Tomiko Fraser Hines Adds Lupus Activist to Her Resume
As a top International Ford Agency model, Tomiko Fraser Hines lives in a world filled with glitz and glamour. She regularly works with the fashion world’s biggest names, like Chanel, Lagerfeld, and Von Furstenberg. Her fashion spreads have appeared in top magazines, including Oprah and Essence. Tomiko has appeared in feature films and television shows with Freddie Prinz, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and other top stars. She was the first African American to sign an exclusive modeling contract with Maybelline Cosmetics. Tomiko’s life is blessed with beauty and success.
Tomiko knows, however, that her life is in great contrast to that of her beloved sister, Shneequa. Shneequa must spend her days at a skilled nursing facility because she suffers with the autoimmune disease lupus which has affected her brain and central nervous system. Tomiko now serves as Shneequa’s guardian and caretaker, and often has to make the glamorous life less of a priority.
It is a sacrifice that she is proud to make, but it is also the reason that Tomiko joined hundreds of people with lupus, their family members, and health professionals from across the nation on Capitol Hill on March 1. As part of her role as a member of the Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) National Board of Directors, Tomiko Fraser and fellow lupus advocates called on the offices of their United States Senators and U.S. Representatives to ask that more be done to help the 1.5 million Americans suffering from lupus.
The Lupus Foundation of America is the nation’s leading nonprofit voluntary health organization dedicated to finding the causes of and cure for lupus. Research, education and support services are at the heart of the LFA’s mission to improve the quality of life for people like Shneequa who are affected by lupus.
Tomiko is a passionate activist for lupus awareness and research. While her sister has improved in recent years since developing lupus in the late 1990s, Tomiko knows that it has been more than 40 years since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new treatment for lupus. Current treatments consist mostly of steroids, antimalarial drugs, and chemotherapy used to treat cancer. The side effects of these harsh treatments can be worse than the damage that lupus can cause.
Tomiko and 350 of her fellow lupus advocates urged Members of Congress to provide more funds for lupus research and education programs to improve early diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Due to a lack of awareness, people often suffer four or more years and go to three or more doctors before being correctly diagnosed with lupus.
Lupus is beginning to gain visibility in the popular media: In recent months lupus has been integrated into popular television shows such as “House,” “E.R.,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “Scrubs”. The FX cop series, “The Shield,” features a character that is battling lupus.
Although people are beginning to hear about lupus, Tomiko and the other advocates know that they still have a monumental task ahead of them in gaining the attention and support they believe lupus deserves. After watching her sister suffer with the debilitating and disabling effects of lupus for many years, Tomiko knows that this starring role is the most important one she will ever have.