Latinos hope 'soap' about diabetes hits home

Marisol Alamo always wanted to be an actress, but she never thought she would get the chance to star in a telenovela with a serious message that hits so close to home.

Now the dean of students at the Bruce-Guadalupe Community Middle School, she’s among a cast of 20 Latinos of various ages from the Milwaukee area who appear in “Dulce Temptación” (“Sweet Temptation”), a Spanish soap opera that’s designed to entertain and educate.

The telenovela, locally developed and produced, was conceived as part of a research study by the Medical College of Wisconsin in partnership with the United Community Center. It’s designed to make information about diabetes more accessible and understandable to the Latino community, which has a rate of diabetes that’s nearly double that of non-Hispanic white adults.

It’s taken two years to make the one-hour Spanish language video. A team of medical experts worked with the local community under a two-year, $200,000 grant from the Healthier Wisconsin Partnership Program to produce the show.

“Dulce” tells the story of the fictitious Morán family and what happens when the patriarch, Anselmo, becomes seriously ill due to complications of diabetes, which has been poorly managed and treated.

Meanwhile his daughter, played by Marisol Alamo, learns she’s pre-diabetic. The story details the family’s efforts to deal with diabetes through lifestyle changes, medical consultation and support from one another.

And like all telenovelas, there’s lots of family drama, secrets, twists, turns and tears tossed into the script.

“Family is very important in the Latino community, and we wanted to emphasize the general importance of culture while providing medically accurate information,” said Elaine Drew, as assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the Medical College.

The story is of a multigenerational family that’s Puerto Rican and Mexican living in one household and learning to address the issues of managing diabetes, preventing it and how families can come together to help one another, she said.

Research also was conducted on media use among Latinos.

“That showed that most Mexicans watch 2.5 hours of telenovelas a week, which is evidence that this entertainment format could become a powerful way to convey health messages in an entertaining way,” Drew said. “It’s called edu-tainment, and more and more public health efforts are trying to do that because it’s a format that’s interesting engaging and memorable.”

The UCC provides medical and healthy lifestyle information in a variety of ways, but this is a different and innovative way to try to reach Hispanic audiences, said Ricardo Diaz, executive director of the UCC.

“The novela is a concept all of us grew up with. It was in our living rooms and kitchens,” Diaz said. “What a better way to disseminate information and have it sink in better.”

Independent producer Sal Gomez was hired to direct and put together the telenovela. Gomez had a lot of volunteer help from friends, and many at the UCC wanted to participate, Diaz said.

Shooting had to be done on weekends because cast members work or go to school.

“A lot of scenes in the script came from real stories of community members and our actors who have family members who are diabetic or pre-diabetic” he said.

That’s true for Alamo, 42.

Born and raised in Milwaukee’s Hispanic community, she attended the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where she appeared in many plays. In college, she studied to become a teacher.

“I always wanted to be an actress, and I think I missed my calling,” she said with a laugh.

When she auditioned for the telenovela, all the family members had been cast except for the mother, she said. That’s the part she won.

“I play a Hispanic woman with a traditional lifestyle,” she said. “My parents live with me, my husband and three children. I’m a professional woman juggling family and work and so busy holding everything together that I neglect myself.”

The story hits close to home for Alamo because diabetes runs in her family. Her father is diabetic and her grandparents who lived with her family were diabetic, she said.

“I’m predisposed, so I learned a lot from the novela,” she said. “As Latinos, we don’t take diabetes seriously. Sometimes there’s the mentality that it’s never going to happen to us, or we don’t want to deprive ourselves by changing our eating habits.”

The televnovela premiered on Friday at the UCC. Now it will go into the testing phase, where it will be screened and selected individuals will be tested before and after the showing to determine the video’s effectiveness, Drew said.

Depending on what the results show, the telenovela might get a broader distribution, she said.

Salma Hayek's Diabetic Pregnancy Problems

Salma Hayek before her pregnancy and diabetes problems

Salma Hayek is one of Mexico’s finest movie exports and quickly became a sensation. Born in Veracruz in 1966 and raised by a wealthy family, her parents were shocked when she opted to drop out of university in Mexico to pursue an acting career.

Hayek exploded onto the international stage with her role in 1995’s ‘Desperado’, playing the love interest of the nameless protagonist portrayed by Antonio Banderas. Further success in movies such as ‘From Dusk Til Dawn’, ‘Fools Rush In’, ‘Dogma’ and ‘Bandidas’ with good friend Penelope Cruz followed and she established herself as one of Hollywood’s most sought after actresses.

Thos previously menti0oned popularist titles elevated her to household name status but perhaps Salma’s defining moment was her portrayal of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo in the move ‘Frida’. Her performance earned her an Academy Award nod and although she didn’t win the Oscar for best actress, the movie did go on to claim two awards.

Despite her many great accomplishments in the film industry Hayek‘sproudest moment was giving birth to daughter Valentina in September 2007, especially after complications developed during her pregnancy. When Salma was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, she admits she had no idea what it meant or what she should do about it.

Salma Hayek's weight gain during pregnancy was caused by diabetes

In an interview with U.S. Glamor magazine, Hayek said: “I had diabetes while I was pregnant.

I became huge.

And I said: ‘This is what it takes for me to have this baby, and I really want it.’”

She was aware of the risks involved for her unborn baby but she wanted to have her child so much that she took the chance.

You don’t know it it’s going to be healthy – you are completely out of control.”

Salma Hayek with her baby daughter

Fortunately her daughter was born healthy and Hayek felt the whole experience was incredibly humbling.

Her family has a history of diabetes and she was unlucky to develop the illness as well. Women are usually tested for gestational diabetes between 24 and 28 weeks into their pregnancy. Women who have a family of history of diabetes are usually tested earlier.

Thandie Newton almost wasted away with bulimia

Thandie Newton

Zambian-born Hollywood star Thandie Newton has always been open about her bulimia. The eating disorder affected her life at the tender age of 14 when she was training to be a ballerina. Her struggle lasted a year and left her scarred both physically and mentally.

I had terrible bulimia for about a year … I ate nothing but cottage cheese. I’ve still got the scars on my knuckles from where I put my fingers down my throat.”

After that year she put it to rest and lived a moderately normal life but it reared its ugly head in her early 20s.

I’d been involved with this guy for a long time, he was much older than me and I felt a lot of shame about my sexual relationship with him.”

I would have these dinners with him and then go back to the flat and I’d throw up. Then I went out with someone who was emotionally abusive, criticizing me the whole time.”

Thandie Newton looking very thin

Thandie Newton looking very thin

After two abusive relationships she realized it was time to seek help; that living with an eating disorder would only lead her to more misery.

While working on a film shoot in Los Angeles she enlisted the help of a therapist.

I saw a therapist for the first time,” she said. “After that first session, I never threw up again. I had made the connection between shame and self abuse.”

This ‘Mission: Impossible II’ actress successfully recovered from bulimia through the initial therapy and then with support and determination. After working herself into super slim looks she fell into a healthy relationship and has developed a love of children.

I keep getting pregnant. So one day I’m slim and the next I have a bump. In the last two years my body has changed so much. I think the Hollywood size is a bad thing. I don’t stick to any diets. I eat when I’m hungry. Thankfully I have my mother’s frame and I’ve always been slim.”

Today, leading a wonderful and healthy life, Thandie is working hard on her films and motherhood and when asked about her self-perception she cheerfully replies: “I see a happy, defiant, loving friend.”


Susan Dey's family support helped her through anorexia

Susan Dey overcame anorexia

Susan Dey’s attractive, fresh-faced charm landed her a role in the hit television series ‘The Partridge Family’. With no prior acting experience she took on the role of Laurie, the eldest daughter of the fictional family but with little in the way of guidance at the time she began to develop her eating disorder.

At the height of her illness she weighed a mere 92 pounds and stopped menstruating. Her skin colour became orange because she was reportedly eating nothing but carrots.

Anorexia researchers say that this is a common trend observed in people suffering from eating disorders: they eat exclusively one type of food.

Mono-meals are actually quite a natural thing which harkens back to our foraging days when we would hang around in one place and consume whatever we found – that usually being one thing.

Susan reportedly realized she had a problem during a cast party at the beach when Danny Bonaduce saw her in a bikini and commented, “What’s wrong with you?! Your skin is orange! You look disgusting.”

Susan Dey in the Partridge Family

Susan Dey in the Partridge Family

20 years later, Susan gave an exclusive interview in which she admitted she was still not over her eating disorder.

I’m not in the clear yet – I’m still trying to overcome my anorexia, It’s something that has been plaguing my life.”

Beating a severe eating disorder is something you can not do alone,” she added.

Eventually she did overcome anorexia and now works as a member of the board at UCLA’s ‘Rape Treatment Center’ where she is giving something back to other women suffering personal traumas.

Her TV career earned her critical acclaim and after her four-year stint with ‘The Partridge Family’ she moved onto ‘LA Law’ where she played Grace van Owen, a role that won her a Golden Globe, three statues at the Emmy’s and many other nominations.

Sally Field became bulimic after joining the Hollywood crew

Sally Field is all smiles after overcoming bulimia

During the early years of her career critically acclaimed actress Sally Field was struggling to live with bulimia. She realises that the illness began in her early 20s and it continued to dog her for a further three years.

The pressure of being around so many slimmer actresses weighted heavy on her mind and that sowed the seeds of her disorder

Everybody then was Twiggy, except me.”

A young Sally Field before her brush with eating disorders

A young Sally Field before her brush with eating disorders

The actress who featured in popular TV show the ‘Flying Nun’ and in the ”Smokey and the Bandit’ films where she starred alongside Burt Reynolds used to binge on balloons and candy during the filming of the popular 1960s show.

She became concerned when she drastically lost weight and the eating disorder converted her healthy body into a fragile one.

I was losing so much bone density that I would have been in grave danger. And I mean grave danger. If I had let it go just a few more years I could have broken my hip or spine just picking up my granddaughter.”

Sally’s battled with bulimia and anorexia didn’t leave her body unharmed and in a candid interview with People magazine she told them: “I would lose 10 or 15 pounds in a week, eating nothing but cucumbers and working all day. My hands would shake all the time, and sometimes I’d pass out. But then I would go on these enormous binges. I lived alone and was very lonely.”

She eventually returned to a normal lifestyle and with it came the realisation that that no-one can judge your body and that to be swayed by the opinion of others is complete counterproductive to a healthy state of mind.

It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.”

Though Sally, 63, now suffers from osteoporosis, she is on a normal and healthy diet so as to live a happy and fulfilling life.

Kate Beckinsale was anorexic from age 15

Kate Beckinsale

The life of famous actress Kate Beckinsale has been a rough ride in some aspects. Before she stepped into the acting profession she was battling anorexia from the age of 15. Speaking openly to the media about her severe anorexia the ‘Underworld’ actress said: “I believe anorexia, alcoholism and drug abuse in teens are more about what is happening in the home than a problem with images in the media. It is the nice girl’s way of becoming a crack whore.”

That statement sent waves of anger crashing back at her as many parents of anorexic teens threw the ‘role model’ card at her, stating that someone in her position should be more responsible and thoughtful.

The star of ‘Serendipity’ dropped down to a mere 70 pounds and underwent various forms of therapy to overcome the destructive disorder.

Explaining the ill effects of living with anorexia she said: “I got to the stage where I think I was about to die. I had no energy and my main goal was to be able to stand up. Finally I realized I had to choose between being a person or a professional anorexic.”

Blaming her family life as being the reason for her eating disorder, Kate emphasized the point that a disturbed family life is a major reason for anyone to fall victim to anorexia; a common reason shared by many anorexics – that personal environmental issues cause many disorders.

Kate Beckinsale lingerie

How come so many women with body hang-ups like Kate Beckinsale pose for these types of picture?

I always felt that anorexia was the form of breakdown most readily available to adolescent girls but I am a lot more body confident now I’m in my thirties, and in better shape too. If someone turns up with cupcakes mid-afternoon, I’ll have one. And I’d hate to be one of those people who won’t allow themselves a slice of birthday cake.”

But talking about her life as an anorexic she said: “I (wish) I had had a sensible magazine article to have read at the time from someone who was actually intelligent. I never really talked about that, actually. (But) when I was around 22 or 23, I decided I’d mention it because I decided I was one of the few people I knew who had that problem who didn’t remain a freak about it.”

Although her family were at the heart of her problems, their support was pivotal in her recovery. They stood by her through five years of therapy and truly helped her come to terms with it.

Expressing her hatred at being called anorexic, she said: “People keep asking me about it but I don’t want to be famous for being a former anorexic.”

Jessica Alba's long fight against eating disorders

Jessica Alba looking not-so-skinny in her swim wear

In the sinfully “perfect” world of television and cinema, many actresses suffer from eating disorders and Jessica Alba will be among the first to put up her hand and admit she privately battled against anorexia.

Like so many before her she was made painfully aware of her body shape by exposure to the media and the comments from the public conflicted heavily with her usual lifestyle. She began cooking for herself at a young age because she didn’t want to be like the rest of her family and had a happy relationship with her food, safe in the knowledge that she wouldn’t become overweight.

Everyone in my family is heavily overweight and I wanted to be healthier, so I started cooking for myself when I was 12.“

But the obsession with her body continued to spiral, particularly when she preparing for ‘Dark Angel’, which rocketed her to fame and in which she looked the healthiest since her career exploded. The ‘Fantastic Four’ actress was so obsessed with looking good for the role that she was working out for 3 hours every day and seriously cutting back on her eating.

Jessica Alba as 'Max' in ark Angel

Her weight dropped to 100 pounds and at that point she had her moment of realisation and acknowledged that she had a problem.

In an interview with Glamour Magazine in 2005, Jessica said: “A lot of girls have eating disorders, and I did too. I got obsessed with it. When I went from a girl’s body to a woman’s body with natural fat in places, I freaked out. It makes you feel weird, like you’re not ready for that body”.

She has since made name for herself as one of the sexiest actresses in Hollywood and has become a lust magnet for hopeful but woefully misguided men. But for someone with such hang-ups about their body she has been quick to take roles that require her to undress (to a certain degree), or at least play the object of desire as evidenced in Sin City; her opening scene as a slinky pole dancer magnetizing the gaze of drunken and randy men. Her other films include ‘Into The Blue’ and ‘Honey’.

Now the mother of Honor Marie, Jessica married producer Cash Warren in 2007 and is still working on ‘Sin City 2’.

Elisa Donovan recovered from anorexia

Elisa Donovan post-anorexia

Elisa Donovan is an actress who shot to fame playing the role of the bitchy ‘Amber’ opposite Alicia Silverstone in ‘Clueless’. Her career continued to roll on successfully when she was handed the role of Morgan Cavanaugh in the hit TV show ‘Sabrina, The Teenage Witch’.

But Elisa had her difficulties off camera and harboured a painful secret. She described herself as a “hard core anorexic” between the years 1993 and 1995 and became obsessed with cutting out certain food types.

At first, I’d eat no fat. Then, I’d just eat breakfast–cereal and toast–and not eat again until night.”

Elisa Donovan

Elisa Donovan looking better after her battle with anorexia

She continued to lose weight over the years and became neurotic about the idea of putting on weight. At the height of her illness the 5ft 6in actress weighed only 90lbs and was working full time. Eventually her weight dropped so much she suffered from a mild heart attack. If she ever needed a wakeup call for that was it. She set about fixing her state of mind first so that she could come to love and accept herself.

Donovan now travels the country and talks about her struggles in the hope that it will help others. She has also written a story for ‘Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul’, documenting her dark times. Now that her battle with anorexia is over, Elisa is healthy and back working in television and she has been involved in several TV series and movies since her battle with anorexia.

Denise Borino-Quinn died of cancer aged 46

Denise Borino-Quinn in The Sopranos

Denise Borino-Quinn was famous for her role as the wife of a mob boss in the extremely popular award-winning HBO series, The Sopranos, died of cancer in 2010 at the young age of 46.

She passed away after a long term battle with liver cancer at Morristown Memorial Hospital, New Jersey. A mass funeral was provided for her at Farmer Funeral Home.

The Sopranos ran from 1999 to 2007 and revolved around the life ans times of mobster Tony Soprano and his mafia style wrangling. It had a hugely diverse range of characters and some were most certainly more colourful than others.

The gritty and realistic show put a different spin on the tired old mafia theme, delving deeper into the mind of the main character and the difficulties he faced in maintaining his family and work amidst illicit dealings and lusty affairs.

Denise Borino-Quinn

Denise Borino-Quinn died of cancer in 2010

Borino-Quinn landed the part in 2000 after a successful open casting call interview. Her role in the show was as Ginny Sacramoni, wife of Johnny Sacramoni. Ginny was described as ”Rubenesque” in an HBO character bio; of a classic, natural womanly shape., one of the leading internet movie databases, states that Borino-Quinn was working as a legal secretary and part-time manicurist in Roseland, New Jersey, when she went for the role in The Sopranos. She landed the part after fighting off fierce competition from around 14,000 other applicants.

Her husband, Luke Quinn, died in March 2010, her passing coming seven months later. The couple married in 2005.

Jane Fonda believes she was blessed to survive breast cancer

Jane Fonda the fitness queen

Actress and fitness guru Jane Fonda recovered from an operation to remove a cancerous growth from her breast and a few years on is back in good spirits, working on more lifestyle books and DVDs aimed at inspiring others to keep fit and healthy.

At the time she said that she was lucky that her cancer scare wasn’t more serious and she was quick to praise her doctors who managed to spot the problem early. Of course all cancer should be taken seriously but some cases are more treatable than others.

She is probably best remembered for her role as Barbarella in the eponymous film and the following glut of health and fitness videos she produced in the following decades.

Jane Fonda as Barbarella

Jane Fonda as Barbarella. Thank you god.

She underwent surgery in 2010 to have a lump removed from her breast after her physician discovered a small “non-invasive” tumour during a general health check. He was quick to spot the danger and put her in for surgery almost immediately.

Still looking great at an incredible 74 years of age, the Oscar winning Fonda is now enjoying a clean bill of health after her doctors assured her she is completely free of cancer, news which she still feels is a blessing thanks to the early diagnosis.

At the time of her all-clear she posted a message on her official website which read: “As the press has reported… I had a scare with a non-invasive breast cancer but it is ALL OUT NOW! I am so lucky. We got it early and it was, as I said, non-invasive. I want to thank my friends and fans who have written beautiful letters. It has meant a lot to me.”

From the operating theatre to the ground mat, Jane is now promoting her latest fitness DVD, proof if any was needed that she’s back to full health and ready once again to inspire others in their fight against their own health issues.