How Toni Braxton Turned An Autoimmune Disease Into A Superpower

The singer is partnering with Aurinia Pharmaceuticals for their kidney health-focused Get Uncomfortable campaign during Lupus Awareness Month in May.

Once Toni Braxton was diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Lupus in 2008, her life was forever changed.

“It made my career a little more challenging to do,” explained Braxton. “I’m still able to have a career but not the way I used to. I usually tell people I can’t do five to seven shows a week anymore but the silver lining is I can still perform maybe two shows a week. Instead of my show being two hours, I might reduce it down to an hour and 15 minutes.”

Battling with the stigma of having the condition, the seven-time Grammy Award winner known for classic R&B singles ranging from “Un-Break My Heart” and “Breath Again” felt shame over it. That didn’t stop her already legendary career as she also took time to partner with the non-profit organization Lupus LA as a board member.

Looking at 2022 alone, Braxton is just as visible as ever. Though she hasn’t released any music since 2020’s Spell My Name, global Afro-beat torch bearer Burna Boy turned her 2000 single “He Wasn’t Man Enough” into a platinum hit “Last Last.” Meanwhile, a partnership with women-focused network Lifetime placed Braxton in-front and behind the scenes with films like Fallen Angels Murder Club: Friends to Die For and same year sequel Fallen Angels Murder Club: Heroes and Felons. That doesn’t even count the gains she’s made as the founder of the growing cosmetics and skincare line Nude Sugar.

Halfway through 2023, Braxton is pushing her Lupus advocacy even further through a partnership with Aurinia Pharmaceuticals for the Get Uncomfortable campaign. The goal of the initiative is to promote routine monitoring of Lupus Nephritis and highlight the importance of kidney health. This is something Braxton is fully aware of following a health scare nearly six months ago.

Speaking with BET, Braxton discusses how suggestions from a doctor to get tested saved her from a potentially fatal heart attack, the Get Uncomfortable campaign, new music and how she practices self-care. You recently had a health scare that could have killed you. Can you recall the realization you received after surviving?

Toni Braxton: My scariest health scare happened about six months ago. I found out I needed a coronary stent and it can be pretty scary. I needed it in my main ostial artery and I could’ve had a massive heart attack. I would not have survived. I was very fortunate that my doctors caught it because I wasn’t going to go get the test done. My doctor would tell me to do it and I prolonged it. This is why I’m so excited about partnering with Aurinia and Lupus awareness month next month to discuss kidney health because all you gotta do is tinkle in a cup which is non-invasive and get some blood work done.

Now, I’m like whoa, I’m going to do all my appointments that I have to do. It’s important for kidney function and kidney health just to get checked because in our community, African American women alongside Asian women are four times more likely to develop Lupus Nephritis. In Hispanic and Native American women, it’s two times more likely. If you already have Lupus, you’re more at risk for developing kidney issues. Kidney health is so important as that’s how your body detoxes and sometimes it has no symptoms. So now, my Lupus is starting to affect my kidneys so I got to talk about it as an advocate.

Shaniqua Jarvis What do you hope people take away from messages of the Get Uncomfortable campaign?

Toni Braxton: I want people to know that it is okay to be uncomfortable, but sometimes you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable sometimes. That’s the worst part. I want them to know they’re not alone. I’m right there with them being just as uncomfortable as they are. In the end, the comfort is knowing that I’m okay or getting an early diagnosis of something. Sometimes my doctors and I can talk about and discuss the best health regime for me to keep my body safe because my Lupus is starting to affect my vital organs now. I just had no idea the risk that I was in and being at greater risk of having Lupus develop into Lupus Nephritis. Is there any advice outside of seeing and getting help from a doctor that you advise someone finding out they have Lupus for the first time?

Toni Braxton: The first thing is that it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay not to know. It’s okay to wonder what’s going on with your body and have questions. I had all these questions and someone paid it forward, helped me and talked to me. There’s also this wonderful website called It’s part of the whole uncomfortable thing. This site can help you find a doctor if you don’t have one. If you have one, you’ll probably see your doctor there. The site can help you learn how to get through bad days. Sometimes you just need information and when I was first diagnosed, we didn’t have the information that we have today. Burna Boy re-ignited interest in “He Wasn’t Man Enough” last year through “Last Last” where he mentioned that you receive 60% of royalties. How does that make you feel to know that a song that’s over 20 years old has enough reach to inspire a genre like Afro-beat?

Toni Braxton: You know it’s funny. I wish I could find it but someone sent me this little kid who was listening to “He Wasn’t Man Enough” in the background. In the video, he asks how come that lady is singing Burna Boy’s song. I thought that was the cutest thing ever. It makes me feel good. I feel excited. I’ve talked to Burna Boy and we’ve talked about performing it together. It just makes me feel good and my music is standing the test of time. It makes me feel good that people are still enjoying it 20-something years later. It’s still affecting a whole new market and this is Burna Boy’s moment. He brought my music in and I was really thrilled. I was delighted that he did that. It’s been a while since you dropped an album. Should we expect music from you in the future?

Toni Braxton: I am working on new music and it will be out soon within the next couple of months. I'm excited about it because singing, that's my heartbeat. That's what I love to do. Just doing music is my thing. So I'm excited to be doing it. I can't do it the way I did it 20 years ago, but I can still do it. So I'm looking forward to that. Outside of music, you’ve been busy with Nude Sugar. Can you explain the process of starting a cosmetics and skincare line from the ground up and the work it's taken up till now while battling Lupus?

Toni Braxton:  It’s tough. I came out with it during the pandemic and everyone was like you should wait. I’m like no, I’m going to come out with it now. When I developed this with my team, having Lupus doesn’t just affect any internal organ in your body but it can also affect your skin which is your largest organ. I wanted to develop something for myself initially that I can use. Then I said I have to share this. Developing Nude Sugar for people like me who have Lupus was perfect. I was so thrilled that so many people liked it. First, I don’t want people to know it’s me. I just want to put this product out for people who have Lupus. It’s not a Lupus product per se but I designed it in regards to sensitivity to our skin. I was just really thrilled that people are taking to it really. I can’t even believe that’s happening sometimes. It’s a beautiful dream that you guys are allowing me to be in so thank you. Part of the battle with Lupus is lessening stress. What’s been your self-care routine in the midst of everything you have going on?

Toni Braxton: Listening to my body makes me have self-care. Sometimes it’ll say nope, you’re doing too much. Bring it all the way done. I just have to take it easy and listen to my body for when it's time to take time outs. I might find myself at home watching Netflix or BET. BET has some great movies. Sometimes I watch the New Edition movie over and over again. That’s helped me a lot. I watched The New Edition Story over and over again when I was at home recuperating with this thing alongside The Bobby Brown Story. I’ve also been watching First Wives Club because I absolutely love Jill Scott as an actress. Now, I get to do these little things that I thought I didn’t have time for. I can also enjoy all this wonderful talent that I get to see alongside young talent too. I’m excited about that.

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