Queer Eye’s Karamo Brown Offers Advice for Others with Migraine in the New Year
I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with Emmy-nominated host from Netflix’s hit show “Queer Eye,” Karamo Brown, to discuss migraine and the social stigmas surrounding migraine. As part of the Know Migraine Mission program from Amgen and Novartis, Karamo is sharing his own story to encourage new conversations and help people understand that migraine is more than “just a headache.”
About Karamo Brown
Karamo Brown is a reality TV personality, activist, author, and an Emmy nominated host from Netflix’s hit show Queer Eye. Brown began his career on MTV: The Real World: Philadelphia, and is the culture expert in the Netflix series Queer Eye.
Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us how you got to where you are today?
Definitely! One common theme is not to be afraid of ‘no’s’. This concept got me through high school, college, and all my career experiences. Many of us hear a lot of ‘no’s’. People will say “oh, you shouldn’t dream that big,” or “oh, you can’t do that” or “maybe you should try this instead”. For me, when I receive a ‘no’ in my life, I make sure to understand that that ‘no’ reflects that person’s limitation that he or she has set for themselves, and that they are unconsciously projecting unto me.
I make sure to understand that that ‘no’ is not my truth, and I do not need to listen to it.
And by realizing this, it allows some of the fear to go away. It allows me to keep going, and focus on consistency and communication, and to keep moving forward and doing that one thing every day. One mantra that I live by is “don’t be afraid of growing slowly, only of standing still.” There are days where I don’t feel like I have the energy or the capacity to do all the things I want to do, but I still find myself trying to do one thing, pushing myself just that little bit, to get me to where I am today.
What drives you?
What drives me is wanting to be better and wanting other people to be better. One of the things I realized very early on is that the human connection is immensely powerful. We’re all experiencing the same things, and we keep letting the exterior things keep us disconnected. We often feel like we are alone, or others do not understand what we are going through.
I always joke that if aliens came down today, we would realize very quickly that we are all human, and we wouldn’t let these exterior things separate us. What drives me is knowing that when we come together, we get better. That’s when and how our lives change. That’s how we become stronger–through vulnerability and empathy.
That’s the key to joy.
What are some choices you’ve made that made you who you are?
Comparison is the thief of joy. I didn’t grow up rich. When I was younger, my parents were very strategic and made sure we lived in that one apartment complex that was zoned into the richest area, where everyone else had big homes and drove fancy cars. There were moments where I found myself thinking “why can’t that be me? Why didn’t we have that?”
But I started to make the conscious choice to stop comparing myself to others. And once I did that, it allowed me to focus on the things that I did have, the things that I can share with others, the things that made me special, and that I knew I was going to earn with effort. And that’s important because it’s always easy to look at other people and compare yourself and come up short, but it’s not easy to have the ability to have that conscious choice to say, “I’ve been through this. I am learning and growing, I am doing the best that I can, and that’s what will get me to the next level.”
What is something you believe in, but many others may not?
When it comes to differences in beliefs, I believe in forgiveness. I believe in a counsel culture, where you invite people in and say “hey, this is how your words or your actions affected me. And I need you to take accountability, but I also want to be here to support you and make sure that you can continue to learn how your actions affect me and others.”
You are inviting someone into the conversation so that they can be a part of the process. Some people may not believe this. They may believe that if someone messed up once, we have to cancel them or get rid of them. But I believe that through empathy, open communication, and education, we can be stronger together.
What is something that you are working on that you are excited about?
We’re very excited that we’ll be starting back with Queer Eye. We stopped because of the pandemic, but we’re going back for the next season. We understand the safety protocols, and we’re excited to be able to safely and consciously get back out there and help more people.
I have a background in mental health services. As the show’s culture expert, it is very important for me to make sure to bring that to the TV series. I believe that it’s important to focus on the outside–our hair, our clothes, our nutrition–but it’s even more important to focus on our emotional and mental wellbeing. Someone can change their clothes, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t know why we feel uncomfortable, or what our emotional blockages are.
It’s important to me to make sure that my role on Queer Eye shows people how important it is to take care of their mental health and emotional wellbeing. This is my main focus right now–making sure that I can do what I need to be safe, to protect others, and to empower them to change their lives.
Can you share a bit more about the Know Migraine Mission program?
One of the things that I learned through Queer Eye is that a lot of the time we isolate because we feel alone. We feel like no one will understand us. But the shared human experience is very strong.
I started suffering from migraine when I was in high school, and it was one of those often misunderstood experiences where people think it’s just a headache. But it’s not just a headache–it can be very debilitating. I can’t focus, I can’t see, I feel nauseated. But, because I didn’t have the language around it, I felt very alone. And as I got older and started to share my experiences, I realize that there are many others like me, and I realize that I can help remove the stigma around migraine by educating our community about them.
This is one of the reasons that I’ve partnered with Amgen and Novartis, the makers of Aimovig, on the Know Migraine Mission program. I can help provide that language for others so that we don’t have to suffer alone.
And, I want you–the readers–to know that you can be vulnerable and that the more you share your experiences with your friends and family, and community, the more others will understand. Those are the moments where they will be able to be there for you.
We don’t need to suffer in silence anymore.
Can you share a little more about migraine? Do you have any tips on how we can manage them?
A big part of managing my migraine is understanding all the tools that work for me. When I feel it coming on, I immediately close the windows, try to breathe deeply. And if it’s severe, I’ll call my healthcare provider.
One of the biggest things for me is getting support and understanding from my friends, family, and coworkers. I write a lot of notes and I send these notes to my family and community to share what I am experiencing.
From the notes, my community becomes much more empathetic and they can be there for me. They understand that it’s not just a headache, that I’m not canceling plans because I want to, but because it is extremely painful to be out there right now.
The worse thing is when you are suffering from migraine, and those around you think you should get over it and move on. It’s amazing the power of having those people in your life understand your pain, what it feels like during a migraine episode, and provide you the help or support that you need.
What do you want our readers to know?
Visit KnowMigraineMission.com to find a ton of information about migraine and migraine management. You will find a community there.
I share my story there, and others can share theirs as well. It’s an amazing space for us to realize that we are not alone, that there are countless resources to help, and an environment to help us educate our loved ones or our coworkers, or our boss so that we can feel supported.
What is your blueprint to success?
It would be to plan, do, and ask for help. We often have lofty dreams in our minds, and we don’t know how to get there. So you have to make a plan, but you don’t have to rush that plan. It’s as simple as writing down a to-do list or bullet points. What can you do to get there?
Then, you have to start doing it. And I’ve said this earlier, but the key to success is not to be afraid of growing slowly. We should only be scared of standing still. So, do that one thing on your list that you can do today.
And finally, and most importantly, ask for help. We often protect our dreams like little babies that we have to hold onto and protect, and that we are scared to have anyone near it. The thing is that your dreams and your goals are living, and they want to thrive and they want to grow. And the only way to do that is by collaborating with others, where people can say “oh my gosh, what a beautiful dream you have there. What a beautiful goal! Have you thought about this? How can I help?” By asking for help, you can continue to grow and make new strides.
So, make a plan. Do that plan. And ask for help if needed. Those are the three steps we can take to create the life that we want.
Thank you! Our last question is– What legacy do you want to leave behind?
Hopefully, I’m living until my late nineties. And I hope that when I die, people will say “he tried to connect people and make us feel included and seen.” If I can do that for just one person–to help them realize that their life matters, to help them understand that they are perfectly designed and beautiful just the way they are, to give them everything so that they can look in the mirror and say “I am worth it”, then I would have fulfilled my dream.
So, reader, know that you are worth it. You matter. You belong. I am so happy that you are here right now, and that you are alive. Things may look dark, but the light will come up tomorrow.
If I can do that for just one person, then my legacy is fulfilled.