Robert De Niro’s partner Tiffany Chen diagnosed with Bell’s palsy after giving birth

Actor Robert De Niro, left, and Tiffany Chen both wear jackets in front of a Tribeca Festival backdrop
Martial arts instructor Tiffany Chen shares that she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy shortly after giving birth to her first child — and partner Robert De Niro’s seventh — in April.
(Andy Kropa / Invision / Associated Press)
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Robert De Niro’s partner Tiffany Chen has revealed that she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy after giving birth in April.

Chen opened up about the postpartum health complication in an interview with “CBS Mornings” host Gayle King, who revealed the tot’s name and first photo in May after getting the runaround from the Oscar-winning actor. On Friday, the newborn, Gia Virginia Chen De Niro, made her TV debut.

Robert De Niro recently revealed he had a seventh child. He didn’t let Gayle King break the news, but he gave her an exclusive on the baby girl’s photo.

May 11, 2023

Chen said that despite a “really easy” pregnancy with De Niro’s seventh child, “everything was starting to just fall down on itself” after her C-section delivery. The martial arts instructor also described her face as “melting on itself.”


Right after the delivery, she felt a sharp pain behind her ear and noticed that her face was “looking odder.” Doctors initially told her the symptoms were likely a result of fluid buildup after giving birth, but the symptoms worsened when she got home. Her tongue felt strange, “a little tingly, starting to get a little bit numb,” and in a week she was readmitted to the hospital.

“I lost all facial function the minute I got into the hospital. And the one thing that threw everybody off was that it was perfectly symmetrical how everything had fallen and how everything wasn’t working,” she said.

The athlete’s MRI showed that she had Bell’s palsy, a neurological disorder that causes severe muscle weakness or facial paralysis. The condition usually affects one side of the face. It can be temporary and tends to resolve itself or with some treatment, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Chen said that “everything fell,” including her lower lip, making it hard for her to speak or make any facial expressions. And the palsy affected both sides of her face, which is rare.

“I got to a point where it was just hanging and I’d have to hold it up,” she said. “And to talk, I’d have to hold my chin and I’d have to manipulate my lower lip to make certain sounds. I couldn’t say ‘Bob.’”

Leandro De Niro, an actor who was the grandson of Robert De Niro, has died. He was 19. ‘I don’t know how to live without you,’ his mother, Drena De Niro, wrote.

July 3, 2023

While her symptoms have improved, some self-conscious issues have remained, including not being able to smile at Gia.


“I couldn’t give her kisses. That’s what made me self-conscious,” Chen said, later adding, “The thing I did worry about was, ‘What if it didn’t get better?’ Was my kid going to get made fun of for having the weird-looking mom? That’s the only time, like, vanity comes into play. It’s how it affects the child.”

Chen was frustrated by negative commentary that focused on her appearance after initial headlines about De Niro’s age at Gia’s birth subsided. (De Niro is 79 and has six other children.)

“I’m like, ‘Mind your own business a bit. And if you want to say something, don’t always attach what you think in your mind as the story. You don’t know us. You don’t know what happened in somebody’s life,’” Chen said. “People were saying all sorts of nasty things about, you know, my appearance and me being angry. And I’m just kind of like, ‘This is, like, the happiest time in my life.’”

The comments also encouraged Chen to share her story to be an ally to other women who are criticized in similar manners.

Robert De Niro’s daughter Drena De Niro said on Instagram that her 19-year-old son, Leandro, was sold fentanyl-laced pills before he died.

July 5, 2023

Chen, who met De Niro when she played his tai chi instructor in his 2015 comedy “The Intern,” said that he was sweet and supportive throughout the ordeal.

“[De Niro] tried to say that he didn’t see any difference, he didn’t see any change,” Chen laughed. “He was like ‘No. ... You look fine.’ He’s like, ‘Maybe you look a little stern.’ And I’m like ‘Really?’ My whole face has melted on itself. But he was very strong, very supportive.”


Chen’s revelation comes amid news that a woman who allegedly sold fentanyl-laced pills to De Niro’s 19-year-old grandson Leandro was arrested. Leandro died earlier this month, but no cause of death was given at the time.