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Usher and Apple CEO Tim Cook had a meeting. Now the Super Bowl performer is taking their ideas to Capitol Hill

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The Grammy-award winning singer met with the Fortune 500 exec at Apple’s sprawling California campus to discuss 2024 Super Bowl plans, and after a lengthy tour, suggested Cook invest in a new mode of transportation. 

“I gave him a pair of skates,” Usher recalled to Fortune. “I told him, you’ve got enough space here, maybe you should use them in the hallway. Get you where you wanna go quicker.” 

The R&B icon, who made history as the most-watched Super Bowl performance of all time, infamously sang, danced, and entertained 130 million viewers at this year’s game–all while wearing a pair of roller skates.

Two main results from Usher and Cook’s meeting emerged: an instant meme of Cook wearing a t-shirt with Usher’s face ironed onto it, plus suggestions for how to help the approximately 1.45 million Americans currently living with type 1 diabetes.

“That t-shirt is probably going to be valued for millions someday so I’m hoping that I can get one,” the singer joked in an interview with Fortune.

After his star-studded Super Bowl performance, Usher says he’s now readying his talents for a different stage: Capitol Hill.

Usher is set to join a contingent led by French pharma giant Sanofi that will meet with legislators in Washington, D.C. later this month to discuss the importance of early screening for type 1 diabetes, a condition that’s thought to be caused by an autoimmune disease that leads the body to mistakenly attack insulin-producing cells.

It’s a cause that’s personal for the performer, who has been an outspoken advocate for more awareness about the condition after his child was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2014 at age six.   

“My child was urinating a lot and was a bit lethargic and very tired,” he explained to Fortune. “There were no real explanations behind it.”

Usher described the diabetes diagnosis experience as “shocking” since no other relatives were known to have had the condition. 

“My grandmother had type 2 diabetes, and I could remember drawing insulin and watching her take her blood sugar levels and also having to watch her administer insulin,” he explained. “So I did understand the treatment of diabetes but not type 1, especially not for an infant.”

Ten years later, Usher is now a paid spokesperson for Sanofi, ranked #299 on the Fortune Global 500, and hopes to assist other parents and caregivers through a process he describes as “overwhelming.”  

According to new research released Wednesday from Beyond Type 1, a nonprofit cofounded by singer Nick Jonas, 79% of adults with type 1 diabetes said they felt underprepared and overwhelmed when they first learned of their diagnosis. “The Cost of Not Knowing” study, commissioned by Sanofi and conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 U.S. adults with type 1 diabetes and 1,000 caregivers to children, found that 88% of patients required emergency care for their type 1 symptoms before or during their diagnosis. 

The number of Americans with type 1 diabetes is expected to jump to 2.1 million people by 2040–a nearly eight-fold increase since 1990, according to Beyond Type 1. The financial toll of that diagnosis can be steep; half of respondents with type 1 diabetes spent at least $5,000 on emergency care, and nearly a quarter reported spending at least $10,000. 

“Most Americans don’t have $1,000 in their savings account, so it’s something that could very easily put a family into extraordinary financial distress, causing people to take on debt,” Kristian Hurley, senior vice president of programs, advocacy, and health equity at Beyond Type 1, told Fortune.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes cost Americans $413 billion per year in medical expenses and reduced productivity, according to the American Diabetes Association. While most common in children and young adults, type 1 can happen to anyone at any age, and about 90% of those diagnosed had no family history, according to research nonprofit JDRF. Hurley said those with type 1 diabetes have described it as “constantly having a math problem” to solve when checking insulin levels and medication. 

“Type 1 doesn’t take a day off, so in everything that you do, you have to be able to make sure that you’re supporting your needs as it relates to insulin,” Kristian Hurley said. “It’s a full-time job.”

Heading to Capitol Hill 

As Usher prepares to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill later this month, he says he’s “excited” for the opportunity to share his family’s story. 

“If I am to use this very complicated experience that I have for something that is positive, and to bring about positive support, then I want to be there for it,” he said. “I’m there simply to share my story; I’m a storyteller.”

The mission is not new for the singer; last year, Usher and Sanofi launched the “The 1 Pledge,” a nationwide educational campaign to encourage screening for type 1 diabetes before noticeable symptoms arise.

Though he describes the impact of T1D on his family as “complicated,” he hopes the visit to D.C. will be a collaborative way to educate Americans on early screening. 

“I make music and I actually tell stories, but this one is one that I feel is necessary and could potentially help a lot of people,” he said. “I feel like sharing my story could potentially bring support to people who really need it.”

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