Joseph Lloyd Simmons—better known as Rev Run of the iconic 1980s hip-hop trio Run-D.M.C.—has a way with words. Widely considered one of the pioneers of the rap genre, Rev has touched millions of people worldwide through his music, spiritual teachings, written works and television endeavors. Now, the hip-hop legend is using his words to raise awareness about a new cause: diabetes awareness.
As one of the lead vocalists of Run-D.M.C., Rev enjoyed an illustrious musical career spanning almost three decades. In 2004, not long after Run-D.M.C. disbanded, Rev found a deeper calling in religion and became ordained as a Pentecostal minister. Re-emerging to the world as “Reverend Run,” the rap mogul harnessed his celebrity presence to spread spiritual teachings to fans news and old. He also disseminates daily words of wisdom and religious insights to his four million Twitter followers.
Health, however, is a subject that wasn’t on Run’s radar until recently. After learning that family history was a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, Rev, who had watched his father struggle with the disease, was determined to take matters in his own hands and adopt a more proactive approach to diabetes prevention. Along with wife Justine Simmons, Rev Run has partnered with healthcare giant Novo Nordisk to launch Ask.Screen.Know, a campaign aimed at educating at-risk individuals about the benefits of early diabetes detection and screening.
We recently sat down with the rap mogul and his wife Justine to chat about everything from diabetes-fighting tip to happy marriage secrets to their favorite workout tunes.
Spry Living: Rev, when did you really start to be proactive about diabetes prevention? Did you have a “wakeup call”?
Rev: One day, my manager came to me and told me that there was an opportunity for me to spread my wisdom, this time about health. He said that Novo Nordisk wanted to partner together for a diabetes awareness campaign. Not long after that, I learned that having a family history of diabetes was a risk factor. My dad had Type 2 diabetes, so I knew I was at risk. I also had two other risk factors: being African-American and being over the age of 45. Ever since then, I’ve been on fire to talk to people about this cause. I took it as a sign from heaven that it was time for me to talk about to people about this issue. Another sign was that World Diabetes Day happens to be my birthday. There were just too many signs. Now, I’m on a mission to teach people about their diabetes risk factors and keep them healthy, wealthy and wise.
Spry Living: Was health always a priority of yours, or did you have to make some significant changes?
Rev: Living healthy has definitely been more of a recent effort. I’ve done a lot of public speaking and I’ve given people tips about a broad range of issues, but my attention has never been health-oriented. And, the next thing you know, I’m telling people that health is the first wealth. As I’ve learned more about diabetes, it’s put me in a position where I can help others, and help myself. It’s been really rewarding watching my body change—I’ve taken off a couple of pounds, and I’m just more focused on my health. I’m preaching to the choir.
Justine: Our eating habits have changed drastically. Before, it was all about opening a can, but now we eat more fruits and fresh vegetables. It’s a family effort. Our son Daniel is really involved; our daughter Miley will ask for spinach in her egg whites. These things are mind-blowing for me to see, but I’m so proud. I know that diabetes can either be prevented or controlled, so I want to stop the cycle in our family so that we are diabetes-free for generations.
Spry Living: What are some of the ways you are taking steps to live healthier as a couple?
Rev: It’s all about the little changes. When I get a sweet tooth, for example, I’ll chop up an apple. I swapped egg for egg whites and regular bacon for turkey bacon. Instead of drinking sugary drinks—fruit punch or soda—I’ll have a diet soda. Little tweaks like that make me feel good, because I know I’m setting myself up for success. “If you don’t set up, you’ll be upset”—that’s one of my mantras.
Justine: I’m 48—I’ll be 49 this year—and I just discovered last week that I love Brussels sprouts. I thought I would never eat Brussels sprouts! And now I’m addicted. This whole diabetes campaign has taught me that living healthfully is extremely rewarding, and I want to teach others that, too.
Spry Living: Do you you feel better?
Rev: Yes. I have more energy. I feel more focused. I have a lot of support from fans and family, which is helping me stay on track.
Justine: It’s amazing how much your energy increases when you move your body. It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true. The more you do something, the more you’ll want to do something. The more you eat healthy, the more you’ll want to eat healthy; the more you exercise, the more you’ll want to exercise. It’s that simple.
Spry Living: Rev, you are quite public on social media about your love for Justine, and I have to say it’s quite refreshing to see a celebrity couple so in love. What is your secret to a happy marriage?
Rev: For me, it’s all about having a lot of gratitude. The more I post pictures of my wife and express my admiration for her on social media, the more I realize how lucky I am. I look at the comments and realize how many people out there don’t have true love. A lot of comments are like, “Man, I wish I had that.” It pushes me further along the path toward gratitude.
Justine: And we work on it. We definitely work on it.
Spry Living: So, I’ve got to ask, Rev…as a musician, do you work out to your own music?
Rev: I listen to a lot of Jay-Z. I love his new album, especially the song that he made with Justin Timberlake about fame. I’ll also listen to some Gospel music, some electronic music, a little bit of Calvin Harris…his music is really energetic.
What about you, Justine? Do you listen to Run-D.M.C. when you’re exercising?
Justine: [Laughs] No, not when I’m working out. I usually walk for exercise, so I don’t listen to music when I’m walking. I like the silence.
If you visit Ask.Screen.Know.com and take the Diabetes Risk Factor Assessment, you’ll be automatically entered for a chance to win a trip to meet Rev Run and Justine at their house and enjoy a 1-night stay in New York City. Click here to take the assessment and enter the sweepstakes.