For a while, Missy Elliott was everywhere you looked. The rapper/producer released a string of offbeat smash hits and landmark music videos in the late 1990s and early 2000s that stretched from her breakthrough single “The Rain” in 1997 to 2001’s “Get Ur Freak On” and 2002’s “Work It.” But after a couple of softer-selling efforts in the mid 2000s, Elliott seemed to fall off the radar.
Now the increasingly reclusive MC has explained why her long-promised comeback album, Block Party, has been so long in coming and where she’s been for the past three years. The 39-year-old Grammy winner told People magazine that she’s battling the autoimmune disorder Graves’ disease. “You live with it for the rest of your life,” Elliott said.
Elliott released a statement after the People report went public to tell her side of things: “There have been some inaccuracies reported in regards to my diagnosis with Grave’s Disease, so I wanted to clear things up. I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease about three years ago but it really hasn’t slowed me down at all. I rocked my performance on VH1 Hip Hop Honors’ tribute to Timbaland last year. I’ve written and produced a bunch of Grammy-nominated, #1 hits for artists like Keyshia Cole, Monica and Jasmine Sullivan. I toured the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. And on top of all that, I’m working on my new album. I feel great. Under my doctor’s supervision, I’ve been off medication for about a year and I’m completely managing the condition through diet and exercise.”
Elliott was diagnosed with the disease in 2008, and she’s suffered from a litany of effects, including a loss of some motor skills, dizzy spells, lumps in her throat, mood swings, hair loss, a fast heart rate and bulging eyes. She underwent radiation treatment, has been taking medication and said she’s now feeling better.
The disease affects the thyroid gland, whose hormones regulate the body’s metabolism and affect mood, weight and energy. It causes hyperthyroidism, which produces an excess of the thyroid hormone, causing the symptoms Elliott discussed, as well as anxiety, double vision and muscle weakness. Though the symptoms are uncomfortable, when caught early and treated, long-term health effects can be avoided.
The weakness was so bad, Elliott said, that she nearly crashed her car because she couldn’t press down on the brake, and she could hardly even hold a pen in her hand.
“I’m 30 pounds lighter because I’ve been exercising,” said Elliott, who will be the first subject of the upcoming season of VH1’s “Behind the Music” biography series on June 29. “My thyroid is functioning, so I haven’t had to take medication in about nine months.”