Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes as a child, Nia Kay didn’t let T1D stop her journey to stardom. Rather, it fueled it.
Growing up in a musical family, I knew I was destined for the stage early on. I remember being fascinated when I went to the studio with my dad and uncle and watched my mom perform. My mom signed me up with a modeling agency at two years old, and I loved being in front of the camera.
But that changed a year later when suddenly I started developing an unquenchable thirst, irritability, and frequent bed-wetting. As my symptoms worsened, my mom rushed me to the doctor. She was shocked to learn I had type 1 diabetes (T1D) and was on the verge of severe DKA if she had waited any longer. Thankfully today, T1D screening and education programs are available to help parents and children avoid life-threatening conditions at the onset of T1D.
T1D burnout on the journey to stardom
Although my parents had difficulty coping with my diagnosis, it was not long before I adjusted. I remember my mom crying when she had to prick my fingers or give me an insulin injection. Still, I encouraged her to do it so I could quickly get it over with. I was more focused on getting to dance class, mastering the piano and violin, and singing. Before I turned 10 years old, I had shot my first hip-hop music video, and T1D would not interfere with me reaching stardom.
A little more than a year into adolescence, I started to feel awkward about my T1D. Although a few friends knew I had diabetes, I never wanted them to see me injecting insulin or pricking my finger to test my blood sugar. I struggled to hide my T1D and keep my A1C in range, and I was hitting a mental wall.
Recognizing my superpower
At 14, I landed a lifetime opportunity to join season two of Jermaine Dupri’s reality TV series, The Rap Game. I was excited yet feeling a lot of pressure. How would I film, perform, and compete at the highest level with T1D? I was also nervous about sharing my diagnosis, but I had lived for this moment. Then I recognized my strength and determination to succeed are because of my diabetes, and this is my superpower.
As an artist and ambassador for JDRF, I look forward to inspiring other T1D teens and young adults through my music and by sharing my story. I want to encourage them that managing T1D and pursuing your goals requires patience, determination, and support — but never give up your dreams.