Will HS Warrior Jackson Gillies be the Next American Idol?
Jackson Gillies has his parents – and Luciano Pavarotti – to thank for his love of music.
As he explained during his Tedx Santa Barbara talk in 2017, he suffered colic as a baby. He cried for hours on end.
Until his mother turned on the television set and the great opera legend began to sing.
“[My parents] are both avid lovers of music,” Jackson said. “I grew up listening to wonderful artists like The Grateful Dead, James Taylor, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan and more.”
His first love was musical theater. He participated in numerous plays and musicals during school and fell in love with the stage.
It was a love affair cut short by HS.
“I had just moved from New York to Florida for better weather and exercise to gain control of my Type 1 Diabetes,” he said. “Soon after I arrived, HS hit.”
He had seven or eight abscesses on each of his legs. He didn’t walk for nearly two months and was bedridden.
“It was then that I picked up the guitar. I felt like I actually had control over something. So, I learned how to play and played every day.”
His diagnosis of diabetes came at the age of three – the day before Halloween. So there was no candy for him.
His HS diagnoses was at the age of fourteen when he was a freshman in high school.
“I was only Stage 1-2 and it was mostly isolated to my legs,” he said.
There were isolated abscesses on his head and cheek. During his Tedx talk, Jackson showed a photo of a marble-sized abscess on top of his forehead. He referred to it as “Bob.”
His Tedx talk garnered over 65,000 views in less than a year and continues to receive positive reactions.
“I will never stop being grateful for the people who thank me for the talk and the way I could help them,” he said. “I think so many people with HS have connected to it because they’re either in the same place I was a few years ago or have been fighting for many years and are glad to know they’re not alone.”
HS doesn’t impact his music as one might think.
“I don’t write songs about the pain of living with it, how hard it is to go on, or any negative aspect of it. Contrast is the thing that really makes the good times count.
“My HS has made me a more resilient person; more patient, understanding and aware that everyone is going through something.”
Ironically, Jackson has HS to thank for management of his diabetes.
“My tight diet of meats, vegetables and leafy greens has my body working at its best,” he said. “My numbers are very well controlled.”
He has his diabetes to thank for meeting actress Mary Tyler Moore.
When he was eight or nine years old, Jackson did a Public Service Announcement for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) with the renowned actress.
“She was incredibly sweet,” he said. While the other kids seemed timid to speak to Mary, Jackson was not. “Being the brave, little rascal I was, I asked her ‘Where should I be looking? At the camera?’ She told me, “Look at that camera, smile big and give it all you got!’”
Jackson wants to be a recording and touring artist, “to play with beautiful and genuine musicians, and to help people in any way I can in their daily lives with my songs.”
He confesses procrastination with writing two last songs for his first album.
“I think my brain is subconsciously subverting my efforts to write the songs,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist and I know I’ll feel like I can write better songs once I do finish them.”
The album should be released prior to March 3.
During his appearance on March 18 on American Idol, HS was brought up. Which means millions have now heard the words “Hidradenitis Suppurativa.”
Lionel Richie himself acknowledged how he woke up that morning with a couple things that bothered him and how Jackson’s perseverance had changed his own perspective.
This blog was first published in the February 2019 issue of the HS Journal. It is used here with permission.