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Missy Elliott Once Opened up about Her Traumatic Experience with Incurable Graves' Disease

Aby Rivas
Mar 14, 2020
11:00 A.M.
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Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot has been living with Graves’ disease, an autoimmune condition that attacks the thyroid for over a decade. The rapper has been candid about her experience and credits her faith for helping her get through it.


Missy Elliot is considered one of the most iconic female rappers and producers in the music industry.

She has sold over 30 million records, won four Grammys, and has five platinum albums in her pocket, not to mention she was the first female rapper to be inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Missy Elliott speaks during Women's Entrepreneurship Day (WED) at the UN Headquarters in New York City, New York, November 15, 2019 | Photo: GetttyImages


The 48-year-old was still enjoying the success of her hit song “Work It” in 2008 when she had to take a break from the industry after receiving a dreading diagnose with an autoimmune, incurable disease.


Elliot was first diagnosed with Graves’ disease in 2008, but she kept her battle away from the public light until 2011 when she came forward to share the details of her experience.

On top of Graves’ disease, Elliot also deals with high pressure, so at the time, she felt like everything was happening at once.

Missy Elliott performs onstage during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards at Prudential Center on August 26, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey | Photo: GettyImages


As she told People magazine at the time, she first knew something was off when she was driving one day, and her legs started to fail her. She was tried to hit the breaks, but her legs kept jumping, and she almost crashed the car.

That scary experience was followed by more symptoms like dizzy spells, lumps in her throat, hair loss, a fast heart-rate, mood swings, and bulging eyes.

Missy Elliott performs onstage during day 1 of FYF Fest 2017 on July 21, 2017 at Exposition Park in Los Angeles, California | Photo: GettyImages


According to the Mayo Clinic, Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid, resulting in the overproduction of thyroid hormones (hyperthyroidism).

Although it can’t be cured, the disease can be controlled under treatment.


For Elliot, who took a radiation treatment and other medications, learning about the disease at first was a scary experience, as she confessed to Sway Calloway in his radio show in 2012:

“I was scared. Anybody that has Graves’ disease [is afraid] like, you feel that you’re going to be out of here."


Missy Elliott visits the SiriusXM Studio on September 18, 2012 in New York City | Photo: GettyImages

"You think: ‘what do I really have?’" Elliot added, revealing that going through the changes of seeing her eyes changing, her hair falling out, and her skin changing, "was traumatic.” 


Elliot recalled being in the studio one time working on Monica’s song “Everything to Me,” and she couldn’t even write the lyrics down.

Since the disease affects the nervous system, her hands were shaking, so Monica had to take charge and reassure Elliot she had her back.

Missy Elliott attends the Junie Bee Nail Salon grand opening on February 15, 2018 in New York City | Photo: GettyImages


On top of Graves’ disease, Elliot also deals with high pressure, so at the time, she felt like everything was happening at once.


Elliot believes she’s gotten better not only following her treatments and adopting a healthier lifestyle in general, but also because of the grace of God.

“God allows things to happen, and however, I feel like he was dealing with me in whatever way, or maybe protecting me from something,” she explained.

Missy Elliot attends the keynote address at the Austin Convention Center during the South by Southwest Music Festival on Mar. 16, 2016 in Austin, Texas | Photo: Getty Images


After her diagnosis, Elliot had to take a break from the spotlight, and she said that in the end, the experience was beneficial for her creative process because after going through the worst part, she came out with a refreshed mind.

“I went through a [tough] time period, but God was with me, and I feel like he’s guided my footsteps, and I want to be a leader, I want to be an inspiration,” she concluded.



Like Missy Elliot, another big name in the entertainment industry dealing with Graves’ disease is TV host Wendy Williams.

The 54-year-old was diagnosed with the disease in 2018, only a few months after she gave her fans a scare when she fainted on live TV while shooting her Halloween special.

Williams shared her diagnosis on her show, explaining that she had to take three weeks off-work following her doctor’s recommendations.

Since then, Williams has taken several breaks from the show due to complications with the disease and other ailments.

She also made a point to share with her followers, especially women, the importance of putting their health at the top of their priorities, something that she failed to do for a long time.


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