As many have noticed and proclaimed, Angela Bassett is the picture of health. The 62-year-old’s ability to look and feel her best is tied to her clean diet. Her dietary regimen of choice is tied to the impact diabetes has had on the star’s family.
Her mother passed away in 2014 from heart disease connected to her Type 2 diabetes diagnosis. Bassett’s uncle also has the disease, and at nearly 80 years old, he’s been making the changes in both diet and activity to manage it. For him, in her mother’s memory, and for the Black community at large, which is 11.7 percent of the population with diabetes, Bassett raises awareness. This year, she’s taking her efforts to the stage.
The star joined forces with Know Diabetes by Heart, a joint initiative with the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association with whom she’s an ambassador, for a night of performances at the historic Apollo Theater in Harlem. She will be doing a monologue about her family’s experience with the disease, and there will be a number of other artists taking the stage to dance, sing, play music and to also share monologues in the name of a good cause. The event, Know Diabetes by Heart at the Theater, is a virtual event taking place on May 25 on diabetestheater.org.
“It meshes two things that I’m passionate about, artistic expression and education,” Bassett tells ESSENCE. And educating people about the best ways to eat is something she does well, and compassionately, whether with her family or the public.
“There’s so many options out there, but food can be good. As they say, let it be your medicine. It can be either very helpful or it can be harmful, but it’s something you can’t get away from,” she says. “So it’s just a good idea to educate yourself about what works: good fats, leafy greens, clean protein sources and on and on and on. There’s so much information out there if you want to eat right.”
And she keeps that in mind when feeding her own family, husband Courtney B. Vance and their twins Bronwyn and Slater. While the 15 year olds, namely Slater, have a love for the things of teenage diets, including pizza and sweets, at home, they keep it clean and eat those things in moderation. In order to know what they’re truly consuming in regards to ingredients (to reduce salt intake), and to make sure it’s made “with a bit of love in it,” Bassett says she and Vance do the cooking in their home.
“I don’t have a chef,” she says. “And with all these different food services that deliver straight to your door, Courtney is very good at reading those cards and putting food on the table. So yes, the next thing is to get the kids involved, get them cooking. But no, I enjoy cooking and feeding, setting the table and serving.”
She is hopeful that other people will join her in being mindful of what and how they eat, if not for their own benefit, but that of their loved ones. The changes don’t have to be drastic in order to make a difference.
“Have an open mind, if not for you, consider your health for those who love you and want to have you around for a good, good long time,” she says. “Take baby actionable steps. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself with doing all things right all the time. But if you can, let’s say, start with trying to eat clean 50 percent of the time. There’s always room for improvement. There’s always room for that which you like, but we want to have you around for a long time.”
Bassett, herself, hopes to be around for many years to come, continuing to age gracefully and in a way that keeps on stunning fans who say she’s an ageless beauty. While that label comes with some pressure, she gladly accepts it, hoping to join a long line of youthful women in Hollywood and in her family.
“I’m flattered and true, it does come with pressure [laughs]. You’ve got to keep it up, I guess,” she says. “It’s flattering. But yeah, health is the biggest blessing. So I want to be around a long time, as long as Cicely Tyson and more so, as long as my great-aunt Inez who’s 95 and still lives alone and drives herself and has her garden, and dances and does her exercise every morning. So that is what I’m hoping and wishing for. But yeah, it’s flattering. Good genes, darling.”