Alexi Melvin has spent most of her life living outside what most of us would consider the comfort zone. As the daughter of a Major League baseball player, Alexi moved all over the country while balancing T1D (she was diagnosed at 14). With a love for performing, she continued to travel nationwide for acting, writing, and studying journalism at The New School in Manhattan. Her voice can even be heard in both Star Wars: Rogue One and Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She is also the Senior Director of Alliances for KNOW Foods! Here we sit down with Alexi to talk about balancing traveling and performing with T1D.
Between your dad’s career in Major League Baseball and performing, you have traveled a fair amount during young adulthood! How have you approached the changes in routine with T1D management?
Travel is always one of the trickiest parts of managing type 1 diabetes, if you ask me. As you noted, routine is a huge element of T1D management, especially with regard to maintaining good blood sugar levels. I was on insulin pens for most of my Type 1 “life,” but last year I switched to the OmniPod pump. On pens, I definitely had to trust my own body and adjust my insulin after doing a lot of “trial and error,” depending on time zone and things like that. On the pump, being able to adjust basal rates more precisely and to change the “clock” on the pump itself are things that have been a tremendous help! But I cannot stress enough that everyone is going to have a different experience of what works best for them when traveling. It’s all about not being afraid to experiment enough to find whatever that may be!
As an actress, have you found that Hollywood is accepting of people with T1D?
I was auditioning a lot more when I was younger, and newly diagnosed, actually. It was tough! Back then, there was not such a strong T1D community in place as there is today, so I couldn’t talk to others who were going through the same things that I was – and as a result, I was a lot more self-conscious about having T1D as a teenager. I would constantly stress myself out about going low during an audition, during a film shoot, or during acting class. I just always made sure to tell at least one or two people that I was indeed a type 1 diabetic, just in case of emergency. Honestly, nobody seemed to care. It was more so my own acceptance of it that needed to be strengthened! Nowadays, we have people like Nick Jonas and Derek Theler who are absolutely killing it in the entertainment industry and “loud and proud” about being type 1, and that is just incredible.
What have you found helpful for maintaining stable blood sugars during performances? Has your blood sugar ever gone low during a performance or audition?
Having the Dexcom CGM has been invaluable for situations where I may not have the time to go and check my blood sugar manually, especially now that I can look at it on my Apple Watch. It gives me a lot more peace of mind versus when I had to simply rely on how I was feeling to be able to tell whether my blood sugar was stable or not. At the same time though, I think it is important not to become too dependent on the CGM, and to still be able to rely on your own body. It’s an interesting balance!
I have never had a severe low during a performance or an audition, no. Beforehand, I always try to make sure that I am just slightly on the higher end of my blood sugar goal range, and that I have a good balance of healthy fats and protein in me to keep it that way.
As someone who is so involved in the T1D community, how would you suggest someone get involved for the first time?
Find a community that makes you feel understood and embraced, as both a person with T1D and for who you are apart from it. There are a lot of great apps and groups via social media today to choose from (and often will host events), as well as amazing podcasts and YouTube channels. Do some exploring and find whatever “outlet” interests you the most. Ask questions, or better yet – answer questions – help others that may not know as much as you do about a certain element of T1D!
Working for KNOW Foods, I have seen so many people with T1D connect with each other just by what diets they follow and how being diagnosed with Type 1 fueled their passion for nutrition, and that is truly awesome to witness.
What advice would you give to people diagnosed with T1D in their teenage years?
Always remember that no “one” thing about you can ever define who you are. We are all SO many things, and that is beautiful. Type 1 diabetes is a part of you, yes – and so is your hair color or your preference in music. Every part of you is wonderful, and should be nurtured and embraced. Be confident about your T1D, and every single other aspect of what makes you… YOU.
If you could meet anyone (in history or presently) with T1D, who would it be and why?
I would love to meet my grandfather. He died serving in the Air Force when my mother was eight-years-old. My mom was the person who taught me to be independent and strong, no matter what was happening in my life – and she credits her dad for teaching her the same things from a very young age. So, I would like to get the chance to thank him! If I never had my mom as such a strong role model, I don’t think I would have been able to take charge of my T1D the same way that I do now.
I can play the drums, and have since I was in middle school!