Migraine does not discriminate amongst leaders, presidents, artists, actors, elite athletes, singers, authors and others who have made significant achievements and contributions to our society, culture, and history. There are many influential, rich or famous people with migraine.
There are also many more outside this list who have migraine, but keep it hidden.
Can we blame them?
With migraine comes discrimination, stigma and social ostracism. Given the unpredictability of migraine and the often disabling nature of attacks, it requires an unusually brave person to speak out publicly about their migraine attacks.
Below is a list of the 50 most influential and well-known people reported to have migraine. Many should be applauded for their advocacy efforts.
- 1 50. Ian Thorpe
- 2 49. Kristin Chenoweth
- 3 48. Suzanne Shaw
- 4 47. Susan Olsen
- 5 46. Virginia Madsen
- 6 45. Tori Spelling
- 7 44. Marcia Cross
- 8 43. Scotty Pippen
- 9 42. Carly Simon
- 10 41. Jennifer Morrison
- 11 40. Paul Scholes
- 12 39. Princess Margaret
- 13 38.Michele Bachmann
- 14 37. Simon Cowell
- 15 36. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
- 16 35. Janet Jackson
- 17 34. Gwen Stefani
- 18 33. Percy Harvin
- 19 32. Georges Seurat
- 20 31. Lewis Carroll
- 21 30. Elle Macpherson
- 22 29. Lisa Kudrow
- 23 28. Terrell Davis
- 24 27. Loretta Lynn
- 25 26. Dwyane Wade
- 26 25. Miguel de Cervantes
- 27 24. Robert E Lee
- 28 23. James Cromwell
- 29 22. Cindy McCain
- 30 21. Fredrich Nietzche
- 31 20. Sharon Stone
- 32 19. Hugh Jackman
- 33 18. Gwyneth Paltrow
- 34 17. Ben Affleck
- 35 16. Whoopi Goldberg
- 36 15. Ulysses S. Grant
- 37 14. Virginia Woolf
- 38 13. Serena Williams
- 39 12. Elizabeth Taylor
- 40 11. Kanye West
- 41 10. Charles Darwin
- 42 9. Anne Frank
- 43 8. Vincent Van Gogh
- 44 7. Claude Monet
- 45 6. Julius Caesar
- 46 5. Sigmund Freud
- 47 4. John F Kennedy
- 48 3. Napoleon
- 49 2. Thomas Jefferson
- 50 1. Elvis Presley
- 51 Conclusion
50. Ian Thorpe
This 5 time Olympic gold medalist won the most medals of any Australian competitive swimmer. He has won eleven World Championship golds and wrote a recent autobiography titled ‘This Is Me’ where he revealed that he has migraine.
49. Kristin Chenoweth
An American actress and singer with notable appearances in musical theatre, film and TV.
Chenoweth had Botox to address her severe migraine attacks which occurred weekly.
She is also known to have Meniere’s disease which can cause tinnitus, hearing loss and balance issues according to Health Central.
48. Suzanne Shaw
Shaw is a British actress, singer and TV personality who rose to fame after winning the reality TV contest Popstars. She also won Dancing on Ice and is now an established West End and musical theatre performer as well as a model, actress and TV presenter.
She has openly talked about her migraine condition with the press where she mentioned that she uses Botox for her migraine condition.
47. Susan Olsen
The youngest of the original Brady Bunch on the popular TV series, Olsen has been an advocate for those with migraine since 1998.
Olsen was brave enough to do an interview with Larry King live on TV to discuss migraine and how they have affected her.
46. Virginia Madsen
An American actress and producer who is most well known for her role in Candyman but has featured in many other TV and film roles. She has been nominated for a Golden Globe and is an Academy Award nominee for Best Supporting Actress.
Madsen has publicly credited Botox as helping keep her migraine attacks at bay. She became a spokesperson for Botox in 2007.
45. Tori Spelling
Perhaps most famous for her role in 90210, Spelling is an actress, television personality, socialite and author.
Her autobiography Stori Telling was a New York Times Best Seller and was named the best celebrity autobiography of 2009.
Spelling has been hospitalized several times for her severe migraine attacks, which have been covered in the press.
44. Marcia Cross
Actress Marcia Cross was the steamy red temptress on Desperate Housewives. However off-camera reality was quite different.
Cross admits struggling with migraine saying “Having a migraine and trying to work was impossible for me.” She recalls becoming nauseous and her vision becoming affected.
Cross has been a spokeswoman for a migraine triptan medication.
43. Scotty Pippen
Pippen is remembered for his time with the Chicago Bulls where he teamed up with Michael Jordon to win six NBA titles. He is considered one of the best small forwards of all time and has been named as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.
Pippen talks about his migraine to the Chicago Tribune “I always had that fear” at a game that a migraine would strike. “At the time it was more than the disappointment. I was scared. A couple of days after the game, my head was still sore. It was like it wasn’t going away. I went and got a brain scan. I thought I was dying.”
Despite the occasional heckling from the crowd “Got a headache Scottie?” he was an amazing athlete and one of the greats of the game.
42. Carly Simon
Simon was a singer / songwriter who climbed the charts in the US with a string of hits in the 1970s including “You’re So Vain”. She was also a children’s author.
Simon is cited as having a sore neck during some of her migraine attacks. According to the Belfast Telegraph she learnt to reduce her attacks by cutting out various food triggers.
41. Jennifer Morrison
Morrison is an actress, producer, director and former child model. She has featured in a range of popular TV series and films such as Star Trek (2009) and How I Met Your Mother.
Morrison has opened up to the public about her migraine condition and the impact it has on her career and lifestyle.
40. Paul Scholes
Scholes is a retired English footballer who played his entire professional career for Manchester United. He is the most decorated English footballer of all time with 25 trophies including 11 Premier League titles and 2 Champions League Titles.
In his autobiography ‘My Story’ he admits to having migraine during his professional career.
39. Princess Margaret
Princess Margaret was the sister and only sibling of the current Queen Elizabeth II. She passed away in 2002. Throughout her life she was a controversial figure of the British royal family. Her divorce in 1978 caused negative publicity at the time. In the last two decades of her life her health deteriorated rapidly.
Migraines were just one of many illnesses she endured. She had been a heavy smoker for most of her adult life. Charing Cross Hospital has a Migraine Clinic in her name called the Princess Margaret Migraine Clinic which still treats migraine patients today.
Bachmann is an American politician who was in Congress from 2007 to 2015. She was also a candidate for the 2012 US presidential election. She is the first Republican woman to represent the state in Congress.
In 2011 Bachmann was slammed by several media outlets with damagingly discriminating and stigmatizing articles which attacked her migraine condition. Tucker Carlson, for example, authored an article with the headline: “Stress-related condition ‘incapacitates’ Bachmann; heavy pill use alleged.”
37. Simon Cowell
A British reality TV judge who has been involved with several popular competition shows such as American Idol, The X Factor, America’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent and Pop Idol. He is also a producer, entrepreneur, and philanthropist.
He was ranked in the top 100 of Time magazine’s most influential people in the world.
Cowell is noted for having a migraine attack which caused him to miss five hours worth of auditions from one of his TV shows.
36. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Abdul-Jabbar was a record six-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) and a record 19-time NBA All-Star. In 1996 he was named as one the greatest players in NBA history. His coach and several of his teammates have called him the greatest basketball player of all time. At the time of his retirement he was the NBA’s all-time top points scorer.
Abdul-Jabbar describes migraine in an interview “It’s like when you’re seasick and you get that feeling in your stomach… with a migraine that feeling is in your head.”
35. Janet Jackson
Jackson, the sister of Michael Jackson, is a well-known American singer and actress who was at times controversial.
In 2006, Jackson was forced to cancel a number of concerts due to vestibular migraine. This is a type of migraine where an individual can experience extreme vertigo, dizziness and loss of balance.
If you experience vertigo or loss of balance during your attacks, read more about vestibular migraine here >>
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34. Gwen Stefani
Stefani is a singer, songwriter, fashion designer, actress and TV personality who has had a number of successful singles such as Don’t Speak, Hollaback Girl and The Sweet Escape.
She’s won 3 Grammy Awards and several other accolades celebrating her achievements. Stefani has sold over 30 million albums worldwide.
Stefani has reportedly had acupuncture on a regular basis to help prevent migraine attacks during her pregnancy.
33. Percy Harvin
An American football wide receiver who won several BCS National Championships. He was named the Associated Press Rookie of the Year in 2009 and won the Super Bowl in 2013.
Harvin has had migraine since he was 10 years old. He collapsed on the field during a practice session in 2010 and later went to hospital that same day for testing. He was sidelined for several games before returning to the field after tests and a treatment plan was put in place.
32. Georges Seurat
This French post-Impressionist painter is believed to have migraine.
One of his most famous works is shown here: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
31. Lewis Carroll
The famous author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is well known for his abilities at word play, logic, and fantasy. He recorded the experience of his first migraine with aura attack in his personal diary.
Many people draw parallels with Alice’s experience where the size of things around her appear to change which has often been referred to as the ‘Alice in Wonderland Syndrome’. When the brain affects the way objects are perceived it is also known as micropsia and macropsia.
30. Elle Macpherson
Macpherson is an Australian model, businesswoman, TV host and actress.
Macpherson has appeared in a number of films and TV shows as well as producing and hosting reality series ‘Next Top Model’ for Britain and Ireland. She also has a range of clothing and skin care businesses.
According to Women’s Health Magazine UK, Macpherson recently came out about her own experience with migraine.
29. Lisa Kudrow
Kudrow gained the world’s attention in her ten season run as Phoebe in the TV series Friends for which she received many accolades. She has also produced and written several TV shows and featured in a number of films.
Kudrow’s father Dr Lee Kudrow suffered from cluster headache. Her dad was her migraine specialist. During her younger years her migraine condition remained problematic. Her attacks have reportedly entered into remission in recent years
28. Terrell Davis
The famous Denver Broncos running back was inducted into the NFL Football Hall of Fame in 2017. He was the Bronco’s all-time leading rusher with 7,607 yards.
Davis has had migraine since the age of seven. He normally took a preventative treatment before each match but during the SuperBowl XXXII he forgot. In the first quarter he was hit in the head by the knee of another player which triggered an attack. He left the field to get treatment (Migranal Nasal Spray) and returned to the game in the second half. He ended up MVP of the game after scoring three touchdowns to win the game.
27. Loretta Lynn
A famous country music singer / songwriter whose career spanned nearly 60 years. Lynn was a wife and mother of four children by the age of 18.
She writes about her migraine attacks while on stage in her book Coal Miner’s Daughter.
26. Dwyane Wade
Wade is a professional basketball player who has led his team and the United States Olympic team to victory. He has been named in the US All-Star team for 12 seasons and won back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.
Wade’s migraine condition has been publicised. He knows to limit exposure to bright lights and how to utilize neck massages and icing to help prevent or relieve attacks.
25. Miguel de Cervantes
Cervantes was a Spanish writer who is regarded as the greatest writer in the Spanish language and one of the world’s pre-eminent novelists. He is famous for what is considered to be the first modern novel.
His book Don Quixote is regarded as among the best works of fiction ever written. In it, his character complains of migraine. Cervantes himself is also believed to have had migraine.
24. Robert E Lee
The Confederate States Army General from 1862 until his surrender in 1865.
Interestingly his surrender was to Ulysses S Grant in the American Civil War, who also features in this list below.
23. James Cromwell
An actor who has performed in famous films including Star Trek: First Contact, LA Confidential, The Green Mile, Space Cowboys and many others. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in Babe (1995) and an Emmy for his role in American Horror Story: Asylum.
Cromwell is reported to experience migraine according to Migraine.org.
22. Cindy McCain
McCain is well-known as the wife of the 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain. She is also a businesswoman, philanthropist and humanitarian in her own right.
She has spoken out about migraine to the media and to the International Headache Congress about raising awareness for patients. McCain describes the pain of a migraine as “indescribable” to USA’s Today.
21. Fredrich Nietzche
A German philosopher, cultural critic, poet and scholar whose work has had a profound impact on Western philosophy and modern intellectual history.
Nietzche was plagued by various disruptive illnesses since childhood including migraine.
20. Sharon Stone
Stone is an actress, voice actress and film producer who became an international icon and sex symbol after her role in Basic Instinct. She later won a Golden Globe for her role in Casino and has been involved in a number of other popular film titles.
Stone was famously hospitalized with a migraine during the Milan fashion week in 2012.
19. Hugh Jackman
Jackman is an actor, singer, philanthropist and producer from Australia. He is well known for his role as Wolverine in the X-men franchise. He has won a Tony Award, an Emmy Award and hosted the Academy Awards in 2009.
Jackman told Britain’s FHM magazine he missed the opportunity to meet former British prime minister Tony Blair because he was vomiting from a migraine attack.
Interestingly Jackman is an avid practitioner of meditation which he says brings calm and happiness in what is otherwise a “pretty chaotic life”.
18. Gwyneth Paltrow
Paltrow is an actress, singer, businesswoman and food writer. She rose to fame after Shakespeare in Love, for which she won the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress. She is the owner of lifestyle company ‘Goop’ and the author of two cookbooks.
Paltrow received wide-spread criticism following the release of her second cookbook, which features sugar-free, gluten-free and dairy-free recipes. These were developed from an elimination diet she used to manage her migraine condition.
17. Ben Affleck
Affleck is an actor, screenwriter and director, who first rose to fame following his movie debut in Good Will Hunting. While directing the film Gone, Baby Gone in 2006, Affleck had a migraine attack so severe it sent him to the hospital.
Affleck later said “I just kept on going and going and hardly slept”.
16. Whoopi Goldberg
Goldberg is an award-winning actress who has been nominated 13 times for an Emmy. She is one of the few entertainers that has managed to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and a Tony Award. She was the second African-American woman in history to win the Oscar. She is most famous for her work in the films Ghost, Sister Act and as host of the talk show The View.
Goldberg has been diagnosed with dyslexia in addition to migraine.
Goldberg was also the executive producer of Strong Medicine, a series on Lifetime Television which included a storyline about an artist with migraine.
15. Ulysses S. Grant
The 18th President of the United States and the commanding general by the end of the American Civil War. Before his presidency he worked closely with Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory.
Despite criticism for his presidency, modern scholars regard him as someone who was tasked with a difficult job who performed with some merit and took strong action on civil rights for African-Americans.
In his memoirs, Grant refers to his “sick headache” which has later been recognized as migraine.
14. Virginia Woolf
An English writer whose works have been translated into over 50 languages.
She is considered to be one of the foremost modernists of the twentieth century and became a central subject of the feminist movement in the 1970s.
Woolf had poor health since childhood and would often go into migraine and depressive episodes. After several attempts she committed suicide at the age of 59.
13. Serena Williams
Williams is the world’s number one female tennis player and one of the greatest of all time. Serena learnt her migraine attacks were related to her menstrual cycle and she has been quoted saying “I’d never heard of [menstrual migraine] before.. All this time I thought it was a regular migraine.”
Hormonal migraine is often more severe and refractory to typical migraine treatments but can be managed as demonstrated by this incredible athlete. For more about hormonal migraine read ‘How to Manage Menstrual Migraine’ >>
12. Elizabeth Taylor
Once celebrated as the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’, Dame Elizabeth Taylor was a British-American actress, businesswoman, humanitarian and migraine patient.
She started her career as a child actress and her success continued throughout her adult life as did her migraine condition. In 1999 the American Film Institute named her the 7th greatest female screen legend.
11. Kanye West
West is an outspoken American rapper, singer-songwriter, record producer, fashion designer and businessman. He has been a source of controversy and attention with his views, behavior and widely publicised marriage to Kim Kardashian.
He is one of the best selling artists of all time with more than 32 million albums and 100 million digital downloads. He has won a record 21 Grammy Awards and has been named by Forbes as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world in 2005 and 2015.
During a visit to Australia, West was rushed to hospital with a severe migraine attack and had an emergency MRI. When the all-clear was given he was back on stage later that night… no doubt after some acute treatment from the emergency department.
10. Charles Darwin
Darwin lived from 1809-1882. He is famous for his theory of evolution, which established that all species are descended from common ancestors and introduced the concept of natural selection.
It has been documented during his adult life that Darwin suffered from a number of illnesses, including migraine, which led to his withdrawal from society and an apparent increase in productivity.
9. Anne Frank
Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank is one of the most famous Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
She became well known after her death from the publication of The Diary of a Young Girl. This documents her life in hiding from the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.
Headache specialists have since identified that Frank’s “headaches” which she describes in her diary, meet the criteria for migraine.
8. Vincent Van Gogh
A Dutch post-Impressionist painter who lived from 1853-1890. In just over a decade Van Gogh created over 2000 artworks, many of them in the final 2 years of his life.
Van Gogh committed suicide at age 37 after years of mental illness, poverty, and migraine.
He remains one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.
7. Claude Monet
Monet is one of the best-known and beloved artists of all time.
He founded the French impressionist painting movement and was dedicated to expressions of nature. The painting Water Lilies and the Japanese bridge was painted from 1897-99.
Many people believe some of his paintings reflect some of the visual distortions he experienced from his migraine attacks.
6. Julius Caesar
A politician who played a central role in the rise of the Roman Empire. Caesar lived from 100 BC to 44 BC. Modern scholars and headache specialists believe he likely suffered migraine based on the remarks of Plutarch in his biography.
5. Sigmund Freud
The founder of psychoanalysis suffered from recurrent episodes of severe headache which were migraine.
Freud went into medicine and practiced neurology before completing the work he became famous for with provocative theories about the psychology of dream interpretation and human sexuality.
4. John F Kennedy
JFK, as he is otherwise known, was the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy was president at the height of the Cold War where much of his work focused on managing relations with the Soviet Union.
On more than one occasion Kennedy is noted for commenting about his headaches. His inner circle source(s) also believed he had migraine according to Migraine Again.
Despite his migraine attacks, Napoleon Bonaparte dominated global affairs for more than a decade whilst leading France in the Napoleonic Wars and conquering much of continental Europe before its collapse in 1815.
2. Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and one of the founding fathers of the United States. Between 1801-1809 he was also the third President of the United States.
His migraine condition has been recounted in several historical sources. Jefferson was also thought to have ‘status migraine’ where his attacks lasted for weeks at a time.
1. Elvis Presley
Presley is considered to be one the most important cultural icons of the 20th century. He is often referred to as the King of Rock and Roll.
He is one of the most celebrated and influential musicians of all time. He made an estimated 600 million sales worldwide, won 3 Grammys and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame.
His death from a heart attack came after many years of prescription drug abuse. Dr. Michael John Coleman, Executive Director of MAGNUM, interviewed Presley’s physician where they revealed that Presley suffered from severe and recurring migraine attacks.
Presley is the one of the most famous, influential and perhaps misunderstood people with migraine on this list.
It is clear that migraine does not take exception to Royalty, Presidents, Philosophers, Emperors, Artists, Authors, Athletes, Musicians, Actors or Actresses. It can affect anyone.
Some of the most important contributors to our society are listed above. It’s important the public see the truth behind these individuals which is often left out of history books.
This list also demonstrates that even with a debilitating disease like migraine, it is possible to leave your mark on the world.
Is there anyone missing from this list? Do you think the rankings are reasonable? Let me know in the comments below.
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