Public Appearances > 2019 > February 24 – Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Public Appearances > 2019 > February 24 – Vanity Fair Oscar Party
MS diagnosis came in August but Hollywood star has lived with symptoms for years
The American actor Selma Blair has been praised for speaking candidly about having multiple sclerosis (MS).
In an Instagram post the 46-year-old Cruel Intentions star said she had been officially diagnosed in August but had experienced symptoms for years.
“I am disabled. I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS,” she wrote. “But we are doing it. And I laugh and I don’t know exactly what I will do precisely but I will do my best.”
Multiple sclerosis is a lifelong condition, which can affect the brain or spinal cord. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including problems with vision, arm or leg movement, sensation or balance.
According to the NHS, it is two to three times more likely in women than men and is usually diagnosed in people in their 20s and 30s.
Blair, who will appear in the Netflix series Another Life, said the “profound” help she received from costume designer Allisa Swanson had inspired her to speak openly about her condition.
“[S]he carefully gets my legs in my pants, pulls my tops over my head, buttons my coats and offers her shoulder to steady myself. I have #multiplesclerosis,” she wrote.
“I am in the thick of it but I hope to give some hope to others. And even to myself. You can’t get help unless you ask. It can be overwhelming in the beginning. You want to sleep. You always want to sleep. So I don’t have answers. You see, I want to sleep. But I am a forthcoming person and I want my life to be full somehow.”
There is no cure for MS but symptoms can sometimes be managed with painkillers or drugs to reduce nerve inflammation, physical therapy to ease muscle stiffness or medication to slow progression.
Genevieve Edwards, director of external affairs at the MS Society, said many people living with MS would be grateful for Blair’s decision to speak out.
“She’ll raise vital awareness of a condition that affects more than 100,000 people in the UK,” she said. “MS is unpredictable and different for everyone so, as the actress revealed, you can live with symptoms for years and not receive a diagnosis.”
There is no cure for MS but thereare a range of treatments available for the relapsing form of the condition, as well as new research-led developments happening all the time, Edwards added.
According to the NHS, more than eight in 10 people with MS are diagnosed with the relapsing remitting type. A person with relapsing remitting MS will have episodes of new or worsening symptoms, which can occur without warning but are sometimes associated with periods of illness or stress. These can worsen and last for days, weeks or months, then slowly improve over a similar time period.
“What’s most encouraging about Selma’s post is the attitude of her colleagues. Having the right support around you is crucial because when your employer takes time to understand MS, you can enjoy a full working life for as long as you want or are able to.”
Blair discussed the support she had received from her producers, writing: “By the grace of the lord, and will power and the understanding producers at Netflix , I have a job. A wonderful job.” Her producer Noreen Halpern assured her “everyone has something”. Blair added that all members of the crew had been supportive.
This week Selma Blair celebrated two big milestones: her 46th birthday and two years of sobriety. After previously detailing her experiences with depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, Blair posted a photo on Instagram to mark the occasion.
In the photo, Blair is blowing out a cake with two candles on it while wearing a party hat. “2 years sober. 2 years feeling everything and nothing. 2 years of extreme gratitude and humility and grace. I thank the lord and my friends,” she wrote. “I prayed for a miracle at my lowest points. I am a living miracle. Thank you. Thank you.”
Blair made headlines in 2016 when she was escorted off a plane on a stretcher after a mid-flight outburst. After the incident, Blair recounted what had happened. “After a lovely trip with my son and his dad, I mixed alcohol with medication, and that caused me to black out and led me to say and do things that I deeply regret,” she wrote in a statement.
Earlier this year, Blair talked a bit about her years of dealing with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism.
In a post on Instagram in May, she says she lived with postpartum depression for “four long years” after giving birth to her son, Arthur, but after falling apart publicly, she was beginning to take positive steps forward. “I got better. The weight of grief began to lift. I still struggle. I cry quietly so as not to wake my child. I am a good mother,” she wrote.
She ended the emotional note on a hopeful thought. “I want to thank you all for believing in me. I want to find the right work for me. And for me as a mom and as a woman who has come so far in personal ways. I want to make us all proud.”
Halfway through our interview, Selma Blair’s one-eyed dog Buster climbs on to the restaurant table at the Chateau Marmont in LA and happily devours an entire plate of leafy greens. Strangers are staring. I’m staring. “Are you disgusted that I’m letting my dog do this?” Selma asks, her face serious, her tone as drily hilarious as it has been for the past hour, even when discussing the state of Hollywood for women and her fears that she’ll never work again. In fact, I’m just amazed that, here in Hollywood, even rescue mutts with part of their face missing seem to enjoy rocket salad with a blue cheese dressing. “I wonder if it’s possible to overdose on arugula?” she thinks aloud. “We’ll see when the dog dies tonight.”
Blair made her name with Cruel Intentions, a 1999 mean-teen remake of Dangerous Liaisons, and has since acted in Legally Blonde, the Hellboy films directed by Guillermo del Toro and in the US remake of Kath & Kim, where she played the hysterically funny and spoiled daughter. More recently she played Kris Jenner in an episode of American Crime Story. Now she’s in a comedy-ish horror film called Mom and Dad, which isn’t going down too well in America, what with its theme of parents overtaken by the urge to murder their own children, though Blair’s performance has been praised by the Hollywood Reporter, which describes her as a “chronically underused talent”. Nicolas Cage plays her husband, and they spend half the movie trying to end their two kids with an assortment of homemade weaponry.
“I happen to love it,” she admits, “because I had such a good time on it, laughing. It was funny to me. Isn’t that terrible? I can’t bear horror movies usually – my mom took me to see American Werewolf in London as a kid and I couldn’t be alone for two years after that, not even to tie my shoelace. So I would have said a film like this doesn’t help anybody, we have enough problems with killing. But then there was something so refreshing to me about saying, aaaah, fuck it all! And the premise is so much more horrible than the film itself.”
Her real son Arthur came out to the location and played with her son from the film. “He was really taken with Zach [her son in the film, Zachary Arthur], he was like: ‘I finally have a brother!’ I was like: ‘Er, not real, and I’m trying to kill him?’ He hasn’t seen the film, but when he misbehaves I’ll show him.” Also coming out soon is a remake of Heathers, in which it’s not the traditionally beautiful girls who run the school at all, but the outsiders who’ve taken over. Blair, who rose to fame as part of the young Hollywood of the original Heathers generation, is now 45 years old, and plays “a diabolical stepmother who turns out to be the only sane person in it, because she’s the one who gave zero fucks and didn’t have a conscience to begin with”.
Blair grew up in Michigan, one of four sisters in a Jewish family. Her parents were both lawyers – her mother a judge – and they sent her to Cranbrook Kingswood, a private school that Blair speaks about with great affection. Yoko Ono was a guest; Keith Haring designed their yearbooks, and Blair still has her best friends from there because, apparently: “It wasn’t cliquey, there were no mean girls. It’s still one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.” She remembers the glamour of her mother power-dressing in Ungaro suits, with “the looks of Sofia Loren”, and also the formalities. “She had us all by C-Section at 8.45am on a Friday so she could be back to work by Monday.”
Blair began acting at school and, after encouragement from a teacher and various TV and film parts, her breakout role was in Cruel Intentions, a film she now describes as “pioneering for teens. It was the first time two girls kissed onscreen in such a mainstream movie.” She was actually 25, but playing a 14-year-old, “because this was before HD so you could still look somewhat young on screen”.
Full interview: theguardian.com