Bret Michaels, Ultimate Survivor

With strength and reinvention, the Poison frontman built a successful new career. Here he talks about his latest album, a planned return to "Celebrity  Apprentice"—and surviving a series of brutal health challenges 

by Ilyssa Panitz • Celebrity Reporter
bret michaels image
Photograph: Mark Mazzanti/Michaels Entertainment Group

More: We love the word reinvention at More, and you clearly define it. You went from being a rock-and-roll star to a respected entrepreneur. Why the change?
Bret Michaels: It was a combination of working hard, skill, luck and moving forward. For me, channeling my experience into something new was organic to what I do creatively in music. If I was going to make the change, it had to work for me—and it did. I first needed to succeed on a personal level, and when I felt I did I was ready to take my passion to the next level. I also discovered I need to laugh at both my failures and my successes.

More: Failures?
BM: Yes, but actually don’t call them failures. I call them lesser successes, and I don’t let it drag me down. I try to take those experiences and learn from them so I can become stronger professionally. Trust me when I say I have been told no too many times to count. But rather than walking away, I push myself and work harder. The best education I gave myself was to read a lot of books and articles on how to succeed.

More: You have persisted in other areas as well, including your health.
BM: Yes, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was six years old. Not only was I the only kid in my class with this condition but, sadly, it runs in my family and took the life of my grandmother, who I was really close to, my great-grandmother and a few cousins. It’s like a curse that hangs over my head.

More: Yet you said there was a positive to all of this? 
BM: Yes. It made me grow up faster, roll with the punches and become a pretty strong person. I had to start acting like an adult really quickly and learn how to take care of myself.

More: Does it impact your red-carpet lifestyle?
BM: Diabetes will impact your life but you have to adjust for it. If I go on the set for something, I have to check my blood sugar every two hours and give myself five injections of insulin a day. However, I don’t let it stop me from doing things I love, like riding my dirt bike and playing football and baseball. I mean, it takes more work than the average person's to do these things, but it’s the card I was dealt so I just have to accept it.

More: Does it make you angry?
BM: Yes, because I did not ask for this. However, I have now learned how to funnel my negative energy into positive energy, such as exploring my creativity. That for me is the key to managing this and not taking my anger out on myself, my friends or my family.

More: You have also used your experiences with the condition to benefit other people.
BM: My mom and I formed a special camp for children with diabetes. Doing philanthropy work and using my celebrity to get programs pushed through has really helped me face my own obstacles.

More: You were also involved in a horrible car crash.
BM: That was a horrific experience. Between that, my diabetes, my brain hemorrhage and my appendectomy, there is an angel up above who is working overtime on me [laughs].

More: Let’s talk about the brain hemorrhage you suffered.
BM: It was an explosion in the brain. What is still frightening to think about is there is no way to avoid it or keep it from happening. In my case, the blood vessel exploded at the base of the brainstem, which is extremely dangerous and sometimes fatal. Although I don’t remember the three days of my life after it happened, I do remember the next 14 days in the ICU and finally being able to go to rehab and learn how to walk again.

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