet tooth, you know? And I love burgers. I’m a burger girl. I love a nice thick, juicy burger. For me personally, my body does better when I have less meat; it gives me less inflammation, but if I do have meat, it’s a lean cut. When I do more of a vegetable, plant-based diet, my body improves. And I keep dairy out of my life. For me, that brings on less inflammation. Everybody is different.”
To blow off steam, Braxton exercises. “How to de-stress, that’s the magic question,” she says. “I work out almost every day. I do Orange theory, which is everything. I don’t have an endorsement for them. I just love that class. It’s incredible. I have a heart monitor on, so I know how far I can go. Sometimes when you’re working out you overwork your body, but this keeps me right there.”
Braxton has been working extra hard to get into shape for her big tour that kicks off in January. “I’m going to start eating much better and just get my body ready,” she says. “Sometimes it can be challenging; there’s a physical part of performing. My doctors have cleared me and I love performing; it’s my favorite thing to do.”
Though Braxton loves acting and singing, for her they bring different rewards. “When I’m singing, I’m Toni Braxton,” she says. “Michelle is my middle name. I’m Toni Michelle when I’m at home with my family and my kids, and when I’m on the stage I become Toni Braxton, so I get to be another part of me, whereas acting allows me to be different from myself. That’s what I like about it. I love being Toni Braxton and Toni Michelle, but sometimes I want to be someone else, I want to escape my world, and that’s what acting allows me to do.”