Aerie Model Evelyn Riddell Talks to BT1
Editor’s Note: Michelle Lord, a member of BT1’s Global Ambassador Council, interviewed fellow T1D Evelyn Riddell. Evelyn modeled as a part of the #AerieReal Campaign, and displayed her medical devices in photos, some of which ended up displayed in Times Square! Read a condensed transcript of the interview below or scroll to see the entire video where these two talk modeling with type 1 diabetes (T1D).
Where are you from and how long have you had Type 1 diabetes? How did you get involved with Aerie?
I am from Toronto. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since I was 12 so about seven and a half years. And I’m currently 20 years old, in my third year of study at the University of Toronto. I first got involved with Aerie last spring when I was in their bra campaign and they had an open casting call on their Instagram page. It had always been a dream of mine to model for Aerie specifically because I’ve just always admired their message of body positivity and inclusivity. So I decided to apply—why not? And I was really lucky that I got picked and I was in their bra campaign featuring my insulin pump and my continuous glucose monitor (CGM) and I’m very blessed to have been given more opportunities since then.
Tell us what the first photoshoot was like. What was it like having your devices out and were people asking you a lot of questions?
It was definitely surreal. I’ve never really done any modeling before that so just being in my underwear was kind of intimidating. But the Aerie team made me feel so comfortable and anytime they could notice that I was feeling a bit uncomfortable, they’d come talk to me. They’d help me out, they’d ask me how I was feeling and their first priority was always my comfort and my enjoyment of the day. So they were asking a lot of questions about my devices because they just wanted to know more and they wanted to know how to help me if I had a low blood sugar—they wanted to know what they could do to help.
Did anyone actually have to help you on the set? Did you have any low blood sugars?
One of my second photo shoots, I did have a low blood sugar and they all helped me. They paused all of the photos. They said, ‘Let’s take a lunch break,’ and they gave me my juice box. I kept it on a little makeup cart so someone went and got it for me and then I treated my low and we were right back to it.
When the campaign came out and you saw yourself on the Aerie website and in stores and on social media, how did you feel?
I don’t even know how to describe it. It was pretty indescribable! I’ve been shopping at Aerie for so many years and I’ve always been on their website searching for the newest bathing suit to buy and to look on the Aerie website and see myself… It almost didn’t register with me! It just felt so surreal and it was so powerful not even to see myself, I think I was more excited to see a CGM on the site and an insulin pump than I was to see me.
How did you feel when you all of a sudden had so much attention from the diabetes community?
I kind of felt like it was coming from my family because I’ve been so involved with the community for so many years. I knew many of the people that were messaging me and even if I didn’t know them personally, we’d have something so special in common that it honestly felt like my relatives and close family were messaging me saying, ‘Good job, I saw what you did,’ and it just felt really nice. It gave me this really nice warm feeling of belonging within the community and I tried my hardest to respond to everyone but it was a little bit overwhelming. I’ve never been someone to receive that many messages before so I tried my hardest to respond to everyone personally and thank everyone personally and as much as it took a lot of time, and it was kind of overwhelming, I think it was worth it.
What is your goal with social media platforms and what do you want to bring to the Type 1 diabetes community?
I think that my goal is as long as I’ve touched one person and if I post a YouTube video and one person is touched by that and feels more confident or feels more comfortable in showing their type 1 diabetes or just knows that they’re not alone, that’s my goal. It doesn’t matter how many followers I have as long as one person has been positively affected by my videos.
If you were to give a person with type 1 diabetes advice if they’re going away to university, what would your advice be?
I think my two top tips would be: 1) your health is your priority because if you’re not prioritizing your health and making sure that you’re feeling your best, you’re not going to do as well in school. You’re not going to be able to focus, you’re not going to be able to do as well as you’d like, so make health your priority. 2) Advocate for yourself because in high school there were teachers there to help you, they knew about you. No one knows here. There’s a lot more students, but there are so many resources to help you. You just have to go find them yourself and you have to advocate for yourself.