(For your inspiration, the IWGN “Spotlight” feature highlights other entrepreneurs and achievers who are also living with chronic illness and making their mark on the world! Meet these Inspiring Women on our blog or in our newsletter.)
In celebration of Black History Month (in the U.S. and Canada), we are shining the Inspiring Woman spotlight on to celebrities of African–American descent. These women have continued living their dreams in spite of their health issues.
Part 2 Venus Williams, Robin Roberts
Venus Williams & Sjogren’s Syndrome
In 2011, top-rated tennis player, Venus Williams revealed to the press that it was becoming increasingly difficult to compete because she suffers from Sjogren’s Syndrome. Among the most admired athletes in the world, Venus is the first black woman to be ranked World #1 in the Open era and has been ranked #1 three times in her career. She is credited as changing women’s professional tennis and ushering in a new, modern era of power and athleticism on the women’s tennis tour. She represented the U.S. in the Summer Olympics years 2000 – 2012, bringing home a total of seven gold medals. Her long list of championship wins, awards, broken and set records, “the first…,” “the favorite..,” and “the most….” in numerous categories and accomplishments is downright exhausting! Sjogren’s Syndrome is a condition that causes the immune system to attack the glands that produce moisture. Since being diagnosed in 2011, Venus has made some big shifts in her life to manage the symptoms and regain her health. She resolved to eat a vegan diet and has reduced the amount of calories, pesticides and sugars in her foods to help with inflammation and some of the energy-sapping symptoms that come with the disease. She also gets plenty of rest. In addition to her accomplishments in tennis, Venus is now an author, fashion designer and entrepreneur. She is CEO of her Interior design firm. She launched her own Fashion line in 2007. She is part owner of the NFL team, Miami Dolphins, and the list goes on. Venus is also active in a number of social causes. In 2001 she was named one of the 30 Most Powerful Women in the World by Ladies Home Journal. In 2009 she was named among the Top 100 Most Powerful Celebrities by Forbes magazine. In 2011 she was named one of the 30 Legends of Women’s Tennis: Past, Present and Future by Time magazine. Venus says, “When you don’t feel well and things are taken away from you, it’s hard to stay positive. But, for me, it is not an option to get negative or to feel sorry for myself…..It’s easy to say, ‘I’ve done enough’ — or it would be easy to go on a permanent vacation. But I need to look back and know that I gave everything.”
Robin Roberts & Cancer
After surviving breast cancer in 2007, anchor of the Good Morning America (GMA) show, former sportscaster on ESPN for 15 years, 2012 women’s basketball Hall-of-Famer and author, Robin Roberts was facing another illness in 2012. This time it was myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease of the blood and disorders in bone marrow (once known as preleukemia). After enduring a serious round of chemotherapy treatments, followed by a bone marrow transplant she returned to her job as GMA host. Along with her co-host, Robin led the show back to the top of the ratings in 2012 making, GMA the number one morning show and beating out their competitor which had held the spot for the previous 16 years. In 2013 she received the Arthur Ashe Award for courage at the ESPYS. She had also received the Mel Greenberg Media Award in 2001. She credits her parents for cultivating in her the 3 D’s: Determination, Discipline and “De Lord!” Robin says “This journey is as much about the mind as it is the body. Your thoughts are so powerful. You’ve got to change the way you think in order to change the way you feel. God only gives us what we can handle and it helps to have a good sense of humor…”
Part 2 Venus Williams, Robin Robertsby