Cyndi Lauper has come forward with an admission about something that almost wrecked her career. The Kinky Boots producer has joined a campaign to help sufferers of psoriasis, and is revealing some pretty personal details about her own battle with the disease in the process.
"First, I thought I just had a really bad bleach job," Lauper says. "I am a suicide blonde after all."
So she got a special shampoo from a dermatologist. But her troubles did not end there.
"My whole entire body was covered in a rash and scaly skin. And then it just stared creeping up my neck. I felt swallowed by it. My immune system got a little wacky, and it took my strength away," says Lauper. "My skin was so inflamed, it could not regulate hot and cold, so I had the chills all the time."
Since Cyndi Lauper had a public image for dressing flamboyantly and wild, she used that to her advantage.
"I dyed my hair red, put extensions in and then I just wore a wig so I wouldn't have to mess with my scalp too much," Lauper said. "It really started to hurt."
— Psoriasis Foundation (@NPF) July 28, 2015
As the disease spread to other parts of her body, she had to cover up more.
"I just kept wearing higher-necked clothes, turtlenecks and long sleeves," she says. "I looked like a nun. It's not an attractive look. I like to wear tight clothes so what am I gonna do, wear a potato sack? No."
Her skin flaked off so badly during her onstage shows that she started wearing a mesh body suit under her clothes. "When I took it off, it was like 'Ugh,'" she says. "The people I was working with would look at me and say, 'That looks like it hurts.'"
"It was so bad, I felt like the Elephant Man," says Lauper
Now Cyndi Lauper hopes her story helps others who are ashamed of how their skin condition may be perceived in public.
"You don't have to suffer in silence or live in pain," says Lauper. "It's not just a rash. It's a disease."
Her dermatologist diagnosed her with psoriasis and gave her a special shampoo.
But that was just the beginning. Two years later, the rash flared up and "kicked into something scary," she says.
"I tried every kind of natural cure I could," says Lauper, who at times was so weak she couldn't leave her bed. "It was like I Love Lucy. I felt like a mad scientist mixing this and that."
To this day, Cyndi Lauper still doesn't know what kicked the whole thing off, but she knows that certain foods and other factors make it worse. And she knows it almost derailed her career entirely.
"Everybody says it's stress but I've always had stress," said Lauper. "My whole job is stress."
Once her voice started to be affected, Lauper felt she was at a new low.
"I lost it. I stopped singing for a while. I felt depressed and I felt horrible."
"I'm not alone," says Lauper. "There are 7.5 million Americans with this. Find a doctor who specializes in psoriasis and find a treatment. Find what works for you. You gotta keep going because if not, you'll end up on your butt like I was."
"I don't want anyone to be a silent psoriasis sufferer," she says. "You can't just lay in the dark and get depressed and feel like the disease has won. You can win, just get the information and get help – because suffering in silence really sucks."
— Novartis (@Novartis) July 28, 2015