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The DX Diabetes Dish: Ben Vereen

The legendary actor on truth and living with type 2 diabetes

The DX regularly features The DX Diabetes Dish, a profile about life and life with diabetes. This month, we dish with actor and singer Ben Vereen, whose international artistic career has showcased his creativity and versatility, with memorable performances in movies and on television, most recently on the popular How I Met Your Mother, and with his first love, the Broadway stage. In addition to winning awards and being in demand as a gifted public speaker, Vereen, who lives with type 2 diabetes, has given the gift of his time to many charitable organizations and currently leads an ongoing diabetes awareness campaign called “S.T.A.N.D.” in partnership with Sanofi US.

What is your state of mind today?

Today, my state of mind is fantastically blue for Blue Fridays, which is an initiative to bring awareness about diabetes and people living with it by wearing blue on Fridays throughout the year.

What three words would you use to describe who you are?

Singer. Dancer. Actor. I think that about sums me up.

How does diabetes change – or not change – who you are?

Diabetes saved my life because it gave me an opportunity for better health. It has made me aware in so many ways – how to eat healthier, exercise, and take my medication.

What inspires you to do what you do?

People inspire me, especially my audiences, who have allowed me to be a reflection of them. I love being in service, which is what we are all doing – we’re a service to the public.

What do you appreciate most in your friends?

Being in show business for this long, I really have come to appreciate honesty.

What would you pack for your favorite vacation?

A toothbrush!

What’s in your refrigerator right now?

Fruit. Lots and lots of fruit!

What is your favorite way to relieve stress?

I love meditation and exercise.

What’s your favorite diabetes management tip?

Moderation is key for diabetes management. Do not eat the whole cake, take a slice!

What words do you try to live by?

Truth and honesty. Deep spirituality also influences my life.

Who are your heroes in real life?

My children and grandchildren.

What are you looking forward to right now?

This moment? I am looking forward to continuing my work with the Start Taking Action Now for Diabetes campaign to empower the diabetes community.

What do you want to tell people about your experience with type 2 diabetes?

When I was first diagnosed in 2007, I panicked, but once I went to my doctor, I found out what I could do and how to become more aware. I want to tell people that yes, I have type 2 diabetes, but I am living with diabetes and I’m not suffering, which is why I chose to partner with Start Taking Action Now for Diabetes. I want to empower others living with diabetes, and let them know that diabetes is an opportunity for a better life. Diabetes is an opportunity for a better life – if you take control of your wonderful life, make healthy decisions, and talk with your doctor.

What is your favorite dance move?

My favorite dance move has to be the slide! I love doing it in my shows.

What is your favorite Broadway musical of all time?

That’s a tough question. The first musical that comes to mind is Pippin. I loved performing in that show. I also love Jesus Christ Superstar because of its message.

What is your favorite dish?

Steamed vegetables! They give me a lot of energy and are great for maintaining a healthy diet.

What is your favorite travel destination?

Fiji. I’ve been there before, and it is a fabulous destination. I can’t wait to go back.

What do you like to do to exercise (other than dancing)?

I like to scuba dive when I get the chance, but when I’m not dancing, I love walking. Walking is something you can do without thinking; you can just put on your CD player or your phone to get a beat and just keep walking.

What is your favorite song right now?

It changes. It’s hard to say, but my favorite song has to be “Defying Gravity” [from the musical, Wicked]. It’s such a great song with a wonderful message, and inspires me to not accept limits and continue to push myself.

Which co-star did you like working with most?

Everyone! Each person in the world is so different and unique – it makes it a lot of fun to be on stage with anyone and everyone. I love being a performer, and am so grateful that my audiences have allowed me to do what I do.

All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the interviewee and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.

Ben Vereen is a paid spokesperson for Sanofi US’ S.T.A.N.D, Taking a Stand Against Diabetes.

© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience

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