diabetes

Meet Evelyn Riddell: the model with type 1 diabetes raising awareness and breaking the stigma

Last month the American Eagle-owned brand Aerie was praised for launching a new lingerie campaign featuring female models with disabilities and chronic illnesses.

One of the models featured is Evelyn Riddell. Evelyn has type 1 diabetes and wears an insulin pump and a continuous glucose monitor in her photos.

We were fortunate enough to chat with Evelyn and ask her about her experience as a model with type 1.

Evelyn was diagnosed when she was 12 years old; she’ll be turning 20 later this year but not before having her 7-year “diaversary.”

A passionate dancer, Evelyn was more worried about whether she’d still be able to dance then the long-term implications of her diagnosis.

She told Diabetes.co.uk, “Type 1 diabetes seemed like a huge obstacle.” “Just before I was diagnosed I was so sick – that I wasn’t able to dance like I used to.”

But she was soon back to her best.

At her first competition after being diagnosed, she achieved first place in one of her dances, but adds that it didn’t come without difficulty.

“Competitions were even more stressful than before – the combination of adrenaline and anxiety turned my blood sugars into a rollercoaster.”

Learning to manage

To manage her blood sugars Evelyn started taking juice boxes into her lessons, had regular breaks and her mum also accompanied her to give her insulin if needed.

Over the years through trial and error Evelyn found an insulin pump to be the best method at controlling her blood sugars, and she has found it easier to fit around her busy schedule than multiple daily injections.

She believes that there are pros and cons to each treatment but feels you should stick with what works best for you.

“Everyone with type 1 diabetes would agree, that even if you’ve found what works best for you, type 1 will find something to throw at you and affect your blood sugars!”

Evelyn was driven to not allow her diagnosis from reaching her long-term goals, but accepted that to achieve them she may have to take a different approach.

The Aerie lingerie campaign was Evelyn’s first professional photoshoot and she has praised the brand for how understanding and helpful they have been. “They make sure my pump is placed where I find it comfortable, it is never staged for the photo.”

When asked if her diabetes has ever interfered with her work, Evelyn spoke about how she has experienced both high and low blood sugars whilst on set. The photoshoots are often long hours and she adds that it’s important she keeps food and a glucometer close by.

“One of the most important things is making sure the team I’m working with is aware of my type 1 diabetes. That way, they understand if I need to take a break, and they are there to help me when needed.”

Looking to the future 

Receiving a diagnosis can be challenging for young people, but Evelyn believes that being diagnosed does not have to hold you back from reaching your goals.

“It can be difficult to see the positives and look towards the future when you’re having a really hard diabetes day, or just a bad day in general. But type 1 diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Evelyn feels she has been able to see the positives from her diagnosis and has learnt more about her body as a result. She also feels more responsible and resilient.

“Though it’s not always easy to see, your type 1 diabetes does not hold you back – in fact, it makes you even stronger!”

Looking to the future, Evelyn is keen to raise more awareness of type 1 diabetes and hopes it’s not just the beginning of her modelling career, but also of type 1 representation in the media.

“There are so many misconceptions and stigmas about diabetes, mainly centred around the fact that very few people are made aware of the differences between type 1 and type 2.”

She believes that this has led many people with type 1, like herself, to receive comments about their health and body leading them to want to ‘hide’ their diabetes.

“My hope is that with greater awareness and representation we can break these stereotypes and misconceptions!”

Evelyn joins the likes of Vanessa Larkham, a model with type 1 diabetes we reported on in 2015 who also wears an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor in her shoots. You can follow Evelyn on her Instagram – @evie_ann.

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