Greatest Showman’s Keala Settle Had A Stroke One Week Before Performing At The Oscars

Keala in This Is Me

While this Holiday season will bring highly anticipated projects like Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman to theaters, last year provided a new classic movie musical: The Greatest Showman. Starring Hugh Jackman as P.T. Barnum, the film centered around the formation of Barnum's circus, with amazing tunes accompanying the story, sung by the impressive cast.

Chief among the cast is Keala Settle, who played Bearded Lady Lettie Lutz in The Greatest Showman. Settle got a ton of notoriety for her beloved song "This Is Me", which she also got to perform at last year's Academy Awards. But it turns out that Settle actually suffered a mini-stroke due to undiagnosed and ultra rare Moyamoya disease. The actress/singer recently told the horrifying story, saying:

It was like someone cracked an egg on the top of my head and then drew a line on my body, turning one half off. My body started drooping immediately. I tried to put my hands up to my face, but I could only move my left arm. I couldn't talk because part of my tongue was immobile. I tried to stand, but there was nothing. I was panicked. I let out this wail because I was so scared and the room went silent. All I could figure out how to say was 'Help.'

What a harrowing account. There was no way that Keala Settle could have predicted having a rare disease like Moyamoya, which results in small mini-strokes. Instead, Settle simply called for help, with just one week left until she was set to perform "This is Me" at the Academy Awards.

While The Greatest Showman has plenty of songs that moviegoers have already come to know and love, "This is Me" is perhaps the film's most iconic track, and one that fans have taken as an anthem. It seemed like an obvious choice to submit and perform at the Oscars, with Keala Settle taking her years of Broadway experience to one of the biggest stages ever.

This timing was obviously worrisome for Keala Settle, who had to grapple with her new medical diagnosis while also preparing for the opportunity and performance of a lifetime. As Settle told People about the incident,

It could have happened at any time. It just so happened to happen a week before the biggest performance of my life.

Ultimately Keala Settle was able to balance her personal and professional life, and belt out "This Is Us" at the Academy Awards. The song got a nomination that night, but didn't win. But "This Is Us" did win Best Song at that year's Golden Globe Awards, giving Settle an extra boost of notoriety and recognition in the wake of such a terrifying medical experience.

You can own a copy of The Greatest Showman now, and she'll once again be using her powerful voice in RENT: Live on January 27th, 2019. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.