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Personal Stories

3 T1D Supermodels Making a Splash on the Runway

To celebrate Women’s History Month, three young women are making history right now by changing how we look at diabetes—Lila Moss, Bambi Northwood-Blyth, and Evelyn Riddell are supermodels with type 1 diabetes. They wear their devices proudly and speak openly about their T1D diagnosis.

3 T1D Supermodels Making a Splash on the Runway

Let’s face it. We’ve all been in awe of the glitz and glam of runway shows, the immense fashion, the unique sets, and, of course, iconic models strutting down the catwalk, making the entire audience ooh and ah. Models seem to have a certain mystique, an ethereal air so different from the rest of us. Though this facade may be true to an extent, some of it is just that—a facade.

Models may be renowned for their unique beauty and ability to work the runways, but they have struggles and challenges just like anyone else. Imagine a typical workday. Your alarm blares while your arm flails to shut it off desperately before the next ring. Unsuccessfully, you groan and are forced to get out of bed to face the day.  

Models are no different (maybe just a little taller).

Not much like everyone else, though, are individuals with type 1 diabetes (T1D), who face a plethora of additional daily routines after an already subpar night’s rest full of even more groaning alarms (continuous glucose monitor alerts and insulin pump notifications).

More notably unique are those who are models with type 1 diabetes. Though far and few between, Lila Moss, Bambi Northwood-Blyth, and up-and-coming fashion model Evelyn Riddell are known for their ability to wow an audience on the catwalk or in an ad campaign while proudly sporting their life-saving medical devices. Their decision to pursue a dream-like career while advocating for type 1 diabetes has made all three of these strong ladies inspirations to those who share their struggles.

Lila Moss

Lila Moss, a 21-year-old model, is not shy on a runway or in front of a camera. The daughter of 90s supermodel Kate Moss, Lila has been in front of the camera nearly her entire life. She began modeling in her teens and has been seen both beside her mother and on her own since her modeling career took off.

Diagnosed as an early teen, Lila was forced to learn how to manage and take care of her type 1 diabetes for the long run, much like all others burdened with the diagnosis. Despite this, Lila has not attempted to hide or cover her medical devices and has instead strived to keep them visible to the public during her time on and off the runway.

Often sporting her FreeStyle Libre or Omnipod, Lila’s devotion to public exposure has challenged the stigma around people with type 1 diabetes. Being a young, healthy woman in the spotlight speaks volumes and serves to counteract a lot of the false, negative stereotypes surrounding those with T1D.

She lets people with type 1 diabetes, especially young women, say, “I can dream big, too.”

With all that life throws at those with type 1 diabetes, it can be easy to let yourself get bogged down by the massive weight of the many doctors’ appointments, lab tests, pharmacy costs, and day-to-day struggles. But seeing someone with big dreams and significant accomplishments makes type 1 diabetes feel so much smaller.

Lila uses her platform to call on the increased technological advancements that those struggling with type 1 diabetes so badly need. By doing this, along with her blatantly proud display of diabetes tech, she increases awareness and decreases stigma.

Stephanie "Bambi" Northwood-Blyth

Bambi Northwood-Blyth was diagnosed in 2002 as a preteen and has spent the last two decades managing her diabetes. Born in Australia with no family history, she was quickly thrust into the world of managing type 1 diabetes at a young age. Despite this, Bambi made no effort to let this stand in her way. Instead, she became a successful model, starring in international modeling campaigns for over a decade.

Bambi is not bashful about her struggles with type 1 diabetes and has always been rather transparent about the fact. Often seen with either her Dexcom G6 (continuous glucose monitor) or injecting insulin via a pen, Bambi has used her social media platform to share her personal experiences with type 1 diabetes.

In a world where social media reigns supreme, vast amounts of stigma, hate, and stereotypes are readily available and fly rampant. As social media is especially popular among younger crowds and easily influenced in their developing years, it is crucial that the visuals and information they take in be positive to their growth.

While this sadly is not always the case, celebrities’ use of social media in a positive way, such as Bambi’s decision to boldly display her medical devices for anyone to see—is a refreshing change of pace.

Bambi’s decision to do this not only helps reduce negative stigma but also provides a positive outlet for young men and women with diabetes to see how someone sharing their affliction can still be successful and proud of who they are.

She has also made waves in the community through her continued advocacy as a JDRF T1D Role Model and Dexcom Warrior.

Evelyn Riddell

The Aerie (American Eagle) model, Evelyn Riddell, is potentially the most relatable of the bunch. This is not only because of her shared need to carry juice boxes and fruit snacks everywhere but also because when that alarm goes off in the morning, she’s not in Paris or Rome but scrambling to get ready for her classes at the University of Toronto.

During a recent inclusive bra and underwear shoot, Evelyn was asked to model for Aerie. Though this was her modeling debut, she has undoubtedly already made her mark. While she is a university student turned model seemingly overnight, she has made it crystal clear that her number one goal in all of this is to help others feel beautiful and confident in their own skin.

In her modeling photos, Evelyn shows off her comfortably situated Medtronic insulin pump and her Dexcom G6—two critical devices for monitoring and controlling blood glucose levels in people with type 1 diabetes.

Interesting Fact: The #AerieREAL campaign embraces models with intellectual and physical disabilities, and the company’s new lingerie campaign includes women in wheelchairs, with skin disorders and chronic illnesses like diabetes.

Aerie’s 2020 campaign featured 13 role models, including athletes, writers, scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs.

Social Media Platforms with Positive Impacts

As a highly misconceptualized disease, traditional media hasn’t always been kind to the idea of showing off medical devices. Colostomy bags, wheelchairs, and insulin pumps seemed to be on the blacklist for the longest time. In recent years, though, there has been an outpouring request that everyday people be seen modeling what everyday people are buying, and this includes those with type 1 diabetes.

Athleta, the women's performance apparel store, features a campaign called, "The Power of She."  In one advertisement a group of kids with Down syndrome and their mothers find sisterhood through yoga, while in another ad a woman wears her Dexcom continuous glucose monitor.

Role Model Behavior

Though these women share no different every day struggles than those of us who share the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, their increased exposure and use of their platforms speak volumes to decrease the negative stereotypes behind type 1 diabetes.

Like modern-day superheroes, all three women are strong individuals who use their abilities for good. With heightened awareness of the needs of those with type 1 diabetes and decreased negative connotations thanks to their actions, there is no doubt that these “Supermodels” are incredible at what they do for their careers and the type 1 diabetes community.

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