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'Dancing With the Stars' Season 28 Cast List Includes 6 Celebs With Mental Illnesses and Disabilities


On Wednesday, “Dancing With the Stars” revealed the cast for the reality TV dance competition show’s 28th season. Among the celebrities tapped to compete this year who come from the worlds of music, sports, film, TV and even politics, six have been open about living with a mental health condition or disability.

According to “Good Morning America,” we won’t know which professional dancer the next slate of competitors will be partnered with until the premiere of the show. In the meantime, study up on these six celebrities who are raising awareness for those living with health conditions.

1. Karamo Brown

You’ll know (and love) Karamo Brown from “Queer Eye” and his spot-on life and culture advice on the reality TV show. In addition to his advocacy work for the HIV/AIDS community, Brown shared he struggled with his mental health in the past, including addiction and suicidal thoughts. He captured his experience in a 2019 memoir, “Karamo: My Story of Embracing Purpose, Healing and Hope.”

“During that dark time, I felt like my life was over,” Brown wrote in his memoir. “There was no point in existing. But I was given a second chance to accept support and to ask for help, and today I am living my dreams and am surrounded by love. Each day is a new day for me to continue to focus on my mental health.”

2. Hannah Brown

Before she was featured on “The Bachelorette,” Hannah Brown used her platform as Miss Alabama to raise awareness about mental health issues. When she was younger, Brown said she struggled with anxiety and depression and now she wants to use her platform to normalize talking about mental health and experiencing a range of emotions.

“Everybody has moments of sadness and anxiety — and you’ll see me deal with sadness and anxiety — and also being excited and happy and over the moon,” Brown told The Hollywood Reporter. “I have all emotions and I’m not afraid to show those.”

3. James Van Der Beek

If you were around in the late ’90s, it was hard to escape the teen drama “Dawson’s Creek” and main heartthrob James Van Der Beek. During Mental Health Awareness Month in 2018, the actor partnered with the Child Mind Institute for its #MyYoungerSelf campaign, where he revealed he has dyslexia.

“All of that work that you’re going to have to do, all that mental gymnastics that you’re going to have to do to make the connections that other people seem to make effortlessly, that’s going to wake up other parts of your brain,” Van Der Beek said. “There’s a reason why a lot of other really creative people are dyslexic.”

4. Lamar Odom

Lamar Odom is best known as a basketball star for the Los Angeles Lakers, but he also nearly died from complications related to addiction. In a 2018 interview with comedian Kevin Hart, Odom said he always experienced a lot of anxiety. He also told Hart after a very serious health scare — 12 strokes and six heart attacks while in a coma — following a 2015 overdose, he’s prioritized sobriety, even when it’s a challenge.

“I have an addiction. I’ll always have an addiction. It never goes away,” Odom said. “Every day, I’m alive. It’s a good day to be alive, considering the alternative.” 

5. Lauren Alaina

Country songstress Lauren Alaina first earned the spotlight as the runner-up on the 10th season of “American Idol” after Scotty McCreery won. She’s now a mainstay in the country music world, but she shared with SELF in 2017 she lived with the eating disorder bulimia for six years before working hard in treatment to recover.

“I know there’s so many people out there who are also going through that, and it’s the most miserable and lonely and scary thing ever,” Alaina told SELF. “You feel trapped and you don’t know how to get out. But you can get out.”

6. Kel Mitchell

Kel Mitchell got millions laughing thanks to his turn on the sketch comedy TV show “All That” followed by “Kenan & Kel.” When the show went off the air, however, Mitchell said he struggled to adjust and used drugs and alcohol to cope with the stress. He experienced suicidal thoughts but got through it in part thanks to his faith.

“I felt like I’d hit a wall,” Mitchell told People. “I don’t let things frustrate or worry me anymore. I don’t do that because I have peace in my heart.”

The new season of “Dancing With the Stars” kicks off Sept. 16 on ABC.

Header image via Walt Disney Television/Lou Rocco