People With Disabilities Aren’t Victims, “We’re Examples”: With Kenny Robinson or Robinson’s Remedies

Photo Credit: Melissa Porter
“We’re not victims, we’re examples—examples of perseverance, dedication and commitment to something bigger.”
Kenny Robinson, founded Robinson’s Remedies, an all-natural lip and skin product line. For years, Robinson suffered from debilitating cold sores. As a professional trumpet player he couldn’t find a solution to keep his cold sores at bay—so he created one!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your backstory?

I grew up on the East Side of Detroit. From as early as I can remember, I would listen to my dad playing trumpet. He would practice by playing along with Bill Chase records.

My dad gave me an old used Conn Director trumpet. I remember walking around pretending to be a trumpet player. In fact one day I went to school and brought my trumpet to show at “Show and Tell.” The music teacher thought I knew how to play the trumpet so he put me on the spot. I faked it. From that day on, I knew I wanted to play the trumpet.

I’ve suffered from cold sores my entire life, but it never really affected me until I was 12 years old. I got a cold sore the day before a big solo in junior high school. Little did I know at this time, that scenarios just like this would haunt me throughout college and my professional career.

Tell me about the challenges you face, and what you did to overcome them?

I can still remember being in high school and I drank a glass of orange juice before I left for school. By the time I walked my 30 minutes from my house to the school, my lips were covered in cold sores.

I tried holistic remedies. I tried every prescription, I tried lip creams. I tried every product over the counter. Each time a new product would give me hope just to devastate me within days.

One time I went to see a doctor. I said, “What are we going to do here.” His response, “Quit the trumpet.” And I did for a short few weeks.

I was miserable. The trumpet is all I knew. The trumpet was always a part of my personal journey. Playing trumpet was how I defined myself.

But, after years of frustration, losing gigs and suffering I went on a mission to create my own remedy. For years I read. I read everything I could get my hands on. I called. I called every person or professional who was a proclaimed cold sore specialist.

I discovered a way to make my own lip balm using natural antiviral ingredients. I started to add some of the compounds I researched. My hypothesis was to create an effective product in preventing outbreaks while treating symptoms. I took all of the knowledge I gained, rolled up my sleeves, and started putting my chemistry skills to the test in my kitchen. I managed to whip up something that worked….it really worked. I would carry it around in my horn case. I would share it with my fellow musicians. However, there were a few problems: it smelled bad, it was messy and it tasted TERRIBLE!

I had the functionality of the formula down, but the aesthetics needed work. I went out to find a person who had the education and credentials (not to mention medically tested facilities) to perfect the formula. I wanted to share my remedy with the world and really help fellow cold sore sufferers.

I met Amanda Vickers, the director at the US Botanical Safety Laboratory. She took her chemistry talents and turned my formula into a real viable solution. Thanks to Amanda, Robinson’s Remedies became a reality.

Can you tell us about the accomplishments you have been able to make despite your challenges?

I’ve toured with the legendary and late Maynard Ferguson. I’ve shared stages with Beach Boys, The Temptations, The O’Jays, The Four Tops and performed on many Broadway plays. At the end of the day I’m able to do what I love to do….play trumpet!

What advice would you give to other people who have challenges and disabilities?

As cliché as it sounds….never give up. There is always a way. The journey to get there may not be the way you imagined, but if you keep working towards what you want, it will happen!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

I was touring with one of my boyhood heroes, Maynard Ferguson and his Big Bop Noveau Band when I developed a massive cold sore on my chops before a show. Immediately, I went into panic mode. My brain just raced with “What Ifs?”

I went to the Music Director of the band at the time, Reggie Watkins. He took one look at my chops and brought me into Maynard’s dressing room to let him in to see my chops. Maynard took a look at my chops and said in a empathetic tone, “Oh my! Well if you can’t play with the band tonight, you can stand up there and smile with us. You’re a part of this band.”

I played that gig with everything I had. I got through the gig, just barely. My chops felt like hamburger and swollen like a balloon. I got off stage with the band and Maynard came up to me and said in high pitched voice, “I don’t know how you were able to play up there but you sounded great!” This was my defining moment. Maynard was a great bandleader and his kindness and true compassion really made an impact on me. He taught me not to worry and never give up. If his chops were bothering him he would say, “Oh… will be great!” Maynard would never let anything bother him.

I changed that day. I decided I wasn’t going to suffer anymore. I didn’t know how I would do it, but I knew I was going to do it. I was going to create a remedy to help cold sore sufferers around the world.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

When I started making Robinson’s Remedies, I wanted to just give out my cream to help cold sore sufferers. I never thought of selling it to the general public. The company is still young. As we grow we want to create philanthropic programs to educate and inspire others to pursue their passions.

Can you share “5 things I wish people understood and knew about disabilities,” and why?

  1. People should stop staring. I don’t think people understand the pain and insecurity you feel when someone points out your disability. There were so many times people would look at me puzzled and say, “What’s that on your lip?”
  2. We have to work twice as hard as people without disabilities have to, but we appreciate success just that much more.
  3. We’re stronger than most. We didn’t have a choice.
  4. We’re not victims, we’re examples. Examples of perseverance, dedication and commitment to something bigger.
  5. Having an ailment or being disabled is an opportunity. I would’ve never gotten this far if I didn’t want to stop suffering from cold sores. Pain and disappointment can be the motivating factor to create something more.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Dr. Oz. He’s a doctor that strikes a healthy balance between prescriptions and all natural products. He’s a man who wants something better for this world.

What is your favorite life lesson quote?

Where there’s a will there’s a way. There is always a way. It just depends how bad you want it.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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