Camelia Raybon began her acting career at an early age: In third grade, she was part of a play covering Black history for her school. Her teacher, a woman named Mrs. Reynolds, was the driving force behind her performance.
"It was the first time I remember seeing the value of how to use your voice," she tells Health, remembering the sound of the audience erupting with applause after her performance. "That performance is forever etched in my memory because it was the day I realized that if I had something profound to say, and I said it in just the right way, people would listen."
Raybon went on to pursue a career in acting—she fell in love with the "electric energy" it gave her—but shortly after her pursuit began, she began to struggle with some health issues.
"My weight really got out of control around 2010," she says. "There were times where I got really sick and nearly passed out in acting class or a workshop because I hadn't eaten." But it wasn't until Raybon began experiencing issues with her vision, that she decided it was time to see a doctor.
"My maternal grandmother was blind due to complications from type 2 diabetes, and so were two of her sisters, and when the issues with my eyes started, I got really scared," she says. It turns out, her worries were right: Raybon was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes—and just in time. "[My doctor] told me that if I didn't get my blood sugar under control, I wasn't going to be here for very long," she says.
It was then that Raybon knew she had to make some changes in her life—and her paternal grandmother—whom Raybon felt she had a responsibility to care for—was one person who helped her with that decision. "One day she asked me, 'When are you going to live your life?' and when I tried to explain that I had to take care of her, she told me that God was taking care of her [and that] I had to take care of myself," Raybon says. "It was gut-wrenching, but to be honest, it was exactly what I needed to hear."
First on the list of changes for Raybon: tackling her relationship with food. "I became a raw vegan and started making all my meals," she says. "After four months, I lost 40 pounds, and that's without having started any sort of exercise—it's all been my diet, drinking water, and managing my stress."
The changes Raybon made didn't just alter how she looks—they also improved her health, and how she feels about her future.
"My A1C [a test that measures blood sugar] is back to a normal non-diabetic range. My kidney function is normal. My sleep apnea is gone, which means I don't have to use a CPAP machine anymore," she says. "I still go to the doctor and get diabetic screening labs done to make sure everything is fine. Honestly, I couldn't be more grateful for the state of my health right now."
The renewed passion for life and evolution of Raybon's acting career led her to create MiasGhia, a YouTube channel she hopes can inspire other people to live the life they deserve. She's using the new venture to show the power of her voice, just like Mrs. Reynolds taught her.
"I think a lot of times we don't live up to the best versions of ourselves and that's what I want my YouTube channel to be about," she says. "Telling people that they deserve to feel good and not to wait. Because too often we miss out on experiences out of fear or out of a sense of obligation."
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter