Short Biography

Actor, performer, humanitarian. Fascinated with dance at an early age, Ben Vereen made his Broadway debut at age 18 in The Prodigal Son. He made a name for himself on the stage in the 1970s with roles in Jesus Christ Superstar and Pippin (for which he won a Tony and a Drama Desk award.) More recently, he appeared in Wicked. His film credits include Funny Lady (1975) and All That Jazz (1979). He has also guest starred on numerous television shows, including The Muppet Show, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Grey’s Anatomy. However, Ben Vereen is best known for playing the role of “Chicken” George in the epic 1977 miniseries, Roots.
Vereen was diagnosed in 2007 with diabeties, type 2.
“Talk to somebody and share your lifestyle with them. Do not be ashamed. Get your blood sugar checked at your yearly checkup. Catch it early. Had I not caught it in time, you’d be talking to a corpse.”
Apart from the stage and screen, Ben has done much work as a public speaker and humanitarian speaking on such topics as Black history, overcoming adversity, and the importance of continuing education. He also tours the country educating people about diabetes.
“Diabetes is not a death sentence. It’s a life sentence,” Ben said in a recent interview. “I’m not fighting my diabetes; I’m living with it. If you fight against something, the battle may not be won, but if you learn to live with it, you have a lifetime to enjoy it.”
Around December 2007, Ben was experiencing the symptoms those with diabetes know all too well: lethargy, craving sugar, frequent bathroom visits, dry mouth and mood swings. Concerned, he went to the doctor.
“When I was diagnosed, it was like being hit with a wet fish. I said ‘not me.’ The doctor said, ‘No, it’s you. You have type 2 diabetes, and I’m going to put you on insulin right now.’ That was Christmas Day. I looked at the doctor and said, ‘thank you’. That was the best Christmas present I ever had.”
It was after this that Ben decided it was time for him to speak out. He teamed up with Sanofi Aventis as he went on the road to share his story with as many people as possible.
As far as treatment is concerned, Ben’s method is like many others. He watches what he eats, exercises, and takes insulin, something many people with type 2 mistakenly see as a sign of failure. But for Ben, “Someone says to you, ‘OK, this insulin is going to save your life, this isn’t.’ So, you go, ‘I want to live.’ ”
He kept in simple:
“Talk to somebody and share your lifestyle with them. Do not be ashamed. Get your blood sugar checked at your yearly checkup. Catch it early. Had I not caught it in time, you’d be talking to a corpse.”
He is a prime example that life does not have to end after a diabetes diagnosis.