Cyndi Lauper Talks Vibrant Aging—and Staying a ‘Working Girl’ at 70

Updated: Jan. 11, 2024

The Grammy, Emmy, and Tony award-winning artist opens up on how she takes care of herself, the science on singing for mental health, and how even an icon sometimes struggles with self-image.

Known more than 40 years for her technicolor style, soulful delivery, and that adorable New York accent, Cyndi Lauper has always been 100% herself. Since her 1983 debut, this authenticity has inspired her legions of fans to celebrate their own true colors.

But when she was in her fifties, Lauper was diagnosed with the inflammatory skin condition psoriasis. This sidelined the pop icon starting around 2010, making her feel like she had to hide herself by wearing wigs and mesh fabrics.

Now, almost 15 years later, through a partnership with Novartis and the National Psoriasis Foundation Lauper is opening up about her psoriasis journey and her path toward wellness. As part of the new campaign, Lauper released a new video on I’ sharing details of her experience and encouraging others with psoriasis to seek care. “Please, please, please do not just lay in the dark. Get yourself up somehow and get information to help yourself,” she urges.

Today, Lauper refuses to let anything stop her. She’s penning her fifth Broadway musical—an adaptation of Working Girl—and getting ready for a world tour in 2025…and did we mention? She’s 70. “I got a lot of projects going on, but the truth is, if I don’t have my health, how am I going to do it?” she says. “You have to take care of your body. Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you. You’re in a partnership.”

"Let The Canary Sing" Premiere - 2023 Tribeca FestivalTheo Wargo/Getty Images

The Healthy @Readers DigestYou’ve always been a champion for people to be their authentic selves, but skin problems can have a particular way of affecting confidence. Tell us why you’re opening up about your experience with psoriasis.

Cyndi Lauper: My team was sick and tired of me being sick. Even the producers of the Broadway show Kinky Boots at that time were like, “What the heck?” because I was really sick. When you are going through all this, honestly, you do give up a little.

When I met other patients, it made me feel less isolated. They said how important it was for someone like me to be the voice for them and that really hit me. I was really quite moved, and I thought, OK, let’s do it because nobody wanted to talk about it.

The Healthy: Psoriasis waxes and wanes. How did flares affect your stage presence and self-image?

Cyndi Lauper: It burns. It itches. You bleed. You shed. It’s a nightmare. I felt like a leper. It’s like a shame thing. I would comb my hair and then I’d have to sweep the floor. I dyed my hair red, put extensions in and then I just wore a wig so I wouldn’t have to mess with my scalp too much. I was horribly ashamed of having somebody do my hair. I guess that’s why I went to the wig: I didn’t want people touching my head. I put on thick mesh over my skin. You thought you were looking at my skin, but you weren’t. I would perform like that, but the problem is when you came off stage and you took that stuff off, it came off with the skin.

The Healthy: How does it typically start?

Cyndi Lauper:  It starts on my hands and my knuckles if I start washing dishes with no gloves or I don’t take care of my hands.

The Healthy: We love the thought of Cyndi Lauper doing the dishes!

Cyndi Lauper: When I get nervous and I feel upset and I can’t think or I feel like ‘Oh my God, I’m not talented,’ I just start cooking. I sometimes cook soup, or I cook the sauce. It unlocks something. So, of course, you have to wash the dishes. Being a female, they told me ‘You gotta learn how to cook and clean because that’s what you’ll do for the rest of your life.’ I was always thinking, Yeah, fat chance. I’m not doing that for the rest of my life.

Cyndi Lauper in the 80sTerry Lott/getty images

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The Healthy: Does anything trigger a psoriasis flare for you?

Cyndi Lauper: In some people, it was sugar, and in some people, it was gluten and for some people, it was stress. I think those are all contributors. I try to go through periods where I abstain from acidy foods and all grain products. I cut my down [on] red meat and I try and keep an alkaline kind of diet, but that doesn’t always last. [This type of diet is based on a theory that some foods cause your body to produce acid.]

But gluten-free pasta? To me, it’s like “Oh, my God, what the heck is this?” I try and stay away from pasta but hey, let’s face it, you got to have good ravioli here and there.

The Healthy: What was the tipping point for you to seek psoriasis treatment?

Cyndi Lauper: At one point I felt so hideously isolated that I called the doctor up and he said, “It’s 2015. It’s not the Dark Ages. There’s a lot of options. Why don’t you come in and we’ll go through all the options?” That’s what I did. I listened and I chose what was right for me, and I have been sustaining myself on that medicine ever since.

The Healthy: What wellness practices do you refuse to skip?

Cyndi Lauper: I still have four vocal lessons a week because if I take care of my voice, my voice will take care of me. I do aerobics and yoga, and I also do weights to keep my strength. That’s important to me. Mick Jagger still runs. I don’t know how, but I can’t. I do run a little because I wanna be able to run on stage. For me, it’s about balance, strength, and vagus nerve stimulation. Connected to your vocal cords and the muscles at the back of your throat, the vagus nerve is activated by singing.

The Healthy: You have been a tireless advocate for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. How is that going?

Cyndi Lauper: True Colors United is doing great things for LGBTQ homeless youth and African American homeless youth. The “Girls Just Want to Have Fundamental Rights” raised $150,000 and granted it to different organizations, which we will very soon publish in our pages so that people could see where the money went when they bought the T-shirts.

The Healthy: The documentary about your life, Let the Canary Sing, recently made a big splash at the Tribeca Film Festival and a few other international festivals. What is it about your art and your life that you think has swayed such passion and loyalty from fans over the years?

Cyndi Lauper: I try and sing about a real human experience and emotion—because if it was real for me, it would strike a real chord in someone else.