Celebrities who turned their pain into their passion

I am continually inspired by those who use their pain to bring healing to others. It is something I strive for myself, and encourage others to do. Below is a list of seven celebrities who have taken their pain and turned it into their passion.

The argument can be made, that because these are celebrities, it is their status that enables them to use their stories in this way. After all, people already listen to them and trust them! However, I would argue that being a celebrity can make it harder to broadcast your pain. It takes enormous courage to be vulnerable to just three people, let alone three million!

In fact, for many of the celebrities listed below, their initial steps in sharing their struggles were filled with fear of being shamed or losing their jobs. Instead, being vulnerable is difficult whether you are a public figure, or a local community member. Yet, the vulnerability it takes to share and use your story is the key to bringing healing to yourself and those around you.


How Might You Transform Your Pain?

Even if you do not have a platform of millions to share you story, how can you use your pain to heal yourself and others?  Can you volunteer your time at a local shelter or hotline? Can you safely write your story in a book or blog? Can you encourage others who are just starting out in support groups or online forums?  Can you express your pain through art so that others can find a way to express what seems unspeakable? Can you become a political advocate for the issues that continue to bring stigma and oppression?

Read below to find out how these celebrities have channeled their pain.  I hope it inspires you:


Halle Berry

This Academy Award winning actress has spent much of her adult life dealing with the impact of a childhood with a violent father, including battling low self-esteem:

"I think I've spent my adult life dealing with the sense of low self-esteem that sort of implanted in me. Somehow I felt not worthy. Before I'm 'Halle Berry,' I'm little Halle....a little girl growing in this environment that damaged me...I've spent my adult life trying to really heal from that."

Now, even with her wild success, she spends a lot of her time at  a local LA Domestic Violence shelter and program, the Jenesse Center.  She hangs out with the kids, and is involved in a project to renovate the apartments the abuse survivors live in, helping to foster a sense of safety and stability. She says, "I have a spot in my soul that understands the devastation that this causes a family."

Ellen DeGeneres

Comedian, Actor and Talk Show host famously the first television star to come out as gay in 1997. But that's not the only chapter in her story. After her parents divorced, and her mother remarried, she was sexually molested by her stepfather while her mother struggled with breast cancer. She's also dealt with the death of loved ones, and her own depression.

Now, Ellen is a true social activist, encouraging conversation and spurring action on many different topics, from breast cancer, to the mental health of LGBTQ youth, to her many happiness projects. To girls being molested, she says, "it's important for teenage girls out there to hear that there are different ways to say no. And if it ever happens to them, they should tell someone right away."


Michael J Fox


Actor who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1991. Rather than ending his career and hiding, he is at the forefront of Parkinson's awareness.  The quote on the front page of his website says it all:

"Our challenges don't define us. Our actions do."


Copyright – Thomas Atilla Lewis



Jennifer Hudson


Singer and actress channelled the tragic death of her nephew Julian into the Julian King Foundation to help children with school supplies, holiday gifts and clothes.  She's also using her nephews death to encourage others in her community to embrace forgiveness rather than revenge, and unity rather than blame.

Howie Mandel


This comedian and actor is open about living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, depression and ADHD, but when he first accidentally slipped in sharing his struggles, he thought it would be the end of his career. He is also open about his daughter having ADHD. He is now passionate about removing the stigma associated with mental illness.

"Now, I’m a big proponent of mental health awareness. I don’t think there’s anyone alive who doesn’t have issues, whether its relationship issues, job stress, or something else. We take care of our dental health, but not our mental health... [the stigma is] certainly very strong, and still there.”


Tyler Perry


This Actor, Writer, Producer and Director faced physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a child, and homelessness as an adult.  His writing and plays, as comical or light as they sometimes seem, always inspire the viewer to endure hardships – from abuse, to domestic violence, single parenthood, to racism – with strength and dignity.

“It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you. I didn’t have a catharsis for my childhood pain, most of us don’t, and until I learned how to forgive those people and let it go, I was unhappy. You can never be upset with the people who forced you into your dream or up higher.”

Maya Angelou


I can’t think of anyone more inspirational than Dr. Angelou. She witnessed domestic violence, the hatred of racism, and was raped as a child, to say the least. Yet as an adult she spent half a decade singing, dancing, and writing to inspire others.

I speak to the black experience, but I am always talking about the human condition – about what we can endure, dream, fail at, and still survive.”

“While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated”