Remember the movie Calendar Girls? This holiday season, there’s another group ready to bare it all for a cause! The Nude Diabetes Advocacy Project is releasing T1D Exposed, a nude calendar featuring people with type 1 diabetes. All proceeds from calendar sales will be donated to Carb DM, DYF, and other diabetes organizations. It’s such a cheeky, brilliant idea, and it’s so tastefully done, we had no hesitation featuring it in Carb DM’s 2014 holiday gift guide!
Raising funds for diabetes is always a worthy cause, but T1D Exposed is so much more than a fundraiser. It’s a wonderful way to raise awareness for T1D and the ways it affects the body. For those who aren’t familiar with T1D, it puts a human face on the people living with the disease. For people with type 1 diabetes, the calendar sends a message of self-empowerment, of loving and celebrating your body the way it is: scars, bruises, tubing and all.
It takes a special kind of courage to bare it all, no matter how noble the cause. What on earth possessed organizers Tara Layman and Kat Reed to think of such a project? They sat down with Carb DM for a special behind-the-scenes look at the making of the T1D Exposed calendar.
Where did you get the idea for doing a nude calendar?
Tara was working on her thesis portrait project of people living with diabetes. Kat joked about using a nude diabetes calendar to raise money years ago. We kept joking about it. Then we started actually talking about it. Then we started to think about how powerful it could be to show all the ways diabetes affects the body and how people living with type one have to embrace the many gadgets and changes to manage it.
It’s difficult to have diabetes and not have some sort of body issues. Your life revolves around balancing food, insulin, exercise and many other factors. Bodies develop bruises and scar tissue from thousands of injections, pump sites, and continuous glucose monitors. Fingers callous from years of blood glucose checking. Diabetes can also inspire people to take better care of themselves in incredible ways. People may decide to be more active or eat healthier as they become more in tune with their bodies. Regardless of the challenges, people living with T1D have able, working bodies. Gratitude is another side effect of type one; without the discovery and availability of insulin, none of the bodies featured in this calendar would have survived long after diagnosis.
Once we realized how terrified we were of actually doing the project, we had to make it happen. After we saw the empowering potential that this project could have for the T1D community, we were hooked. This project is not just a fundraiser, it’s about body acceptance and promoting awareness and understanding life with type one. It’s about loving yourself and appreciating the extra years of life we have been given via access to insulin and technology.
How did you go about choosing your calendar models?
We reached out to friends that have heard us talk about it the last few years… “Remember that hilarious idea for a nude diabetes fundraising calendar we had? I think we are going to do it…” It think a lot of people were skeptical at first, and we feel so grateful to the participants that were brave enough to share themselves with us and the T1D community this first year. Now that the project is a bit more established, and people know they can take it seriously, we’ve already received lots of inquiries about how to be a part of 2016’s calendar!
Please describe the process of shooting the calendar — what were the photo sessions like?
We laughed. We cried. We sang and danced with participants. It was emotional at times. We shared stories and learned more about our participants. People were not only willing to be physically vulnerable with us, but they were transparent about their difficulties in living with diabetes and their desire to more fully embrace themselves. It can be so hard to shed the clothes and shed the shame that is associated with our bodies. We met two entirely new people through this project that heard about the calendar on Facebook. We are so completely in awe of their participation in this without knowing us, and are so glad they decided to be a part of it.
Creating T1D Exposed has been a powerful experience for everyone involved. Our participants’ willingness to share their bravery and self acceptance with us has been truly inspiring, and we hope the T1D community feels that too.
What was your biggest fear about making this calendar?
That people wouldn’t fully grasp it’s message. We’ve heard the comment that there is enough pornography in the world without bringing diabetes into the picture. We are not on a mission to offend people. All portraits are very tasteful, and booties are the most shocking body parts you will see. The project is edgy, but it’s about showing that type one bodies are beautiful, diverse, capable, and embraced. And another initial fear was “Am I going to get fired from my day job for producing and posing for a nude calendar?” Hahaha!
Tara, you were both photographer and model for this project. Why did you decide to model, and which role ended up being more fulfilling to you?
When we first conceptualised this project, I had no hesitations about being a model. Then the more I thought about it, the more anxious I became about my portrait. It took a little convincing on Kat’s part to keep me to my promise to participate, but it really came down to the message of the project. We all have a story. With clothes on, I can cover up the parts of me that has been touched by diabetes–the bumps, bruises, scars, etc. With my clothes on, I look like every other person walking down the street, maybe if you look really closely you can see my insulin pump. I am not defined by my life with diabetes, I define my life because of diabetes. It has given me a sense of mortality in the best of ways. I have learned there is this one life, this one body of mine, and through this project that it deserves to be celebrated.
I decided to model to be true to that message we want to advocate. And I am so happy I did. Both roles were equally fulfilling because I grew from being in front of the camera and from being behind it. I am so grateful to the people in this project that were willing to take off their clothes to help us all be more appreciative of who we are.
What kind of message do you hope this calendar will send to people with type 1 diabetes?
We don’t think we could say it any better than our T1D Exposed participant Claire, who has lived with T1D for 18 years. “Living with diabetes in high school was rough for me to say the least. It’s a desperately awkward time to begin with, but I found myself putting insurmountable pressure on myself to be thin, hide the pump, check blood sugars only when I was alone; it caused me to program intrinsic shame into my life concerning diabetes. I had these fears that if I told my peers, all they would see is someone who is less than or as someone who made themselves sick. Honestly, I struggled with an eating disorder for all of high school and my early years into college. I just wanted to look like everyone else, and it really caught up with me. It really wasn’t until I had an A1C that blindsided me that a serious shift took place. I was making myself sick, and that needed to change because I wasn’t willing to risk my health any longer for a flat chest and thigh gap.
“This particular subject is very close to my heart, and really why I jumped at the chance to be apart of the project. Young diabetics like myself (and non-diabetics!) are bombarded with unhealthy standards and images of what it looks like to be a person of substance in this world. I want there to be a dialogue in the diabetic community about these issues, and what better way to start that conversation than with some tasteful nudes!
“This isn’t to say I don’t have days where things feel uncomfortable. But that’s all it is, and the discomfort will pass, especially because I have an amazing support system. I’ve found a lot of love and power in just owning what’s here and what’s real about me. I stopped pining over perfection and found something better– happiness in my health, which is something I’m so grateful for now. The most important thing that diabetes has taught me is that THIS body is a really great body to be in, and I am more than happy to flash a little booty so that feeling may reach someone else.”
For more information, visit the T1D Exposed Calendar website and Facebook page. The T1D Exposed Calendar will be available to purchase at http://www.T1DExposed.org, through February of 2015. In addition, everyone is invited to the T1D Launch Party to celebrate the season, show their support for T1D Exposed’s mission. Calendars will be available for purchase, and calendar models will be present to sign autographs. Hope to see you there!
What: T1D Exposed Launch Party
When: December 12, 2014 at 7:30pm
Where: Flying Annex Studio
4202 Telegraph Hill
Oakland, CA 94609