Selma Blair attends a special screening of Discovery+'s 'Introducing, Selma Blair' on October 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
I admired the actress Selma Blair before her multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis. Maybe it was because of how cool she looked or the roles she played, and the fact that she wasn’t celebrity-scandal splashy. But after her MS announcement, I found myself wary of her story.
On one hand, I was gratified that she was living with and displaying the reality of our disease. On the other, I was a little resentful of the fact that her celebrity, presumed wealth, and fabulous stress-free life would bring her healing that was not accessible to the rest of us. When her documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair” debuted Oct. 21 on Discovery+ (there’s a one-week free trial to subscribe) I watched — but with one eye closed.
I’m glad I watched it because, more than anything, the documentary shines a light on what those of us who have MS live with day to day. Our symptoms and degree of disease may be different, but frustration is a side effect that casts a shadow over our existence. One of the most affecting events of the film involved footage of Blair on the red carpet, in a gorgeous dress with a cane, shortly after her announcement that she had MS.
If you searched for this red carpet footage on the internet, you’d have seen a radiant, kick-ass woman whose style, beauty, and essential self have not been diminished by her life-altering news. But the documentary captured a moment when her limbs and voice would not cooperate and do her brain’s bidding. She broke down in tears. Instead of snapping away, the photographers lowered their lenses, applauded her after she regained composure, and watched as she turned back into a starlet.
Throughout the film, Blair gave voice to my feelings of shame (I can tell myself not to feel it, but that doesn’t always work), embarrassment, and vulnerability. Of negative physical reactions to too many exterior stimuli. Of bouts of fatalism when things feel impossible — and of joy when moving gets easier, even if it’s just for a few hours or days.
In 90 minutes, we follow the actress from her diagnosis announcement to her potentially life-transforming stem cell transplant and its aftermath. The documentary isn’t a tragedy-to-triumph story. (Spoiler alert: It would have been so hopeful for the whole MS community if the stem cell transplant returned her to her former self. The transplant helped, but it couldn’t make things exactly right.)
The film tells a story, but what I took from it was a chance to see myself reflected in her essential hopes and struggles. I saw the blessings (appreciating the gifts of love, friendship, family, and nature around us), and the curses (we all know what they are) of life with a chronic disease.
There were many more moments that gave me pause, hope, and resignation. It's a captivating watch for those of us touched by or oblivious to MS. The fact that Blair is a celebrity made it somehow easier to watch because I feel as though I sort of know her. But what makes the documentary memorable are her vulnerable moments, and those will stick with me for a long time.
A few random observations: She wears heels! And I wish I had a personal assistant! And a manager!
MyMSTeam columnists discuss multiple sclerosis from a specific point of view. Columnists' articles don’t reflect the opinions of MyMSTeam staff, medical experts, partners, advertisers, or sponsors. MyMSTeam content isn't intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.