If someone had told you that people would buy a calendar featuring naked people — not models, ordinary people like you and I — you’d probably think they were crazy. But that’s just what happened when a group of middle aged women published a nude calendar in 1998 to raise funds for cancer research. Their story inspired the movie Calendar Girls, which in turn inspired a group of diabetes advocates to do the same. In 2014, The Nude Diabetes Advocacy Project published the very first T1D Exposed calendar, which quickly became a sensation in the diabetes community. Since then, people from 12 countries have purchased the calendar, raising thosands of dollars for diabetes noprofits JDRF, DYF, and Carb DM. They have even inspired a nude diabetes calendar in Finland!
Four years after the initial release, the T1D Exposed 2018 calendar is almost here. As with the previous 2 calendars, the 3rd edition is a fundraiser for diabetes nonprofits JDRF, DYF, and Carb DM. Once again, the calendar features tasteful nude photographs of individuals embracing their lives with type 1 diabetes and the changes that come with it. This year, the T1D Exposed team — Tara Layman, Kat Reed, and Theresa Klaasen — wanted to feature people’s passions. It was important for them to show that diabetes is a part of people’s lives, but not the whole story. As Kat put it, “We are gardeners and journalists and athletes with full and interesting lives which are made possible with insulin and technology”.
When the first T1D Exposed calendar came out, Carb DM interviewed the founders to learn about the inspiration behind their crazy idea. Tara Layman, Kat Reed, and Theresa Klaasen are all Bay Area professionals living with type 1 diabetes. The calendar is just one of the diabetes advocacy projects that this power trio is involved with. They volunteer at JDRF events, join JDRF walks, volunteer at DYF camps, and run Carb DM events such as Beer & Basals and Mother Daughter Weekend. We sat down with Tara and Kat to see how the T1D Exposed movement has grown and what keeps them motivated.
The last time we interviewed you was just before you released the very first calendar. What was the initial reaction to the idea of a nude diabetes calendar?
Kat: As with most projects, reactions are mixed. I think many people feel empowered by and excited about the advocacy taking place though. The photographs feature real people living with diabetes, portraying their passions and occupations, showcasing how they manage their T1D. Diabetes affects all kinds of people. It can take a toll on a person’s body and health in both positive and negative ways. Yet, we still have these amazing bodies that are able to accomplish so much despite not producing a hormone vital to our very existence.
Tara: One really great way to advocate for a cause is to start a conversation. Conversations are taking place around difficult subject matters whether or not they are exceedingly positive regarding the photographs. For me, I want this project to help encourage people to embrace their bodies and others living with T1D. Whether or not you appreciate the artistic value of the photography and the concept of the project, at least you are talking about T1D and the issues we face living with it.
How have things changed or grown since then?
Kat: We’ve sold hundreds of calendars to over 12 countries! This project is helping to promote body acceptance, normalize life with T1D all over the world, and that feels really good.
Tara: The project started out as a fundraiser, a way for Kat and I to give back to the community. From the first year we found it was going to be something more than that. I found myself thinking about the deeper meaning of what we were capturing in the photographs from the first few portraits I had taken. There was a story to be told. By telling this collective story, we began to create connections in the diabetes community.
Baring it all for the camera can be intimidating. How do you help your models be more comfortable and relaxed?
Kat: We all laugh a lot together and talk a lot about people’s personal diabetes stories. It’s as vulnerable to share that intimate information as it is to undress sometimes. Diabetes stories and journeys can feel so complicated and private. We try to really get to know our participants. Sometimes their partners, sisters, or family members will come along for support and get undressed in solidarity even though they are not on camera! We are constantly in awe of the bravery and dedication of both our participants and their support systems.
Tara: As a photographer, it is integral to my job to be able to help people relax while having their photo taken, but this is a whole new level of intimate that I have had to really approach my subjects differently. I have found that it is so much easier to connect, from the moment you meet someone else with diabetes, because you know a large percentage about their life before even getting to know them. It’s really a connection that helps foster a certain amount of confidence in that other person. Kat is definitely integral to this part of the development of the project. She helps bring the humor and lighthearted nature to an otherwise heavy topic.
Why do you think the models want to participate?
Here’s a quote from Rosemary, one of the participants in the 2018 calendar group photo:
“I’ve lived with T1D for 36 years now. I want to expose my truth and my life. I want to show others that dreams can come true with T1D. We can survive, we can live, and we can advocate and promote awareness. I want my exposure to help raise funding so that no more people with T1D die or develop complications from this disease.”
Here’s a quote from Ana, one of the participants in the 2018 calendar:
“I want to participate in the T1D Exposed Calendar because I feel like I have nothing to hide, and would love to share the experience of “exposing” a lifestyle and body that comes with living with T1D. Second, I would love to meet others who feel this connection, and continue to work in solidarity to advocate, educate, and bring awareness to people living with T1D of all ages. Third, I want to promote the connection between people who live this lifestyle because they have to, promote the ability to allow ourselves to see the beauty in this connection that we have as people living with T1D and open up the beautiful body reality that we face to the population of non-diabetics.
Although many may feel uncomfortable posing nude, as a medical professional and as an active member in the T1D community, I find myself even more driven to participate. I want people to know that even the nurse has callouses and scars, and through exposure we can find beautiful connection.”
What is the most challenging part of making this calendar?
Kat: Finding the time! Theresa, Tara, and I all have full time jobs outside of the calendar. We love this project so much, and wish our bodies did not require sleep so we could dedicate more time to it.
Tara: For me, the hardest part of doing the calendar is facing my own complications and issues with diabetes and really trying to remember we all have different stories and journeys and that I am so grateful to be alive and able to make this project happen! (More time would be nice too)
What keeps you motivated to keep doing the calendar, year after year?
Kat: We believe in the mission of the calendar, and we believe in the organizations it supports. JDRF is the global leader in type one research. Carb DM hosts so many ancillary and education programs to connect and support those living with T1D. DYF runs summer camps and year round programs for children and families living with T1D. They deserve so much more financial support than we could ever give them. This projects helps us donate more than we would be able to our own.
Tara: The connections we are creating and the lives we are changing is what motivates me to continue the calendar. It is important to fundraise, and I also think we have found a topic and a message that is worth repeating and spreading.
More information on the T1D Exposed 2018 Calendar
- The T1D Exposed 2018 Calendar releases on World Diabetes Day, November 18, 2017. You can purchase the calendar online at http://www.t1dexposed.org. Can’t wait for November? You can pre-order now! Calendars will start shipping in November. Shipping is $3.50, or you can pick it up in the Oakland area.
- Everyone is invited to attend the T1D Exposed 2018 calendar release party on November 18th, from 7:30-11:00 pm. Join the team and their supporters for wine and nibbles, community and camaraderie. Calendars will be available for purchase at the event. You might even be able to score a few autographs from the participants and the team at T1D Exposed too! This event is free, and all over 18 years old are welcome. The Institutue of Possibility is at 3359 Cesar Chavez, San Francisco, California 94110 in walking distance from the 24th Street Mission Bart Station. Dress is cocktail-optional. All proceeds from the event and calendar sales are donated to JDRF, Carb DM, and DYF.
- Interested in participating in next year’s calendar? Follow T1D Exposed on Facebook to get updates on upcoming projects and opportunites, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, contact the team via the T1D Exposed website contact form.