Missy Elliott may be fast approaching her 50th birthday. But the innovative R&B singer, rapper and producer looks healthier, slimmer and happier than she ever has done. In fact, the artist nicknamed Misdemeanor is reportedly 70 pounds lighter than she was when she debuted in the late 1990s.
And the multiple Grammy Award winner certainly has no qualms about revealing her body and mind secrets. Actually, she’s more than happy to discuss her healthy new routines and lifestyle with her army of fans on social media. But it didn’t always used to be like this for the trailblazing artist. In fact, she’s suffered a lot in recent years.
Yes, unfortunately Missy Elliott received a major blow in 2008 when she learned that she had a problematic medical condition. And the consequences resulted in her taking a break from performing for a number of years afterwards. Now this was a great shame for her fans, as she had been somewhat at the peak of her powers.
What’s more, the public didn’t learn that she was suffering in her personal life until three years later. As Misdemeanor explained at an awards ceremony, she was in such a bad state that “I couldn’t even lift a pen.” Therefore, she had to spend time adapting to the illness and changing her way of life. We’ll find out more about this soon, but first let’s recap on the black artist’s career.
Born in the Virginian city of Portsmouth in 1971, Melissa Arnette Elliott endured a troubling childhood. Firstly, her father Ronnie was a violent man who would often attack her mother Patricia. And when she was just eight years old, she was sexually abused by her cousin. Thankfully, when she was 14, Elliott and her mother managed to flee their abusive surroundings and relocate.
Now Elliott first began performing in an all-female outfit named Fayze in her late teens. They later changed their name to Sista after signing to an imprint owned by Devante Swing of R&B group Jodeci. Furthermore, the imprint, dubbed Swing Mob, served as a collective for a number of up and coming black artists. As well as Sista, they included Tweet, Ginuwine and Elliott’s friend Tim “Timbaland” Mosley. And all 20 of the musicians ended up sharing a two-storey New York home while starting out.
Following collaborations with Raven-Symone and Jodeci, Sista recorded their debut album, 4 All the Sistas Around da World, in 1994. Sadly, the record never made it to the shelves and just a year later the Swing Mob label was no more. Undeterred, Elliott teamed up with Timbaland and Ginuwine to form a songwriting and production collective known as The Superfriends.
What’s more, young artists such as soloist Aaliyah benefited from Elliott and Timbaland’s production skills in the studio. For example, her second album featured nine tracks penned and produced by the pair. And one of them, 1996 LP One in A Million achieved double platinum status. Additionally, the duo also worked their magic with Total, Nicole Wray and Destiny’s Child. But Elliott had ambitions of taking center stage herself.
Indeed, after turning down an offer to join Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs’ Bad Boy label, Elliott founded her own. And she called the imprint, The Goldmind Inc. From there, her first album, Supa Dupa Fly, hit the shelves in 1997 and went platinum. Now she had, in fact, co-produced it with partner in crime, Timbaland. Yes, they were turning into quite a team.
As well as pioneering an innovative sound, Elliott also made several game-changing videos with the help of director, Hype Williams. By the end of the 1990s she’d worked with Whitney Houston on comeback album My Love Is Your Love. And let’s not forget her collaboration with Mariah Carey and Da Brat on a remix of “Heartbreaker.” On the other side of the Atlantic, she topped the charts with Spice Girl, Mel B.
After consolidating her success with 1999’s Da Real World, Elliott released what many consider to be her magnum opus. Indeed, 2001’s Miss E… So Addictive produced a string of chart hits including the Grammy-winning “Get Ur Freak On.” That same year she scored a U.S. number one alongside Christina Aguilera and others with Moulin Rouge! track “Lady Marmalade.”
But Elliott went back to her roots on 2002’s old-school Under Construction. Indeed, it became the highest-selling rap album by a female artist in U.S. history. Its lead single, “Work It,” peaked at No.2 on the US Hot 100, and was crowned Video of the Year. Perhaps unsurprisingly, superstars Madonna and Beyoncé both came calling.
After rush-recording 2003 follow-up This Is Not a Test!, Elliott made a detour into reality TV with The Road to Stardom. However, she returned to form in 2005 with The Cookbook, picking up five Grammy nominations and winning two MTV VMAs. Then a Greatest Hits album, Respect M.E., followed in 2006.
Although Elliott began work on her seventh studio effort in 2007, it remained unreleased. However, she continued to add to her hitmaking tally thanks to songwriting work with Keyshia Cole, Jazmine Sullivan and Monica. Also, she guested on tracks by J. Cole, Demi Lovato and Busta Rhymes.
Mind you, a captivating appearance alongside Katy Perry at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime reminded audiences of her talents once more. And that same year she released her first new solo single in seven years, “WTF (Where They From).” Subsequently, she was invited to appear on a star-studded charity track by none other than First Lady Michelle Obama. Things were once again looking up for Elliott.
That’s right, and Elliott dropped only her second official single of the decade in 2017 with “I’m Better.” Then, a year later, she guested on Ariana Grande track “Borderline,” before teaming up in 2019 with Lizzo on “Tempo.” Of course, the Missy Elliott of the late 2010s looked very different from the Missy Elliott of the late 1990s.
Indeed, one reason Elliott stood out from the crowd early in her career was her seeming disregard for image convention. In a 2001 piece on the star, The Guardian’s Ted Kessler wrote, “The music industry said she looked too large and weird to make it in the lens-friendly, bootylicious world of female rap and R&B, so she magnified those imperfections. In doing so, she reintroduced the notion of fun and fantasy to urban black music.” Remarkably, however, an image transformation had since taken place, as we’ll soon find out.
For Elliott stunned fans in 2014 when she modeled at the New York launch for a H&M designer collection. Why? Well the star was reportedly 70 pounds lighter than she was during her early rise to fame. And Elliott looked visibly happy with the reaction to her remarkable image change. So what perhaps lay behind this?
Well, the singer’s life has been impacted since being diagnosed with the autoimmune condition known as Graves’ disease in 2008. And the star first became concerned when her leg began jumping while she was driving her car. She told People magazine in 2011, “I couldn’t keep the brake down and almost crashed.” Sadly, that was just the start of her suffering.
Yes, because the thyroid-affecting disease started to heavily impact Elliott’s day-to-day life and even her abilities as a songwriter. She told People, “I couldn’t write because my nervous system was so bad. I couldn’t even use a pen.” Also, she experienced several other symptoms such as frequent dizzy spells and uncontrollable mood swings.
Now Elliott further discussed her battle with Graves’ disease in an interview for VH1 documentary Behind the Music. Indeed, she revealed, “My nervous system shut down. Your skin is dry, your hair falls out, you wake up, your eyes feel like they’ve got rocks in them.” As we’ll see, friends also noticed how she’d been going downhill.
For instance, in 2015, Elliott’s rapper friend Sharaya J told Billboard how she witnessed the star’s health deteriorating. She said, “It started to change her way of life. There were physical changes, extreme headaches, extreme weight loss. What that does to a person, being a public figure and knowing people are looking, judging? That’s a tough thing.”
What’s more, Elliott also talked to Billboard where she acknowledged that her prolific work rate had contributed to her illness. She said, “People hadn’t realized that I haven’t just been an artist, I’ve been a writer and a producer for other artists. When you’re writing that much, your brain is like a computer. You have to refresh it…My blood pressure was always up from just overworking.”
Thankfully, though, a combination of medication and radiation treatment helped Elliott to get the condition under control. But it’s something she’ll have to live with for the rest of her days. Indeed, Graves’ disease, which is an astonishing 7.5 times more likely to affect women than men, is entirely incurable. Of course, Elliott isn’t the only celebrity who has been affected by the disease. For example, both ex-president George Bush Sr. and his wife Barbara were diagnosed with Graves’ in the early 1990s.
Wisely, Elliott also underwent a strict fitness and diet regime which helped with the condition, and lost her weight. In 2011, she told People, “I’m 30 pounds lighter because I’ve been exercising. My thyroid is functioning, so I haven’t had to take medication in about nine months.” So what about the reports of the 70 pounds weight loss in 2014?
Well, Elliott was keen to point out that contrary to reports she hadn’t lost 70 pounds during that particular period. Indeed, in 2014, she told her Twitter followers that she had shed the weight while recording the LP Under Construction. But in recent times, her weight loss still stood at an impressive 30 pounds. And she’d done that by working out to Shaun T’s Insanity DVDs, and eating healthily.
So interestingly, Elliott had first been advised to lose weight by medical professionals back in 2002. And the star was warned at the time that she could suffer a stroke if she didn’t improve her diet. Not wanting to take any chances, she worked from then on to lose weight and ended up shedding the 70lbs.
Having kept this weight off, Elliott continued to wow fans with her youthful appearance throughout the 2010s. And this was thanks to various posts uploaded to her official Instagram account. In fact, she even had some questioning whether she had a Benjamin Button thing going on. Indeed, in 2018, the then 47-year-old Elliott somehow looked younger than she was in the late 1990s. Furthermore, the singer had no problem about sharing her secrets.
Yes, for in one Instagram post she revealed two very specific sacrifices in her quest to feel healthier and younger. Intriguingly, alongside giving up soda and fruit juices, Elliott had also said a fond farewell to bread. As we’ll soon see, giving things up in principle is a lot easier than in practice.
Indeed, because Elliott told her followers that she found the lack of bread in her diet particularly tough. Meanwhile, she also extolled the virtues of drinking nothing but water, adding, “See, I’ve never been a water drinker but this has helped my skin. It really restores [the] glow back & I don’t feel sluggish.”
Of course, Elliott still has a few other vices when it comes to food. However, she told fans that she wishes she could kick these to the curb, too. She said, “Now the other thing, if I can only cut out junk food. S**t that’s my weakness #Facts. But if I can give up those other things I’ll fight that too! Maybe two cupcakes a month.”
And Dr.Tasneem Bhatia told the Eat This website that Elliott’s no-bread diet is becoming increasingly popular amongst dieters. She said, “We are all on a mission to avoid bread, or so it seems. Loaded with carbohydrates and sometimes refined flours, bread is now the new enemy, replacing the fat fear of the 1980s.”
Unsurprisingly, the rapper’s army of followers had nothing but admiration for her sacrifices. Meanwhile, some even pledged to follow her new lifestyle themselves and get healthier. One fan commented, “You look so fabulous and healthy! Way to go! I think I will try this… both soda and bread are my weaknesses.” Another added, “Missy you look amazing! I’ve given up everything but the junk food still gets me too! That… is hard as hell to quit.”
As well as her dietary tips, Elliott even appears to help followers with their mental wellbeing through various motivational quotes. In one particular message, she writes, “Start off ya week right! Get rid of any negative energy or negative thoughts. Even though it’s not always easy, you gotta separate yourself from anything that is not helping uplift you or motivating you to get up and get out and go get it.”
And in another post, she told fans that she was a “walking testimony” to the benefits of being yourself. She said, “I never looked the part. I was always different.” Moreover, she also acknowledged that many people took several listens to understand her style and sound. She added, “But I didn’t know how to be anyone but myself and here I am.”
Touchingly, Elliott also encourages fans to destress and relax. She once posted on Instagram, “Sending great energy to anybody who may been going through it or just had a rough day. Here is some love and light. Peace and hugs to all of you. And I don’t have to know you personally to share that with you because we all are human and need a lil encouragement. Have a stress-free weekend.”
Now in 2018, Essence magazine honored Elliott at their ninth yearly Black Women in Music event in New York. And the star used her acceptance speech to reflect on the hardships she faced during her early years with Graves’ disease. She told the audience, “I was sick and I couldn’t even lift a pen. My nervous system had broken all the way down.” But that’s not all.
As the rapper went on to explain, “I didn’t come up here in a wheelchair. “Nobody helped me get up here. I’m walking… by the grace of God.” However, despite her defiant statement of independence, Elliott acknowledged that one famous friend was instrumental in her recovery. And you might have difficulty guessing who this is.
So following the ceremony, Elliott gushed to ABC News about singer Janet Jackson who presented her with the honor. She said, “The times that I may have felt like giving up, she’s always gave me an encouraging word and I’ve watched her as a strong, black, powerful woman who’s had to overcome many obstacles. And so I just wanted to say I appreciate you for inspiring me.” Given that Elliott is now feeling healthier than before, what are the chances of that long-awaited seventh album being released?
Well, on August 23, the star released Iconology, a collection of five new songs. And it was significant because Elliott picked up the MTV VMA’s “Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award” just days later. But the resurgence didn’t stop there. Because Elliott then gave a show stopping performance at the awards, the first time she had performed there for 16 years. In an Instagram post about Iconology she said, “This year has been a tremendous year for me…You, my fans, and God are the reason I am here.”