Damon Dash talks managing Type 1 diabetes during COVID and why he’s ‘100%’ taking a vaccine

Exclusive: Damon Dash told theGrio how he is maintaining his health and understands why some in the Black community may be reluctant to take a vaccine

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The year he turned 15 was probably the hardest year of Damon Dash’s life. He was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. It was also the year his mother died from an asthma attack. He remembers it well. 

“I started to lose weight. I lost my appetite, I started urinating a lot. I lost a lot of weight, I started feeling terrible,” he recalls in an exclusive interview with theGrio. “I thought I had HIV. This was back when Magic had first announced that he had it. I just got sexually active. I really thought I was going to die for a good month or so.”

He says that he finally went to a doctor, “They told me I had diabetes, and that all I had to do was give myself a shot and I could be better. I celebrated and I’ve been celebrating ever since.” 

Damon Dash thegrio.com
(Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

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He explains that he thought he had been given a gift from a higher power. “God was like, I’m gonna give you a second chance and just make it something you could deal with. I counted (it) more positive in my perspective than negative. Everything that I’ve done great I’ve done while I was diabetic.” 

The Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder is reliant on medication to stay safe and healthy. He also is vigilant about his diet. He does not eat meat and was largely vegan until his fiancé, Raquel Horn, was pregnant with their new son who needed to eat eggs and cheese to keep Baby Dusko safe. 

Horn has since gone back to a vegan diet, but Dame is a little behind her. 

His relationship with Horn has redefined his older years. Dame will be 50 years old in May, and he just became a father again for the fifth time. The couple had a long journey with fertilization treatments and experienced a pregnancy loss last year. 

Just before the pandemic, the couple tried IVF again and it was successful. They spent the entire quarantine expecting a child.

“We had a real structured plan after we lost the baby,” he says. “Go to Hawaii, make ourselves happy, rejuvenate. Rocky wanted to get back in shape. And in three months, right before COVID hit. The week before we were able to do the transfer.” 

National Film And Television Awards Ceremony
Raquel Horn and Damon Dash attend the National Film and Television Awards Ceremony at Globe Theatre on December 05, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

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“I can only imagine if we had to sit through the quarantine, miserable and worried about what had just happened and the fact that there’s nothing we could do to fix it.”

Instead, their successful in-vitro fertilization allow the couple to focus on their health and insulating their family against COVID-19. 

“We actually live in a bubble anyway,” Dash says. “Our backyard is important. (The pandemic) gave us a perfect excuse not to have anybody in the house. Not to have to go outside… to just be selfish.” 

Dash says that he and Horn spent a lot of time going for walks, cooking, and exercising. “We had the hot tub, the swimming, we were able to just be around people that we felt were healthy.”

He says that anyone who comes in town must have a negative COVID test before entering their home, and that they keep a really small team of people around them. 

Insulating himself is one way that Dash keeps himself and his family healthy. He also says that he is 100% planning to take the coronavirus vaccine. 

“You know, I don’t trust anything, but I will take that vaccine,” Dash says. “I don’t want to be like, in the hospital saying, I should have took that vaccine. And a lot of people depend on me.” 

As the hip-hop and film mogul nears his 50th birthday next year, he says that he understands the reluctance of the Black community to take the vaccine. 

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2007 CineVegas Film Festival - Day 10
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images for CineVegas)

“I’m quite sure a lot of sh*t doesn’t really work for us as Black people culturally, or just as human beings that are meant to be controlled by another social class. But, I’m a guy that takes insulin that’s manufactured. And by default, I’m actually dependent on things that I can’t control.” 

Dash takes OneDrop, Dexcom, and Afrezza to maintain his health. He often chronicles his health journey on the Dash Diabetes Network on YouTube.

“I take a long-lasting one, like 30 units of that a day, once a day. And then also, if my sugar is high, I use Afrezza because this keeps it low, it’s an inhalable insulin.”

He also steams regularly to sweat toxins out of his body. He also works out daily. 

“I’m not saying that that’s for everybody. But because I don’t have a choice I can’t be like, oh, I’m gonna just take insulin, cause I need it, even though it’s made by doctors. But I’m not gonna take a vaccine because I might not need it. I’m committed. I have no choice.”

While the coronavirus pandemic has shut down a lot of work in Hollywood, Dash has still been working. 

He shot a film on Kanye West’s ranch in Wyoming called The Stone. He also shot a short film with his daughter, Ava Dash—a model, and a documentary. He is also planning to launch a documentary and a series of comedy specials. 

But, Dash has been having the most fun and getting the most enjoyment out of his new work in the philanthropic space. 

He connected with a new organization called Off School Grounds which launched this year as a virtual platform that fosters the development of innovative leadership practices that allow school leaders to exchange ideas and advance educational opportunities for students of color.

Dash regularly participates in weekly discussions cover a wide array of education and leadership domains that include visionary and strategic leadership, effective professional and ethical practices, remote leading and learning as well as other essential leadership practices that are crucial for increased student achievement.

“You know,” Dash explains, “(when) you see there’s a demand, you don’t complain about it. I’m not sitting there waiting for another culture to help me. I’m not waiting for an oppressor to unoppress me. I’m going to do what I have to do.” 

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