Living with diabetes, she says, "doesn't define who you are as a person."
Any Miss USA contestant is bound to sport some accessories. Strappy stilettos? Likely. A glucose monitor? Not so much. But that’s just what Miss Michigan Krista Ferguson, who lives with type 1 diabetes, wore during the pageant, which took place Sunday in Las Vegas.
Ferguson shared an Instagram photo of herself prior to competing in the pageant. In the image, the 24-year-old wears fitted white pants and a cropped halter top. Her glucose monitor is attached to her arm, and she makes no attempt to hide it.
"I decided to wear my Dexcom on my right tricep," Ferguson told Health in an email. "I wanted a spot that allowed me to walk toward the judges without the device directly in their sight, but when I did my turns and walk off, they could see it!"
This isn't the only time Ferguson shared information about her condition. Ever since she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes two years ago, raising awareness and fighting the stigma of having diabetes have been an important part of her pageant platform.
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“It was important to me to wear it because I don't want any type one diabetic to be ashamed of what they have to go through," says Ferguson. She also wore it to demonstrate that she doesn't let the condition get in the way of her goals. "I walk confidently on that stage knowing that I can inspire others to not give up on their dreams just because they have a chronic illness," she adds.
Though Ferguson was diagnosed as a young adult, type 1 diabetes (previously called juvenile diabetes) is often detected during childhood or adolescence. The condition happens when the immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas. This in turn causes the cells to produce a small amount of insulin or no insulin at all. Without enough insulin, cells can't tap into glucose for energy. That can cause glucose levels to build, leading to organ damage or other serious complications.
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Ferguson has said that the diagnosis “completely flipped [her] life upside down.” That makes sense, because people with type 1 diabetes have to manage the condition on a daily basis by getting regular insulin injections, watching their carbohydrate intake, and monitoring their blood sugar levels constantly.
Still, Ferguson doesn’t see the condition as a negative. She regularly posts about diabetes on her social networks and works with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to build awareness in middle and elementary schools.
“You have to embrace what you have,” Ferguson says in a video on Miss USA's YouTube channel. “It doesn’t define who you are as a person.”