Toni Braxton Says Fellow Lupus Sufferer Selena Gomez Is 'One of the Bravest Girls I Know'
Toni Braxton will never let adversity get the best of her.
The singer-actress, 50, is portraying real-life hero Antoinette Tuff — a Georgia school employee who prevented a mass shooting in 2013 by talking to the gunman and encouraging him to calm down — in Lifetime’s new film Faith Under Fire: The Antoinette Tuff Story premiering Jan. 27 at 8pm ET.
The Grammy-award winning singer sat down with PEOPLE Now to reveal she’s also in the midst of overcoming her real-life obstacles, including her ongoing battle with lupus.
“I feel so blessed because the doctors told me I would never be able to perform, I would never be able to travel or anything, but, you know, whole different plan for me,” she says. “[The illness] is also stress induced, and my lupus loves my heart — meaning it affects my heart badly — and so I have heart disease along with it and I get blood clots. I have to be very, very careful, but I’m learning my body and I know how to pace it and how to make it relax.”
She adds: “Releasing stress and anything in life helps.”
Braxton first went public about her struggle with the auto-immune disease in 2010 during an interview with CBS News, after being diagnosed in 2008 when she suddenly collapsed while performing in Las Vegas. The “Un-Break My Heart” singer was also hospitalized in 2012 following a setback. In Braxton’s 2014 memoir Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir, she wrote at length about her lupus diagnosis, revealing her uncle had died from the disease.
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“People look at you and go, ‘Can they work?'” she says, whispering with her hand over her mouth. “That’s the hardest part, and Selena Gomez [is] a warrior.”
“I’m so proud of her,” she continues. “She’s one of the bravest girls I know, and she put it out there and said ‘I’m not gonna let you judge me and I’m not gonna be a victim and I’m a survivor.’ Just telling her story [makes her] a pioneer.”
In September 2017, Gomez, 25, announced on Instagram that she underwent a kidney transplant due to her battle with lupus — with a kidney donated by her best friend, Francia Raisa. Just months after that, the “Wolves” singer was back on stage performing at the AMAs.
“She sings!” she says. “That’s the hardest thing!”
Braxton continues about how Gomez is an everyday inspiration to her: “It’s energy to sing! I don’t know how she does it because some days, if I’m having a bad day and I still have to do a show it’s a lot of, ‘You sing’ to the audience.”