Lila Moss, a model and daughter of Kate Moss, opened up about being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in a new episode of “Diary of a Model,” featured on Vogue’s YouTube channel.
While prepping for fashion week in Paris, the 20-year-old model showed viewers the device she uses to control her insulin pump, which she famously wore on the runway in 2021.
Moss also reportedly wears a continuous glucose monitor, which is a device that has a tiny needle inserted under the skin to monitor blood sugar and help people with type 1 diabetes figure out how much insulin they need to stay alive. Insulin can be injected or delivered via an insulin pump, like the one Moss uses. On her way to the Chloé fashion show rehearsals, Moss shared in the video that when she first meets people, she tells them that the handheld device she uses to control her insulin pump is a “bat phone.”
Diagnosed as a child, Moss describes how difficult it was to wrap her head around the diagnosis, which requires lifelong treatment, at first, adding that the only thing she knew about diabetes was from the 2006 Disney show Hannah Montana.
In the episode “No Sugar, Sugar,” Oliver is diagnosed with diabetes and shares some insight about his condition with his friends, who thought he would have to cut out sugar altogether. “I have Type 1 diabetes, which means I can have stuff with sugar as long as I manage my diet and my blood sugar with this,” he said while taking out his glucose monitor.
“When Oliver gets diagnosed with diabetes, that was my only insight into it ever,” Moss said in the Vogue video. “When they told me, I was kind of just like in shock. I was like, I didn’t even know what that means, and then the reality set in of like, you’re gonna have this forever.”
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic autoimmune disease where the pancreas doesn’t produce enough — or any — insulin, the hormone that’s responsible for moving blood sugar into your muscles to be used for energy. As a result, the blood sugar, or glucose, that comes from the food and drinks we consume can't be transported into cells to be used by the body for energy. Blood sugar is toxic in the blood and can be life-threatening or cause organ damage, so it needs to move from the bloodstream into muscle or body cells as quickly as possible.
The discovery of insulin about 100 years ago was considered one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of all time; before that, type 1 diabetes was always fatal.
About 37.3 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 5% to 10% have type 1. And the Hannah Montana episode isn’t the only time people have learned about diabetes from watching Disney.
In 2009, the television channel aired a reality show episode of Nick Jonas, who was diagnosed at age 13, talking about managing his type 1 diabetes. For many people, it was their first time hearing about the condition.
Jonas was applauded for destigmatizing type 1 diabetes, and Moss is also educating people, specifically by not trying to hide her insulin pump at fashion shows. Many people commented on the model’s post, thanking her for walking with her insulin pump on her thigh.
“Thank you for showing your Omnipod! You are a great role model to all those kids who are living with T1DM and who might be embarrassed of their little device,” one user commented on her Instagram post.
Around 1 in 5 people don’t know they have diabetes — so we asked experts what you need to know about type 1, the difference between type 1 and type 2, and treatment options.
What is type 1 diabetes and what causes it?
Type 1 diabetes can happen at any age, although the condition usually develops in children, teenagers, and young adults. Some people are more likely to develop this type of diabetes if other people in their family have the condition, or if they were exposed to an environmental trigger, such as a virus. Diet and lifestyle habits do not cause type 1 diabetes.
Like other autoimmune conditions, the body attacks itself and destroys cells that are needed for the body to function. In type 1 specifically, the body attacks insulin-making beta cells located in the pancreas, an organ that’s located under the liver and next to the stomach.
Type 1 diabetes symptoms include increased thirst, appetite, and urination as well as weight loss, irritability, mood changes, and fatigue. Symptoms can come on suddenly and when blood sugar is at very high levels it can be life-threatening, causing brain swelling, mental confusion, unconsciousness, and coma.
The difference between Type 1 and Type 2
Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 — a much more common condition that usually occurs later in life due to a combination of genetic, dietary, and lifestyle factors — is not an autoimmune condition.
Instead, the body usually makes insulin, but loses its sensitivity to it so that cells don’t absorb glucose from the blood.
“When the body can’t use insulin efficiently, this is called insulin resistance,” said Camilla Levister at the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Bone Disease and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Type 2 diabetes risk factors include:
- Higher weight
- Being 45 or older
- Belonging to certain races or ethnicities, including people who are Black, Hispanic, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Personal history of gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and goes away after pregnancy)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Unlike people with type 1, people with type 2 diabetes generally can make lifestyle changes or take oral medications to get blood sugar levels to healthy levels. For example, losing weight (if necessary) and carefully managing intake of protein, fat, and carbohydrates can help.
Exercise can be as effective as a dose of medication when it comes to lowering blood sugar in people with type 2. (That’s not the case for people with type 1, who need to inject insulin to lower blood sugar.)
Just about any physical activity can help people with type 2 control blood sugar.
“Not everyone can exercise, go to a gym, or join a gym,” said Jodi Lavin-Tompkins, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and director of accreditation/content development at the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, said lifestyle habits such as making healthy food choices and being. “So we say, Be as active as you can, move more, and eat healthy.”
Because elevated blood sugar is toxic and can damage organs, people with diabetes are also at risk for health problems like heart disease, hypertension, kidney failure, nerve damage, and vision loss. Blood-pressure lowering medications, aspirin for preventing blood clots, and statins for lowering cholesterol levels may help reduce the risk of diabetes complications that can be caused by elevated blood sugar.
“There’s actually several classes of medications that people can take that work in different ways in the body, but people with type 2 can also take insulin,” Lavin-Tompkins said. “They might also need insulin eventually. The bottom line with diabetes is about managing blood sugar.”
Long-term management of type 1 diabetes
Although there’s no cure or way to prevent type 1 diabetes, treatment options are available to mimic normal insulin levels.
People with type 1 diabetes need to measure their blood sugar multiple times daily either by pricking their finger for a drop of blood and checking it with a glucose monitor or using a continuous glucose monitor to do the same job. Depending on the results, they either inject insulin or get it delivered via an insulin pump. (They can also calculate the amount of insulin they will need depending on the carbohydrates found in a meal.)
“Diabetes care and education specialists can help people with diabetes to manage their diabetes because that is our specialty,” Lavin-Tompkins said. “There’s lots of technology out there that can help people and we can help them onboard the technology and use it safely and effectively.”
Moss seems to be coping with her diagnosis — and the need for the lifesaving equipment — with a sense of humor. “Honestly, I’ve come to live with it. It’s kind of fun. I call myself a robot with all my little things,” Moss said.