Leslie Hunt talks Lyrics, Life, and Lupus with ButYouDontLookSick.com


May is Lupus Awareness Month! How Will You Spread Awareness?

Leslie Hunt talks Lyrics, Life, and Lupus with ButYouDontLookSick.com

Leslie Hunt has been performing as a musician since childhood. By the age of thirteen, Leslie had starred in productions of “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Music Man” and performed on stage with Kenny Rogers. You may remember Leslie from American Idol Season 6 (2007), but you may not know that at the age of seven, Leslie was diagnosed with Lupus SLE .

Christine Miserandino, a fellow Lupus patient, member of the Lupus Alliance of America Board of Directors, and founder of ButYouDontLookSick.com, was eager to interview Leslie and learn more about this bright young woman who lives life to the fullest and refuses to let Lupus stop her from achieving her goals.

What began as an interview soon felt like a discussion between two old friends.

“Find a skill that you can trade”
– “Let Them Go”, Leslie Hunt

Leslie knew at a young age that music was her calling. She credits her parents for her musical upbringing. Her father is a drummer, and to this day plays with his band in various clubs around Chicago .

“My parents are both creative. We didn’t have conventional toys growing up, but there was always music. I remember banging on pots and pans in the kitchen and shaking Tupperware filled with beans to the beat.”

By the age of four, Leslie graduated from pots and pans to the piano, which is quite an accomplishment at any age – never mind that her peers likely had yet to master things like “staying in the lines” with their crayons.

When Leslie was first diagnosed with Lupus, she was told by doctors to spend more time indoors to avoid the sun. As with many Lupus patients, one of Leslie’s symptoms is photosensitivity.

“I learned to use music – writing lyrics and playing the piano – as an outlet. When I’m not feeling well, I can write in my home studio, reach out to fans through MySpace, or answer email – all without leaving home.”

“Come one, come all and pinch your side to see if
maybe you’re dreaming ’cause I have to do it all the time”
– “American Dream Man”, Leslie Hunt

In 2007, Leslie Hunt decided to audition for Season 6 of American Idol. Her audition set her apart from over one hundred thousand applicants, and ultimately thrust her into the national spotlight as she fought her way to the top twenty finalists.

Lupus is an “invisible disease”, and Leslie had several opportunities to either ignore her condition, or bring it to the attention of a national audience. In the interest of fair competition, Leslie says that she filled out all of the medical questionnaires appropriately, but preferred not to discuss her struggles with Lupus with other contestants.

“As a contestant, you have to fill out a stack of papers about two inches thick. I was upfront about having Lupus, but it never came up in the show. I didn’t want anyone thinking they had an advantage – there’s a fine line between what you tell and what you don’t.”

Leslie also made sure to manage her Lupus as best she could during the competition, and did so well enough to mask any symptoms from the television cameras.

“I rehearsed a lot and got rest whenever I could. I had a good time and met lots of people, but I didn’t go overboard with social activities at night. I didn’t use my time drinking or dancing, I rested when I needed to. I was worried about my skin during camera close-ups, but that turned out okay. It was nice to have help from a professional stylist before the show.”

Unfortunately, the competition ended too soon for Leslie, but she has no harsh words for the popular television series, and believes the experience taught her valuable lessons.

“One thing that I learned is that I’d rather be the ‘nice girl who got voted off early’ than be remembered as someone who was difficult to work with. In this business, and in life in general – reputations follow you.”

“’Your scalded heart really needed someone’
and only I can save it this time”
– “Your Hair Is On Fire”, Leslie Hunt

In June of 2008, Leslie Hunt’s dreams of musical stardom and success faced a far more serious obstacle when she and her family were confronted with the tragic and unexpected death of her sister. The news was delivered to Leslie on the eve of her wedding day.

After canceling the ceremony and grieving with her family, Leslie made the decision to continue her music career once again, despite the emotional and physical pain, no doubt exacerbated by Lupus.

“It really took a toll on me emotionally and physically. The stress brings out Lupus, which creates more stress.”

“We’re talking brains over braun”
– “American Dream Man”, Leslie Hunt

Leslie prefers a holistic approach to managing her Lupus. She believes that the physical and mental aspects of life are closely interconnected and each is equally important when addressing treatment.

Leslie’s primary medication for managing her symptoms associated with Lupus SLE is Plaquenil, a disease-modifying antirheumatic drug, which is known to reduce skin problems in Lupus patients and prevent swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

In addition to her daily medication, Leslie believes her health benefits from a vegan lifestyle, one that excludes the use of animals for food and other purposes. She also juices regularly, using fresh fruits and vegetables as a staple of her diet.

“I think diet is extremely important. I really recommend juicing – I’m also looking into trying a glutten free diet, which I’ve heard good things about.”

Leslie also excercises when she can, usually in the form of taking a walk with her dog. Leslie has been a professional dog walker, and has also studied to be a professional dog trainer. Her dog also helps her holistic approach on an emotional level.

“Pets are wonderful! If you aren’t feeling well – they know. My dog has more innate human emotion than some people do!”

“We’ve shown you something you would’ve
seen yourself when you looked in the well…”
– “Your Hair Is On Fire”, Leslie Hunt

Leslie has used her life experiences, and her observations of those around her, to create her most interesting musical work yet.

“I’ve always written in a journal – ever since I was young. I save every one. In fact, I actually rent a storage unit just so I have a place to keep all my old journals!”

Now, after undoubtedly tapping into those journals for material, she is currently preparing to release her new album “See Jane Dance,” a follow up to her 2007 debut “From The Strange To The Stranger.” The songs available on Leslie’s myspace page (www.myspace.com/lesliehunt) are catchy and full of brilliant lyrics that show a wide range of feelings and emotions – from sarcastic wit to introspective personal reflection.The album will be released independently, which is something that Leslie is proud of.

“One of the nice things about working without a label – I can make my own schedule, and work at my pace. In fact, with so much business being done over the phone or through the internet, I can do interviews like this in my pajamas – and you’d never even know!”

Leslie Hunt is a hard working, driven woman who has continued her music career despite an early end to her run on American Idol, suffering through the loss of a loved one, and of course living each day with a chronic disease for which there is currently no cure. She has shown tremendous resolve and commitment, and will no doubt find her way back into the national spotlight.

When she does, we’ll be ready for an “Exclusive Pajama Interview.”

For more information on Leslie Hunt and her upcoming album “See Jane Dance” (available Spring 2009), visit her on Myspace at http:///www.myspace.com/lesliehunt.

Interview conducted by:
Christine Miserandino (c) ButYouDontLookSick.com

Lesle Hunt – “See Jane Dance”
(available Spring 2009)
  • Lilytiger

    A very inspirational article …our disabiltiy doesn’t defies us but our dreams and perserverence reflects who we are as individual….

  • emily

    it was quite nice to be able to read this article, i have ME but just over a month ago my friend with lupus killed herself. this article makes me think its worth trying.

  • Shelli

    Great article. She shows that just because we have obstacles in our lives, it doesn’t have to stop us from living our dreams. We just have to do it differently.

  • Wendy

    What an amazing article. So many people that are such great influences to so many people. And show that you can do anything no matter what your illness or disability.

  • Great article Christine!
    It’s wonderful to see people with chronic illnesses not just get somewhere but b out there saying “yes, I can do this even if I do have x”. Invisible illnesses don’t mean life has to stop and Leslie is proof positive of that!

  • Excellent piece. I remember her very well. I liked her a lot. I find it ironic she sang “Feeling Good” and “Natural Woman” as someone with lupus that doesn’t always feel so good and perhaps not so natural either. She was great and I hated to see her go. So nice to see her still performing though! Also good to see that she’s out there talking about Lupus and bringing exposure to the invisible disease. That’s what we all need to do…bring it out in the open. Just like this great blog does! Keep up the great and important work!

  • Carolyn Magura

    THANK YOU for such an inspiring story! For those of us with AI – auto immune – conditions and fighting each day to do ANYTHING, it is so wonderful to see that someone just like us can be successful!
    BTW: the But You Don’t Look Sick website contains tons of information of great interest and usefulness to all of us! Please continue with such great articles!

  • *Deena

    What an inspiring story Leslie has. She sounds like a sweet young woman with a strong will to succeed. You need a strong will just to fight these invisible diseases day to day. To make a musical career as well takes real grit, and that’s just awesomely inspiring.

  • Maria Letkanis

    I love Leslie’s Music. Thank you for posting this. I always wondered what happened to her after American Idol! The songs on her myspace page sound so good!