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.

More: You must have nine lives.
BH: All of these health scares have taught me the importance of embracing life. They made me decide not to be scared but to live life to the fullest. I have to learn how to mentally embrace what has happened to me and not be angry but just grateful that I am here. My only focus is to enjoy my life both professionally and personally.


More: Are you happy?
BM: I am happy. I have a beautiful family, I have beautiful kids, plus, Kristi [Kristi Gibson, his ex-fiancĂ©e and the mother of his two children] has been an amazing person in my life through thick and thin.

More: Last year you announced you both were calling off your engagement. How are you handling the split?
BM: We are fantastic. We have been through so many ups and downs before and always come out stronger and on top. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I can tell you we are the best of friends, more so than we have ever been.

More: How are the children doing with your new arrangement?
BM: When Kristi and I separated there was never any harsh fighting or using our kids. Although it wasn’t easy and, yes, there were many tears involved because this is not easy to explain, we did work together as a team. We live close to each other so I see my kids every single day when I’m in town, I do their homework with them on the phone, I drive them to school and I make every effort to be there even when I am on the road. We talk about everything, keep the lines of communication open and always reinforce that we are a family no matter what.

More: Is the door open for reconciliation?  
BM: If it is meant to be, it is meant to be.

More: Let’s talk about your career. You released your latest album back in December.   
BM: It is called Bret Michaels: Good Songs & Good Friends and it is 15 songs with everyone from Jimmy Buffett to Loretta Lynn to KISS to Van Halen, and Lil Jon even does rap. Making this album was the most fun I have ever had because it is a combination of all of the music both with Poison and solo.

More: You are also returning to the boardroom to face Donald Trump again. What is that all about?
BM: I love the fight, the business savvy of it all, the competition and making money for my charity, Bret Michaels Life Rocks Foundation. For me, doing All-Star Celebrity Apprentice was a no-brainer. When I got ill, it made me realize the importance of asking your friends to give, to raise money and delegate it to where it needs to go to help those less fortunate.

More: In addition to this show, you are also teaming up with the Travel Channel?
BM: Yes, I am doing a series called Rock My RV, which I did because it took me back to my childhood and the time of my life when all we did was RV, barbecue and camp.

More: You have had one too many trips to the ER. Aren’t you taking on too much too soon?
BM: No. I feel great and am just embracing life to the fullest.   

More: It sounds like you have it all.
BM: No. There is definitely a price to pay for having this lifestyle. Unfortunately, whatever you succeed at, there is always a price tag that comes with it and someone gets the short end of the stick. Unfortunately for me, I am forced to miss some things in my kids’ lives. I try to make it up to them the best way I can by coming back for the big things. However, the extra travel really wears me out, especially with everything my body has been through.

First Published Fri, 2013-03-01 11:45

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