Born Deidra Muriel Roper, but better known as DJ Spinderella from the legendary and groundbreaking hip-hop group, Salt-N-Pepa was surrounded by music growing up.
“I grew up in a household where music was the atmosphere,” Roper says. “My father was a collector of vinyl records. … Growing up in Brooklyn, we lived in the projects, on the seventh floor, and we were the loudest apartment music-wise, because my father was always blaring records after work — everything from Quincy Jones to Grover Washington Jr. to Hall and Oates.”
As she got older, with help from a DJing high-school sweetheart, Roper began to learn her own way around the turntables. At 16 she landed an audition with a little known group at the time, who were just starting to gain buzz in the New York hip-hop scene. Within two weeks, she hit the road with 18-year-old Sandra “Pepa” Denton and 22-year-old Cheryl “Salt” James and they formed Salt-n-Pepa. Finishing her senior year on tour, “Spin,” as she’s often called, traveled the world with the influential group.
But leaving her family behind, specifically, her mother, was hard for her when the family learned Spin’s mom had diabetes. There was a time when she felt lost and confused about how best to help those around her. Now, as a spokesperson for diabetes, she says helping people with diabetes work through their difficulties means just as much to her, if not more.
“Diabetes wasn’t something I was really aware of until my mother had it,” explains Spin. “I do remember, though, that both grandmothers had diabetes, and I remember them taking their insulin. My brother has had diabetes for 20 years now, and my nephew, his 15-year-old son, also has diabetes.”
“When my mother was trying to manage her diabetes, I didn’t know where to turn. I felt helpless in assisting her. In essence, I was really lost.”
“The hardest thing was not having the answers when my mother was dealing with her diabetes. I didn’t know what low blood sugars were, and she had a lot of them. Frankly, it was heart-wrenching to watch. I didn’t know where to go and who to turn to.”
“After my mother passed away from complications of diabetes, I undertook a lot of research to make sure I could share the right information with my brother and nephew. What I realized was that even if you have diabetes, you can have a healthy lifestyle, and the quality of your life can be improved.”
But what Roeper did was to start somewhere she knew would make a difference: she started with herself.
“I had to look at myself as well. I began gathering cookbooks and other resources so we could change things up. Being proactive made the difference. I’m still in the learning process. I also learned that it is important not to be quiet about your diabetes—whenever you can share about it, it can make a difference.”
Just when she was starting the healing process, Roeper was dealt another blow. Her nephew, who wasn’t even out of his teenage years, was also diagnosed with diabetes.
“My nephew is 15, and being a person with diabetes has been hard for him, and he doesn’t always want to share. My brother is more open about it. But stress plays a major part in my brother’s life. Every time I come across really useful information on the American Diabetes Association website, I’m right there sharing it with both of them. I think constantly sharing with both of them really helps.”
“Now, the kind of busy lifestyle that I live doesn’t always help with consistent home-cooked meals, but I like to…