Singing on the big stage with psoriatic disease

| Chris Paoli

The strength to continue striving for your dreams and goals in the face of adversity is something that many of us struggle with on a daily basis. But for 16-year-old Emma Grace Smith, of Wichita, Kansas, it comes naturally to her.

Diagnosed with both psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) at 7, she never let that get in the way of her passion: singing. Though her monthly treatment often leaves her feeling sick and fatigued, she continues practicing her craft and performing for local crowds. From a young age, she has been a regular at local monster truck rallies and baseball games, singing the national anthem for hundreds of fans. 

Her biggest singing accomplishment to date came recently as she made it to Hollywood Week of this season’s “American Idol.” Her journey started last year when she won a local news contest for a guaranteed audition. Last summer she got her chance to shine in front of the three celebrity judges, Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. After being passed over by Bryan and Richie, Perry saw something special in her and used her special “silver” ticket to advance Smith to the next round.  

She recalls Hollywood Week being exhausting due to the combination of her medication and 18-hour days. Despite the long hours (and performing again for the judges with little sleep), her overall outlook on being a part of the show was positive and, even though she didn’t advance to the top 20, she says it was all worth it.  
 
“It was super fun and it was a great experience on how to be confident with my singing. It really showed me a path to where I need to go next and what I need to work on with my singing.”

Back at home, Smith doesn’t allow her psoriatic disease to get in the way of her other hobbies, which includes painting, crafting and playing sports. She also works two jobs as a babysitter and a lifeguard – and she considers the second job more of a hobby. 

Smith says that despite the soreness from her PsA or the side effects of the medicine, her psoriatic disease became normal for her and never affected her life until she got into middle school and others started to notice it. “Someone pointed out my elbows in gym class and I felt really insecure about that. I didn’t really want to show myself and avoided some clothing like dresses.”

However, she says that she quickly got over those feelings with the help of her supportive family, which includes two older and one younger siblings, and, for the most part, it hasn’t gotten in the way of what she loves. She also says she’s been an example of the importance of not judging those who are different. 

Smith does acknowledge that, despite wanting to always go on, she has to take periodic breaks. “The medicine that I take can make me really sick. So I lose my voice a lot. Also, because I have a higher level of getting sick on the medicine, I have to sometimes be careful around other people and crowds,” she says. “There’s a lot of days where it’s hard to stay focused or hard to even get up and go to work. But I have to power through. And at the end of the day, I find it’s all been rewarding.”

With Smith technically entering her senior year of high school (she takes her classes online at home, at her own pace), she has been weighing her career options. While music is her true passion, she also understands that it is an incredibly competitive field to thrive in. That’s why she’s setting her sights on both music and nursing for college. 

And she says that “American Idol” hasn’t seen the last of her. “I’m definitely going back next year.”

A place for parents, teens and kids

Our Spot is the spot for families growing up with psoriatic disease. Visit Our Spot to find the resources you need to thrive like Emma Grace Smith.


Driving discovery, creating community

For more than 50 years, we’ve been driving efforts to cure psoriatic disease and improve the lives of those affected. But there’s still plenty to do! Learn how you can help our advocacy team shape the laws and policies that affect people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis – in your state and across the country. Help us raise funds to support research by joining Team NPF, where you can walk, run, cycle, play bingo or create your own fundraising event. If you or someone you love needs free, personalized support for living a healthier life with psoriatic disease, contact our Patient Navigation Center. And keep the National Psoriasis Foundation going strong by making a donation today. Together, we will find a cure.

Recent Advance Posts

NPF’s multi-disciplinary Cure Symposium aims to lead the way toward a cure.
Leah McCormick Howard and Stephen Katz
Longtime NIAMS director was a friend to all he served.
cartoon two scientists with giant microscope and helix in background
You don’t need an advanced degree in biochemistry to be a Citizen Pscientist,...
cartoon of female scientist in lab coat with microscope
Stacie Bell, a visionary with a long history in chronic diseases, takes the...
cartoon hands and hearts reaching for the stars
Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” You still have a few weeks...
Giving Tuesday save the date logo
#GivingTuesday gives you a worthwhile alternative to the holiday shopping...
Mason Zimmerman and Ethan Stafford at Team NPF Cycle
Meet the 12-year-old boys leading the next generation fighting against...
researchers in a lab
NPF just awarded more than $2 million in research grants and fellowships. Here’...
female researcher in a lab
The first step toward curing PsA is building a diagnostic test. That's NPF...