There have been a lot of personal profiles and interviews on SUM this month, because I’m finally making good on my resolution to spotlight more amazing PWD. Today, I’m checking in with Laura Pavlakovich from You’re Just My Type about photography, advocacy, and type 1 diabetes.

Kerri:  Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today, Laura! Can you please introduce yourself to the SixUntilMe family?

Laura:  Hey guys! My name Is Laura, I’m 27 years old and I’m based out of Los Angeles. I founded and run my own non profit called You’re Just My Type. Basically, I travel around the world and photograph fellow type 1 diabetics, sharing their stories online – putting a face to this invisible. My goal is to break down stigmas, spread awareness, and end the feeling of isolation that comes with living with type 1 diabetes.

Kerri:  What’s your connection to diabetes? 

Laura:  I’ve had type 1 diabetes nearly all my life. I don’t remember my diagnosis, being that I was so young. My mom told me I would walk to pre school with her everyday and then one day, for the first time, I was suddenly too weak to make it up one of the hills we would take. That’s when she first noticed something must be wrong.

My parents immediately got involved in the community and started a support group for kids in the south bay living with diabetes. They took no time attending family camps with me, before I went to numerous diabetes camps every summer on my own. It’s safe to say, I never felt alone.

Kerri:  How did you stumble into the Diabetes Online Community?

Laura:  I entered high school and things changed for me. I had transitioned from a private school, where everyone knew each other, to a huge public high school, where suddenly, I was known as the girl with the weird pager. I hated the attention. So much so that I got off my insulin pump and switched to shots, so nobody would have anything to stare at. I stopped going to camp and in turn, had way less friendships with other type ones. It wasn’t until I had the idea to start You’re Just My Type and made an instagram for it, that I realized the world that is the DOC. And my, I don’t know how I ever lived without it.

Kerri:  And your project – You’re Just My Type – is amazing. Can you share what drove you to start this advocacy effort?

Laura:  OK, this story gives me goosebumps every time! Quick recap: I had the best support group growing up as a child with T1D … my teenage years, not so much. I knew that I wanted to study photography and found this incredible photojournalism program to attend after high school called Youth With a Mission. It was focused on injustice and poverty and we got to travel around to third world countries, doing volunteer work. The school was in Germany and from there we worked with children in Egypt, drug addicts in Paris, taught English in China, and fought against human trafficking and child prostitution in Thailand. I know … I’ll answer a few of your questions right now. The program lasted just over a year and I was 17 when I left and turned 18 while there.

The trip changed my life, I mean how could it not? But I came back home to Redondo Beach, Ca, where the biggest issue people were dealing with was if there would be good enough waves to surf that morning. (No offense Redondo, I love you and you’ll always be home!).

The photographers there were making a living off of photos of the sunset and dolphins. Beautiful, yes. Life changing, no.

I was so stuck, I knew I wanted to take photographs that would make a difference, but I had no idea where to start now that I was home. I grew up with the question, “What am I going to be when I grow up?” never “What am I going to be when I grow up as a person with diabetes?” So a career having to do with type 1 never once crossed my mind.

Fast forward several years, I find myself at a wedding speaking to the wedding photographer. She mentions having a 4 year old son who “had this thing called type 1 diabetes.” My heart stopped. She told me he cried himself to sleep and felt so alone and then she said a sentence that would be the impetus of my career, “I can only show him statistics on a computer so many times of how many others are living with the same disease.” It took me about 5 seconds to decide that I was going to set out to photography as many type 1 diabetics as I could- to give people like that little boy faces to look at, rather than numbers. And thus, You’re Just My Type was born!

Kerri:  What have you learned about the community since You’re Just My Type started?

Laura:  To put it simply, this community has given me more than I ever thought possible. I always figured I started You’re Just My Type to help out others, I don’t think I ever could have been prepared for the love and support I was about to get out of it.

One of my favorite things to see is someone being vulnerable in their posts, scared to share their stories…and then receiving 30 comments from others who have been through the EXACT the same thing. It’s quite magical to witness.

Kerri:  And what’s brewing for 2019? Anything exciting on tap?

Laura:  In 2018, I host my first two international meet ups, in Slovenia and Paris! I can only hope 2019 has many more surprises in store for me!

This weekend I am actually headed down to Tijuana to bring back affordable insulin for people who can’t afford it here in the state and to prove a point about what our healthcare system should look like here, but doesn’t. [editor’s note: Check out Laura’s Instagram stories for more on her trip this weekend.] I am taking a more political stance this year by working on some news stories regarding the rising cost of insulin and how many messages I receive of people in need of supplies. It’s time for a change, and I want to be apart of it.

Kerri:  Aside from your photography, what other ways do you connect with the DOC?

Laura:  Aside from photography, other ways I connect with the DOC is by hosting meet ups. I try to host one in a new state every couple of months, that way I can reach as many as people as possible to photograph and feature on my page. I also cohost a podcast called Out of Range, with Craig Stubing. It’s a part of his Betacell podcast. We talk all things diabetes and keep it as real as possible.

Kerri:  Anything else you’d like to add?

Laura:  I would just like to say thank you so much for this interview. Your website is one of the first I was ever introduced to and I feel like I’ve finally made it!

Kerri:  I’m beyond excited to feature you.  <3

You can find You’re Just My Type on the official website, or on Facebook, or Instagram. You can also listen to Laura on the BetaCell Podcast