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A Conversation with Pop Icon Cyndi Lauper and Chef Michelle Bernstein about Life with PsO and PsA

Living Well

June 01, 2024

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Photography courtesy of Novartis

Photography courtesy of Novartis

by Lizzy Sherman


Medically Reviewed by:

Nancy Carteron, M.D., FACR


by Lizzy Sherman


Medically Reviewed by:

Nancy Carteron, M.D., FACR


Cyndi Lauper and Michelle Bernstein reflect on life with PsO and PsA.

Pop icon Cyndi Lauper and Chef Michelle Bernstein are two inspiring women who have excelled in the worlds of entertainment and hospitality.

Lauper is an activist, multi-award-winning musician, and actress known for top song hits like “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and “Time After Time.” She has sold over 30 million albums around the world and continues to tour internationally.

Bernstein is a James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef who has launched restaurants, bars, and unique culinary concepts. She’s appeared as a judge on culinary competitions including “Top Chef” and “Chopped.”

Though Lauper and Bernstein come from different worlds, they bonded over their chronic conditions. Lauper has psoriasis (PsO) and Bernstein has psoriatic arthritis (PsA).

Lauper and Bernstein want to share a simple message with others who are facing health challenges: “Don’t wait until your symptoms get worse. If you’re struggling, speak up and don’t give up, talk to your doctor.”

We interviewed Lauper and Bernstein to learn about their experiences living with their conditions and what’s worked for them when it comes to managing PsO and PsA:

How have your conditions affected your ability to do activities that you love?

Cyndi Lauper: When my PsO started presenting itself, I had red, painful, itchy patches on my skin that started on my scalp and spread over my arms, legs, and torso.

I wanted to stay indoors, but being in the public eye, I couldn’t just stay inside. When I did go out, I was creative with trying to hide my PsO.

During performances and appearances, I wore skin-colored fishnets to cover the redness and spots, used makeup to cover my plaques, or I would wear long sleeves and leather pants. When I changed at the end of the night the plaques on my skin would flake off. I was embarrassed and uncomfortable.

Eventually, I started to flare so badly that I was uncomfortable going live on camera because of my PsO. In that moment, I thought to myself, “it’s time to try something new.” After meeting with several doctors along the way, I finally found a dermatologist who I trusted and was open and honest with about how I was feeling.

I want people to know that you don’t have to hide — there are resources out there, and it’s so important to find a doctor that you’re comfortable with so you can truly tell them how you’re feeling.

Michelle Bernstein: My PsA symptoms also changed my everyday activities into daily challenges, making it difficult for me to do many things. Because of the joint pain, I experienced trouble walking and had trouble lifting things.

This made my job as a chef especially challenging. I love food and I love cooking, whether it’s in one of my restaurants or my kitchen at home. Because my PsA symptoms prevented me from doing things as I normally would have in the kitchen, I had to come up with some “kitchen hacks” to allow me to continue cooking while also managing the day-to-day pain of living with PsA.

5 of Michelle Bernstein’s Favorite Kitchen Hacks

  1. Use rubber-tipped or rubber-edged cookware, which offers a better grip.
  2. Swap heavy pots and pans for lighter alternatives.
  3. Use smaller chef knives where possible.
  4. Use spoons or a fish spatula in place of tongs, as they can be difficult to grip.
  5. Make the most out of your food processor or blender when a recipe asks for repetitive chopping.

Has your approach to dishes you offer in your restaurants changed as a result of your own experiences with food and PsA?

Bernstein: My approach remains firm. I use the best ingredients possible, add techniques that I have learned along the way, and flavors that I love combining. I LOVE to challenge myself by doing new dishes constantly or bettering the old ones.

The one thing I do make sure to keep in mind, however, is to always have some anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic dishes on the menu to make sure almost anyone and everyone can come and enjoy.

Cyndi, you’ve been a spokesperson for psoriasis medications. How has that affected your life?

Lauper: For the past several years, I’ve been partnering with Novartis to talk about my plaque psoriasis, or PsO, a chronic autoimmune disease. Over the years, it’s been helpful and inspiring to be able to talk about my PsO with other people going through similar experiences.

By openly and honestly talking about my PsO, my hope is that I can inspire other people going through a similar experience to take an active role in managing their disease by finding a doctor they trust and feel comfortable with.

Do you feel like being in the public eye has put any additional pressure on you while living with your conditions?

Lauper: Again, when my PsO was flaring badly, all I wanted to do was stay indoors. I did my best to cover up and hide my plaques while in public, but during performances, when I sweat, it would make my PsO even worse.

I even recall my hairstylist asking me if the plaques on my scalp were contagious, and I let her know that I have PsO, and it’s not contagious. I’m glad that I don’t feel like I have to hide anymore.

Bernstein: As my symptoms got worse after first presenting in 2018, I tried to cover them up because I didn’t want anyone to know something was wrong, especially at work in the kitchen.

I remember being scared because I had no idea what was causing these symptoms.

Lauper: I’ve learned so much about PsO over the years, and I’m so grateful for the knowledge because it has made me feel better equipped to talk to my doctor about my symptoms and how I’m feeling.

It’s been helpful and inspiring to be able to talk about my PsO with other people going through similar experiences. My hope is that by sharing my story, people living with PsO will feel inspired and also feel like they don’t have to hide anymore.

Bernstein: And I am sharing my story so others living with PsA can have the resources and support they need to take action and have effective conversations with their doctor.

Speak to your doctor because it’s a great first step in self-advocacy. The website,, is a great spot for PsO/PsA resources. You can also find some of my recipes there.

How has living with PsA affected your mental health? What are your favorite ways to boost your mood?

Bernstein: It was actually harder not knowing I had PsA. Always expecting the worst and hoping for the best, thinking it could be even worse than it is. My PsA diagnosis has allowed me to take a good look at myself and realize that I wasn’t really taking any time for … ME.

I now exercise regularly, watch my diet even more than before, and do little things for myself.

How has your approach to what you eat changed since being diagnosed with PsA? What has been most challenging, and what discoveries have you made?

Bernstein: Though everyone with PsA is different and has different things that make them flare, I do my best to eat anti-inflammatory options and cook dishes with anti-inflammatory ingredients.

Lauper: I also do my best to avoid eating or drinking anything that may be inflammatory, like sugar, sodium, dairy, saturated fats, alcohol, and more. However, it’s important to know that everyone with PsO is different and everyone’s experience is different.

Can you tell us about your experience finding the right doctor to work with and advocating for yourself when it comes to medical care? What advice do you have for others?

Bernstein: I first started developing symptoms in 2018, and after visits to different doctors with no clear diagnosis, my sister speculated that maybe my symptoms could be because of PsA, and suggested I see a rheumatologist.

She was one of the only people who I confided in about my health struggles during that time, so she knew about all the symptoms I had been experiencing.

I still had no idea what was going on, so I became proactive and looked for the top rheumatologist in my area and made an appointment. It took a few months to get in to see him, but it was worth the wait. Finally getting the correct diagnosis and connecting with a rheumatologist who I trust made a huge difference.

My PsA journey has led me here, and now I am sharing my story so others living with PsA can have the resources and support they need to take action and have effective conversations with their doctor.

Lauper: Through my work, I want to help motivate others to speak up and advocate for themselves like I did. It’s important to find a doctor you are comfortable with, and you feel empowered to talk to about all of your symptoms.

What projects are you working on now, and what’s next for you?

Bernstein: I have been very busy with my restaurants and other food-related side projects, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family — especially with my son in the kitchen.

I’m also opening a new restaurant in Coral Gables in the coming months.

Lauper: I’m working to finish the music for the Broadway adaptation of the film, “Working Girl.”

I’m also launching a world tour later this year.

Medically reviewed on June 01, 2024

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About the author

Lizzy Sherman

Lizzy Sherman is a writer and editor specializing in health and wellness. Her work has also appeared in Healthline, Medical News Today, Greatist, CNET, and many more.

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