Selma Blair’s red carpet appearance with her custom-made patent-leather cane on Oscar night was only the beginning. The actress says she plans to continue sharing what it’s like living with multiple sclerosis and the challenges people with disabilities face.
“There’s no tragedy for me,” she told Vanity Fair in an article for its March issue. “I’m happy, and if I can help anyone be more comfortable in their skin, it’s more than I’ve ever done before.”
Blair, 46, revealed in an Instagram post last October that she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis just two months earlier.
She told Vanity Fair that the diagnosis came as a relief after fending off puzzling symptoms that came and went for years. There was neck pain, trouble walking, and severe vertigo and fatigue. Doctors chalked up her symptoms to depression and hormones until a new physician ordered her to get an MRI, which revealed 20 lesions covering her brain.
MS is an unpredictable disease in which the body's immune system attacks the brain and spinal cord, according to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America.
Blair's health has deteriorated since her diagnosis and she has been trying different treatments. She has difficulty controlling her movements and limps with a cane. Her body emits strange noises. Her vision has been affected and she speaks with a pronounced tremor. Because she can no longer raiser her arms to brush her hair, she cut her hair into a short bob.
Blair said she looks and sounds so different that her 7-year-old son, Arthur, has taken to curling up alongside her.
“He wants to be closer to my body more, and I can tell he wants to make sure I’m still here inside,” she said. “I used to be so athletic with him. Now I fall in front of him.”
Over the weekend, Blair appeared publicly for the first time since she her diagnosis, making her way down the red carpet at the Vanity Fair Oscar party with a cane inscribed with her monogram and featuring a pink diamond.
She told the magazine that finding the right cane can be challenging. She originally purchased an acrylic cane (“very Miami 1980 — kind of fabulous and horrible”) but her lack of physical control could mean she might drop it and have it shatter into pieces.
Besides, Blair said, canes should “fit right and look cool.”
“I have met so many people on Instagram who have said that they were always ashamed of their cane,” she said. “You want to still be part of the living, not a shuffling person people get out of the way for because they’re queasy. A cane, I think, can be a great fashion accessory.”
Despite her physical challenges, Blair plans to keep acting. After her diagnosis, she made a movie, “After,” and continued to work on the Netflix series “Another Life.”
“I don’t know if I believed in myself or had the ambition before my diagnosis,” she said. “And oddly now I do, and I don’t know if it’s too late.”
Blair said she’s motivated to be forthcoming about her condition because she doesn't want other women to repeat her medical mistakes and let their concerns be dismissed by doctors. She said she's been surprised her honesty has struck a chord with strangers.
“I’m pretty much a nobody in Hollywood,” she said. "But when I read comments on Instagram from people who were suffering, whether it was from M.S., or anything, I thought, Holy sh--, there’s a need for honesty about being disabled from someone recognizable.”