Céline Dion Explains the Impact of Stiff-Person Syndrome on Her Voice: ‘It’s Like Someone’s Strangling You’

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Céline Dion, has candidly discussed the profound impact of stiff-person syndrome on her vocal abilities in an exclusive interview with NBC News’ Hoda Kotb.

In a preview clip aired on The Today Show on Friday, June 7, the 56-year-old songstress vividly described to Hoda Kotb the debilitating effects of the condition on her voice. “It’s like somebody is strangling you. It’s like somebody is pushing your larynx/pharynx,” she articulated, demonstrating the sensation by modulating her voice. “It was like talking like that, and you cannot go high or lower.”

Dion further elaborated on the nature of the stiffness, highlighting its varied manifestations across different parts of the body. “It gets into a spasm,” she explained, noting its occurrence in the throat, abdomen, spine, and ribs. She likened the sensation to being locked in position, describing instances where simple tasks, such as pointing her feet or cooking, induced cramping and rigidity.

“I have broken ribs at one point because sometimes when it’s very severe, it can break,” she revealed, underscoring the severity and unpredictability of the symptoms associated with the rare neurological disorder.

In December 2022, Dion publicly disclosed her diagnosis of stiff-person syndrome, a debilitating condition characterized by involuntary muscle spasms. This revelation prompted her to cancel all scheduled performances, citing the pervasive impact of the spasms on her daily life and her inability to utilize her vocal cords to their full capacity.

For Dion, whose life and career have been intimately intertwined with her passion for singing, the diagnosis has been particularly challenging. “All I know is singing,” she lamented. “It’s what I’ve done all my life. And it’s what I love to do the most.”

Stiff-person syndrome, classified as a rare neurological disorder with autoimmune features, can profoundly impair patients’ mobility and quality of life. According to the Stiff Person Syndrome Foundation, individuals afflicted by the condition may experience hyper-rigidity, chronic pain, anxiety, and muscle spasms so severe that they can result in joint dislocations and fractures.


Discussing her upcoming interview with Dion, Kotb emphasized the singer’s resilience in confronting the challenges posed by her health condition. “She is now much better, but at some point she almost died, which is something that she says,” Kotb remarked, acknowledging the gravity of Dion’s ordeal.

Dion’s full conversation with Kotb is slated to air on Tuesday, June 11, at 10 p.m. ET on NBC. Meanwhile, Today continues its weekday broadcasts on the network, commencing at 7 a.m. ET.

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