You’d never know that the bubbly, supremely talented star of stage and screen Kristin Chenoweth suffers from migraines, and that’s the reality for many that have the condition. Within 10 seconds of chatting with Chenoweth, you’re awestruck by her infectious energy, but migraines have the ability to eclipse her sunny disposition with rain clouds. We bonded over our shared experience in theatre, albeit hers much more illustrious, and with chronic migraines.
Learning that Chenoweth experienced migraines helped me feel less alone in my experience, which is exactly what she’s set out to do by partnering with AbbVie’s Center Stage with Chronic Migraine, which promotes Botox injections to mitigate migraine symptoms. We talked to Chenoweth about her experience with migraine and how Botox has helped as well as aging, keeping her skin clear and getting into character through makeup.
On experiencing chronic migraines…
“I suffer from chronic migraine, and it has really impacted my life and career, which is one of the reasons I wanted to talk about it and why I’ve partnered with AbbVie, on their program ‘Center Stage with Chronic Migraine,’ which I thought was apropos for me. When people say, ‘Oh, you just have a bad headache.’ I want to like actually *punches the air.* You know the pain, and you know how debilitating it is, and we love what we do or just whatever our passion is. So how do we continue to do that? I didn’t want to retire. This was really serious and affecting me.
Partnering with AbbVie is allowing me to say ‘This is not a headache. This is what I experienced. This is a treatment that’s working for me, and do not be shameful, especially as women, but anybody do not be shameful no matter what you do for a living journalism, politics, running a company. Do not be ashamed to say what it is that you battle.’ It’s also something you can’t see. If I had a broken arm and neck brace, which I have had before, people go, ‘Oh my gosh, are you okay?’ It’s just inside. You can’t see it. And just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. And it’s not that we want pity.”
On her early migraines…
“When I started at 25—I got my first one at Virginia Symphony—getting migraines, I thought, ‘Do I have a brain tumor?’ My auras are kaleidoscope eyes. You know how when you drink a Slurpee too fast, and you get a brain freeze, I had that, which by the way, you know how it goes, thinking ‘it’s going to pass,’ but it never does. Not being able to see [is a symptom]. Lights triggered it, which is interesting since I’m a performer.
I crawled off in our intermission, and I thought, ‘What do I have? What is wrong with me?’ And that began my journey with chronic migraine, and I thought ‘I’m going have to retire.’ Then I won the Emmy and all the paparazzi lighting threw me right into it, and I had to go to the hospital.”
On Botox for chronic migraines…
“The good news is I found a doctor who worked with me tirelessly to find a treatment for me and that would be the Botox for chronic migraine. When I started getting the treatments, I was probably 35. It has not cured me—I want to be clear—but it is preventative, and it has helped me continue to do what I love to do.
You find your core. You find your people to go, ‘Oh, me too,’ like you just said to me, so that’s why it was easy for me when AbbVie came to me because they knew I suffered. I was like, ‘I’m your girl’ because it’s a real tough thing to battle.”
On how she takes care of herself when it comes to migraines…
“Now I’m talking about my doctor and I and what we have discovered for my body and what helps me. I watch alcohol. Alcohol is a trigger for me. Flying [is a trigger]. I fly all the time, so I’m very aware of meditation and how that’s going to affect me. A low salt diet is another one.”
On how aging is looked at in Hollywood…
“I’m trying not to roll my eyes [at ageism]. But I have decided for my own self how to handle it. It seems, in Hollywood, once you get to a certain age, and many women have talked about it, they open the pasture door, and you’re just expected to go on through, but women are not doing that anymore. Ageism, I think it’s improving? Is that the word I want to use?
I mean, look at the shows we have. Let’s take Jean Smart. She’s in a fantastic show—Hacks. Look at Robin Wright. Look at these actresses who have been like, ‘I’m 50, and guess what? I’ve never been better.’ I’m working on adopting that more. When I was younger I was happy about being younger, but I don’t want to go back and play even a 30 year old. I’m not there anymore. There are becoming more roles for women. There are becoming more powerful women in Hollywood as well. And with the changes overall that we’re seeing, I think it’s good. I think that this pause in many ways, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, all of it has been great.
But yeah, there’s always going to be ageism. All that we can do though is consider how we’re going to react . And here’s what I say, ‘I still got it. Everybody calm down. I’m not going to go through the pasture door and eat cud.’ And then, also, I love mentoring, and that teaches our youth that you don’t have to be perfect and look perfect all the time. This is called life. So that’s my speech.”
On how makeup helps her embody her characters…
“I feel like the character when I put my shoes on, but beauty-wise, if I’m playing a character, it always comes down to two things for me: the eyebrows and the lips. I just did Schmigadoon! with Mildred Layton, I wanted the Joker maniacal lips and the thin eyebrows, and I wanted to be uncomfortable in her corset because she’s not a happy person, which is fun to play—find me lovable about the unlovable.
So to me the beauty tricks are in the eyes and the lips—besides the costumes and all of that stuff. I love creating characters that way. When I played Glinda all those years ago, I had tons of glitter, glitter on my lips, and you saw her evolve, that’s part of the fun. She evolved into not Galinda but Glinda, the truly good, not the Galinda who wasn’t so nice. You saw a lot of that strip away, and she just had a glow. So that’s part of being an actress that’s so fun.”
On keeping her skin healthy and clear through years of stage makeup…
“I have a lot of other things that I wish for, like longer legs. One thing that I was given, luckily, was good skin. I drink tons of water. And I try—I’m not successful at it—to get good sleep. Sleep is when our body heals. And I moisturize the crap out of my face because I have dry skin.
I love all the products. I’m a product person—I love them all. But you know you can go to Nordstrom and get the nicest or you can go to Walgreens, and to me if you know your skin type, remove that makeup before you go to bed, put on that moisturizer, get some sleep, all of that is healing for the skin, and also being happy. By the way, it hasn’t been rainbows and unicorns. We have life, especially the past three years. Loss, life, all the things that we have to deal with and good stress. But if you try to remember, not to sound too Pollyanna, but look on the bright side of life. Be positive—it’s a glow that no product can fill. You know what else cures everything, I think? I’m not being paid by them. It’s cheap, it’s at Walgreens—Bio-Oil or coconut oil.”
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