Nick Jonas Talks Life with Type 1 Diabetes, Partnering with Dexcom
Nick Jonas is no longer the teenage boy band star with a squeaky clean image. Enter the new Nick, now in his early 20s with a grittier edge, and a lot is changing for him and his fans.
In the past year or so, Nick's branched out on his own as an artist, added more adult-oriented TV and movie appearances to his acting resume, and just recently announced he's partnering with singer friend Demi Lovato to start a new record label called Safehouse Recordings. Not to mention that the twenty something is of course one of us PWDs (people with diabetes), who's been living with type 1 for almost a decade now since age 13.
Amy Tenderich at DiabetesMine first chatted with Nick back in 2007 and then again in 2010, delving into his then budding music career and how he hoped to use his voice to advocate and serve as a role model for the diabetes community.
Fast forward to 2015 when the celeb marked his 10 year anniversary of life with T1D: Nick announced that he's become a Dexcom Warrior (a group of exemplary users of the leading continuous glucose monitoring product) and that he's collaborating with the California CGM company on a public awareness campaign about his own D-story and the advantages of using the Dexcom CGM.
You have to admit that this polished video spot they created with Nick is pretty cool, right?! And those of us who use the Dexcom can relate to his statement that "Having a CGM is like having a best friend that always looks out for you."
We were thrilled to have had another chance to talk with Nick recently, to hear about all he's up to...
DM) Nick, first off, how are you feeling about being a decade into living with diabetes?
NJ) It's been a journey, for sure. The biggest thing has been the learning curve and taking the time to go through the process, the steps toward trying to live a healthy life and not get overwhelmed by this disease. It's been good overall. I feel like I've been fortunate to share my story and encourage people in that way, and hopefully to shed some light into their world.
As we've seen recently, you're connected with Dexcom now and wearing the G4...
Exactly, it's incredible. I feel that being able to know where I'm heading (as far as blood sugars), has made living with diabetes so much easier. For me, that's key -- trying not to get too cranky and just taking it one step at a time. And Dexcom has definitely made it easier, for sure.
Do you ever get overwhelmed by all the diabetes data, especially with your hectic life on the road?
Not really. The thing I love most is the ability to know what's going on. My life is already so unpredictible and complicated at times. So taking that degree of uncertainty out of it, by knowing where my blood sugars are heading, is very helpful.
You're using the Dexcom SHARE system, too?
Sometimes. I really view diabetes as my own journey and I'm really independent with it. So I don't always use the SHARE (to allow others to follow my data), but there are times when I do turn it on and let some of my friends and co-workers see what's going on. It's pretty incredible, and it helps everyone else feel a bit more involved... it's a convience overall.
Last time we talked, you were using an OmniPod tubeless insulin pump. Are you still pumping?
Yes, I am still using a pump. I feel like I'm at a place where I have a pretty good balance with all the tools I'm using, and how they work together to make all of it easier.
You also said in a recent Entertainment Weekly interview that you're "actually bragging about diabetes" more these days. What did you mean by that?
The reference I was giving is that by having tools as cool as these, as far as CGM and all that, there are times I show those off and am pretty proud of myself for the way I'm handling it all. So I do a bit of showing off and brag from time to time. It's all done with a lot of good spirits and smiles, because you have to find a way to view this in a different way, or it can become overwhelming.
You've also said that diabetes helps you creatively -- can you expand on that?
Anytime you have something that requires you focusing and putting all your energy into being as responsible as possible when it comes to your health, there's an element of it affecting your creative life. I do try to be as open as possible and work in a way that I'm unaffected by this thing I am living with... (but) yes, it has affected me creatively in the sense of how it's shaped who I am as a person, and given me perspective.
In past years you were already a pretty big "face of diabetes," serving as national chair for the JDRF Walks. Is that something you're still doing?
I work with a few different diabetes organizations on awareness and raising funds for research. I'm going to be getting more and more involved on that side of things. I've loved working with all of them in the past, and feeling like I'm doing all I can to help the people living with this. Hopefully, there's more advocacy work in the future there.
You've also been a founding member of the new group Beyond Type 1... can you talk about that?
One of the reasons I was so drawn to being a part of Beyond Type 1 was really to find ways we could build up the community and be a support to those who maybe felt the way I felt when I was diagnosed, which was very alone. I felt I had never met anyone who had lived with type 1, no one [had it] in my inner circle or anyone around me, so I think I looked to my doctors for a support system there to feel better about it and less overwhelmed. I imagine that someone who goes onto beyondtype1.org will find helpful information there and tools. Even from the Instagram Campaign, people can see that life can be lived and you can accomplish things you want to accomplish while living with this disease.
[Editor's Note: Nick shared this on BT1. See this Beyond Type 1 interview for more from him!]
On the music side, can you tell us more about your new record label?
At the moment, Safehouse is more about Demi (Lovato, a longtime friend and former Disney starlet with Nick) and I establishing ourselves as artists but also business people. Really, we're taking that next step forward and trying to do all we can to continue to evolve and grow. It was the right next step for us to come together after our long friendship, and be able to build... a safe place for artists and ourselves, to create without fear and know that we're protected.
That sounds pretty analogous to our Diabetes Community itself as far as support and protection, don't you think?
Exactly. There are definitely some similarities there. It's been exciting to do this with a good friend, but also to just know that things are being set up in the right way and we're able to see our future come together.
Have you been in touch with others in the entertainment industry who are also living with diabetes?
You know, I haven't really that much. I have connected with a lot of PWDs over time, but mostly people who I've met along the way and have told me that my story has helped them. But as far as me meeting other diabetics in this business, I haven't met as many.
I think that social media has played a big part in helping people connect and find that common ground. If I can be that bridge in any way, I'm excited to do that.
How often do fans and people on the street approach you to talk diabetes?
All the time. It's been a great thing to get to meet people and share our stories. That's why I am so vocal, because when I was diagnosed I didn't know anyone with diabetes. So I want to be that for people, if possible. There are many people who say that by just sharing your story, it helps them. That means a lot.
As to specific stories, there was an instance recently where I was on a golf course and a young kid came up and, because he knew I was diabetic, wanted to ask for my help because he'd lost his supplies. I was able to help him. And later on, his parents wrote me a long letter and left it for me at the clubhouse, to tell me they were so thankful for me being willing to help. It was really sweet, and that means so much to me.
You've also been doing more acting lately, adding TV series like Direct TV's Kingdom and Hawaii 5-0 to your resume. How's that been diabetes-wise, especially with the new intense role as a martial arts fighter?
It's been an exciting year with that, for sure. As to all the fight scenes, it's all about adjusting and finding a way to not let this disease affect anything you have to do. It's about being transparent with the director and everyone else on set to make sure they're getting everything they need and also that I'm covered with my needs for my health -- and not being afraid to be vulnerable, because it's my health and well-being, and that's the most important thing.
People talk about the "new Nick" who's a tough guy now, particularly with the shirtless photos circulating online... how do you respond to that chatter?
You have to view it with kind of a smile. I don't take myself too seriously. It's exciting to have these opportunities as a diabetic, to show that you can live a healthy life and stay in shape. There are many misconceptions out there, for example that type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the same thing. So being able to help inform people, and show you can be healthy and live this kind of a life is a cool thing to have the chance to do.
Thanks for all you're doing, Nick, and of course for taking the time to chat with us again! Please know that you inspire so many and are really making a difference!
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Interview originally published at DiabetesMine in June 2015