Glitter Glucose is on a Mission to Help Everyone Find Power in Diabetes
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for time and clarity.
Paloma created her alter-ego, Glitter Glucose, to connect with like-minded people with diabetes on social media after being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in her early 20s. She is well-recognized on Instagram and within the diabetes space for her uplifting attitude.
Diabetes is one part of her story. In this interview, she shares how she leaped to become a full-time influencer, the responsibility it comes with and how Freestyle Libre products have helped her embrace her power while living with diabetes.
BT1: Hi Paloma! Thank you for joining us today. We’re looking forward to learning more about you and Freestyle Libre’s impact in your life. To get started, can you share a brief background story? What is the first thing someone should know about you?
Paloma: I was diagnosed with diabetes at 23-years-old. At that age, you think you know everything, but you realize you don’t know everything as time goes on. You’re learning every single day, and being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as an adult was tough for me. I’ve been living with it for about eight years.
When I first got diagnosed, I felt so alone. I felt like I was the only person on this planet living with diabetes, but there are so many of us out there. That’s when I created my persona, Glitter Glucose. I wanted to connect with others living with the condition. I didn’t feel comfortable as Paloma speaking about T1D. My alter-ego opens that door for me.
Is there anything else that inspired you to get into the content creation space aside from diabetes? Do you think about yourself as a content creator, or do you approach your work with a different mindset?
Social media was more of a hobby and place to vent at that time. I worked in the fashion industry back then, and I thought I always would. I thought, you know, I love my job. It’s what my college degree is in. It’s my passion. But once I started speaking out about my life with diabetes, I realized that this is a big passion of mine. I was doing my full-time job and content creation for about a year or two, but I thought I had to go with my heart. If I wasn’t making a career out of Glitter Glucose, I could always get another job. It’s all risk and reward! And I’m so glad I took this path because I just hit my fifth anniversary of quitting my day job.
Congratulations! Was there a single moment that inspired you to take that leap? What fears did you encounter when you decided to quit your full-time job and immerse yourself in this space?
Back then, “influencer” wasn’t even a word. That wasn’t even a thought because it wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t like how kids think about being an influencer today. It was crazier back then than it is now to venture out full-time into this space. Now we know the possibilities and power of social media and having an online presence.
Maybe if I would’ve tried it today, I would’ve had even more of a plan—like a layout to follow someone else’s footsteps. But I was one of the first, especially in the diabetes and health spaces, to take that leap and say, “Hey, I think I can make something out of this.” I think it was honestly just the right place at the right time.
Did you worry about getting health insurance when you decided to make that move as a person living with type 1 diabetes?
I definitely did worry about health insurance because, as we know, living with diabetes is so expensive. I’m 32 now, but I was in my twenties when I started this all. I think I was more ignorant and free-spirited then. I didn’t think about things too hard. I just thought: “I’m gonna do it.” I wanted to see what I could get out of this persona. Had I thought about it harder, I might have scared myself out of making the leap. You can run so many scenarios in your head. So yes, I was worried, but I thought I would be able to figure it out.
Understandable! Your perspective should be encouraging for people with diabetes who want to leap into this space.
Influencers sometimes act as representatives of the communities they are a part of. As a person with diabetes, how do you feel about representing the community? What pressures and joys does it come with?
Especially in the health space, I think there is a lot of pressure because diabetes is so personal and different for everybody living with it. I never want to come off like I’m the blueprint or perfect or even know what I’m doing because I don’t. My life is full of highs and lows—you know? I will say, Glitter Glucose is a space where it’s all about the bright side of diabetes and having fun.
Those of us who live with diabetes all know the negatives. They’re easy to see—the positives are hard to find. I think what takes work and strength is to find the positives. That’s what I try to showcase on my page. Still, I get a lot of backlash from people who say: “You’re so fake!” And yes, living with diabetes is not easy or fun, but I am doing the work to find the positives and share them. I can’t speak to anyone else’s experience except my own. Everyone’s on a different wave of their diabetes journey.
What’s the most rewarding part of Glitter Glucose?
The most rewarding part is sharing online and having it resonate with people. There’s always someone who can connect with what I’m sharing. Like if I had no sleep last night because I had low blood sugar. Many people respond with: “I’ve been there.” Knowing I’m not alone is rewarding, not for just myself to feel that way, but for others who come to my page and see the comments, to know that they’re not alone. I relate to many different people. I have friends who are 8-years-old and 60-years-old living with diabetes. We all have many of the same struggles. The thing that connects us all is diabetes.
What do you hope to accomplish professionally as Glitter Glucose within five or ten years?
I hope to speak to and touch the hearts of children living with diabetes, even though I was never a child with diabetes. I feel like I have a pretty youthful personality. I think about all of the times I felt alone or insecure and I didn’t have anybody to look to. I want to be that person for kids. Others and I and others share our journeys with diabetes online. The community is more accessible than before, so I see myself focusing on all of the kids trying to go through the motions of figuring out life with diabetes.
Kids are resilient! You frequently share on your Instagram feed that you’re a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) user, particularly a Freestyle Libre user. Can you tell us what it’s like to use a CGM in your diabetes management plan?
Yes! For a long time, I rejected any sort of CGM. I used an insulin pump at the time and didn’t want another device attached to my body. Now I wonder: “Why did I choose fingerpricks for so long?” I don’t know why I thought that would be a better decision. At that time, there was never a CGM on the market that I thought fit my lifestyle. Especially being diagnosed as an adult, I was hesitant to change.
When I saw the Freestyle Libre for the first time, it was on my European friends because it was out there before it was in the U.S. I saw people wearing this tiny device and thought: “What is that?” It looked like something I would appreciate because it’s small and discreet. So, when I saw the news on Beyond Type 1’s website that the Freestyle Libre was coming to the U.S., I thought: “I have to have it. I need it! That’s the right thing for me.” I was one of the very first users of Freestyle Libre in the United States.
How cool! What is the response from your audience when you share about using the Freestyle Libre? Are there any challenges to being open about your experience using a CGM?
In the beginning, there was a lot of curiosity. People hadn’t seen it. Since I was one of the first adopters of the product, I think many people came to my page to see how it was impacting my life and whether I found it helpful. Throughout the years, it’s just become a natural part of my everyday life. I think showcasing my experience using it opens the conversation for people to talk to me about it since it’s so ingrained in my experience.
How has wearing the Freestyle Libre changed from when you first started wearing it to now?
When I first started wearing it, the warmup time was 12 hours before you could start seeing your blood sugar readings on the reader. I thought that was a long time, but I didn’t know anything different. Then, the The amount of time it takes for your CGM to acclimate before it starts delivering readings.warmup time was reduced to 60 minutes—thank goodness! At first, you also had to use the reader, but now you can use your phone to see your blood sugar readings, which I prefer. The optional alarms are the coolest thing that has come in recent times with the Freestyle Libre 2. I love the fact that they’re optional! I turn my low alarm on because that’s important to me, but I don’t turn on my high alarm. The benefits keep getting greater and greater!
It’s fantastic to see how quickly technology advances. Will you use the Freestyle Libre 3 when it hits the U.S. market?
I’ve been a Freestyle user for a long time, so I definitely see myself eventually switching to the Freestyle Libre 3. I’ve been trying to pay attention to the news about it as I see it. So far, I’ve noticed that it’s much smaller, which is cool. I’m looking forward to it hitting the U.S.!
What would you tell others who are considering adding a CGM to their diabetes management routine?
If you’re on the fence about wearing a CGM or are thinking about it, I can say I wish I would’ve done it sooner. I regret every second that I ever wasted not wearing a CGM. The Freestyle Libre is so small. It’s a lot less painful than daily fingerpricks! Plus, all your data is in one spot, and you can really hone in on what affects you, whether it be exercise or food or even stress.
You can better account for every part of your life and its relation to your diabetes management. You have it all in one place. I would highly suggest a CGM to anybody on the fence about it. As I said, I wish I had done it a lot sooner.
How open you are about managing diabetes is an inspiration to many people within the space. Is there anyone who inspires you in the diabetes or health spaces? What do you find most admirable about them?
This answer goes along with a previous one—when I see kids living with diabetes, that is so inspiring to me because diabetes is complicated for an adult. My eyes are getting watery just thinking about it. Seeing little kids getting poked and prodded, feeling the highs and lows, knowing that they can make it through, that their parents are equally strong and that they’re in it together all keep me going. If children can do it, so can I.
What a great perspective! What are some upcoming projects our readers can expect to see from Glitter Glucose?
I’m excited to share that I just got a great partnership with a hotel chain. That is what I like to see as a “influencer” because diabetes isn’t the only part of me. I would estimate that about 60 percent of the people who follow me have a form of diabetes. So when I speak about diabetes on my platform, I’m only reaching those 60 percent. But when I talk about life and fun and adventure, I’m speaking to everybody, and I find it admirable when brands that have nothing to do with diabetes partner with me.
In a way, I feel like they’re doing advocacy work with me because they’re showing people we are welcome in their space. I will be making a month-long mountain road trip with this hotel chain. I love this partnership because it emphasizes that I’m just a girl living my life, and diabetes is along for the ride with me.
Definitely! We’ve covered a lot today, and I’d love to leave the conversation on a fun note. Our readers would enjoy learning more about you—what’s something about you that may surprise others?
Oooh…I wasn’t expecting that question! (Laughs) I will say I’m a big fan of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” and I’m currently on my journey as my own bachelorette. I’m dating and having fun. Dating with diabetes is a whole other topic we can cover! I’m a single young woman living it up, so who knows—maybe you’ll see me heading to a Vegas wedding chapel soon…just kidding!
It would be great to see a leading lady on “The Bachelorette” with diabetes! Who knows? Maybe you’ll be the first! Thanks for your time, Paloma. We love seeing Glitter Glucose shine in the diabetes space.
Educational content related to type 1 diabetes is made possible with support from Abbott, the makers of the Freestyle Libre 2. Beyond Type 1 maintains full editorial control of all content published on our platforms.