The character Violet “Aunt Vi” Bordelon on the OWN series “Queen Sugar” has lupus, and it was important for the show’s creator and director Ava DuVernay to include the illness.
Because earlier this month at Essence Festival, the 46-year-old revealed that she herself has lupus, and she wanted to give people an opening to discuss it further.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lupus is an autoimmune disease that makes the immune system attack itself. Symptoms include pain and swelling in the joints, extreme exhaustion regardless of the amount of sleep one gets and some receive mouth sores, skin rashes and hair loss.
The Lupus Foundation of America reports that 1.5 million people in the United States have a form of lupus and at least 5 million people around the globe suffer from it.
“I have Lupus, and that’s why I put it in ‘Queen Sugar,’” said DuVernay. “I’ve been in remission for 20 years, but I did want to make sure that we create spaces to talk about it. We wanted to really give that chronic illness to Vi and show you can live and you can battle through it, you can continue to thrive, but you have to manage it.
“It’s something I’ve been able to manage and live with and thrive,” she added. “It’s really given me strength in a lot of different ways, and so hopefully her character going through it as well will help people know they can do the same.”
“Queen Sugar,” which is now in its fourth season, follows the lives of siblings who head back to their home state of Louisiana after they inherited a sugar cane farm.
In 2017 the Lupus Foundation of America thanked DuVernay for addressing the autoimmune disease in such a major way, which she responded to.
“Thank you Ms. DuVernay and OWN for bringing awareness to Lupus, often overlooked due to its mysterious nature and underexposure,” someone from the organization wrote on Twitter.
“Raising awareness for Lupus is personal to me as it affects my family and so many,” the director tweeted back. “Honored to share the experience. Will continue to do so.”