Comedienne, The Talk co-host and radio personality Sheryl Underwood has added another title to her sizeable résumé—Depend spokesperson. Yes, the funny lady is tackling the serious topic of adult incontinence.
While in her 30s, the Arkansas native under went a myomectomy to remove fibroids from her uterus that had been causing excessive bleeding. Underwood’s fibroids returned in her 40s, and that procedure led to bladder leakage and her use of Depend undergarments. EBONY.com chatted with Underwood about her new relationship with Depend, and why she chose to talk about this personal matter.
EBONY: The public often doesn’t expect comedians to talk about serious issues or have personal struggles. Especially in light of Robin Williams’s suicide, how do you balance demands on being entertaining with your own mental, emotional and physical needs as a human being?
Sheryl Underwood: I saw Robin Williams in May at Carnegie Hall. I’m there hugging folks and laughing and all of a sudden I hear myself behind me. Now, it was early and I hadn’t even been drinking yet, so I’m thinking like, “How am I hearing myself behind me?” It was Robin Williams doing a perfect impersonation of me. I didn’t even know I was on his radar like that. We hugged and laughed. Had a good time. He was a very fun and loving person.
But you never know what pain a comedian is going through, and especially with our men. My husband killed himself. I know how sometimes it’s hard for people to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes [Blacks] are so caught up in just going to church and praying about it. But God gave the doctor the brains to create a mental health protocol to help you. We have to recognize that. But with comedy, it’s like a fraternity or sorority. We are each other’s keeper. We look out for each other as much as we can.
EBONY: For this particular issue with you, how did you become OK with talking about this in a public way, and how long have you been using Depend products?
SU: I’ve been using Depend products for years. I’ve been using them for decades, baby. I can’t say how old I really am, but I’ve been using them for decades. When I was president of Zeta Phi Beta, I was wearing Depend products under my St. John suits. And, you know, this is an issue for us Black women. You might sneeze or laugh and have a little sprinkle from your fibroid issues or however you chose to resolve your fibroid issues.
They chose me to be the spokesperson because I’m young and sexy. I kiss up on John Stamos and whatnot. I was doing the Def Comedy Jam tour in Depend products and still being sexy. I have to be available to do interviews and be on a set for several hours at a time. I need my Depend products.
EBONY: How do you navigate using Depend products as a single woman? Does it ever interfere with your romantic objectives?
SU: Using Depend undergarments gave me a big confidence boost. When you walk past a man, you want to leave an impression, and as Black women, we want that onion booty to make him cry. You know what I’m sayin’? People really can’t tell you’re wearing ’em. You can throw on some pantyhose and really make them hug your shape.
EBONY: To circle back to that first question, how did you find the confidence to come forward with this?
SU: When you’re going through the change and going through things, you might not feel so confident or feel like sharing your struggles, but that’s why I wanted to do this. My father was a great man with great wisdom. He told me that to be an entertainer was great, but he told me to be a blessing. I wanted to be a better citizen of the world.
If you look at my career, I always wanted to evoke change, make the world a better place. I try to balance being humorous in my career with being loving and profound. This is something that is happening to me. We’re all public people. You don’t have to go through this by yourself. I was in the military before, and later on, I did USO tours, two of them. I was wearing Depend. I was cool and calm. If I can do that, you can do that.
Check out the Depend Underwareness campaign on their official website.
Demetria Irwin is a New York City-based (Detroit born) freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.