November is World Diabetes Awareness Month and we are honored to have Catherine Schuller, Image and Style Advisor for Divabetic, a charity outreach organization that assists women living with, affected by or at risk of the diabetes epidemic. Catherine tells us more about the organization and their recent event in Philadelphia.
There is no better way to celebrate November and Diabetes Awareness Month than staging our annual outreach program with Divabetic. And make no mistake, this is not your grandmother’s diabetes charity, by any means. I’ve had the honor of being the Image and Style Advisor for the past ten years as one of the founding core team members. For the first five years, from 2004-2009, Divabetic was touring major cities with high incidences of diabetes featuring our Makeover Your Diabetes event, sponsored by Novo Nordisk.
This outstanding and amazing not-for-profit organization is the wonderful platform Max Szadek created in honor of his former boss Luther Vandross. Vandross passed away from complications he suffered from a stroke, which occurred as a result of him not managing his diabetes properly. Max was Luther’s personal assistant for over 14 years and wasn’t even aware of how badly his diabetes was nor how ineffectively he was managing it until he had a stroke. Max had to learn the hard way, in the emergency room after Luther’s stroke, that diabetes was the cause of his ultimate demise.
Diabetes stole Luther from the world and silenced his voice and ended his singing career. And it could have been avoided! He kept it hidden in the shadows out of shame and embarrassment. His inability to manage it properly must have been a tremendous burden for him to bear. At Luther’s funeral, singer Patti LaBelle was sang a tribute to Luther and Max had the thought during her performance that Patti wasn’t just a diabetic (Patti herself has diabetes) but rather a DIVAbetic. The added “V” in the word diabetic stands for Vandross, too… it was a perfect and brilliant realization. The name was born and evolved over the years into a powerful platform that helps everyone “laugh a little and learn a lot“.
Max has made it his mission to make sure that no one has to learn about diabetes in the ICU of a hospital when it is literally too late. His Divabetic approach takes advantage of Luther’s R&B career, his love of divas and his over-the-top style of celebrating glitz and glamour.
Divabetic was created as a charity for women living with, affected by or at risk of the diabetes epidemic. Diabetes affects 28 million people in the United States alone, not to mention that 87 million people are pre-diabetic, and only 11% of them are even aware of it!
Cases of diabetes are increasing to the point where by 2030, half of the entire population will be afflicted. What is causing its rampant rise in incidence over the past decades? It could be due to many of us eating too many packaged and processed foods and not enough fruits and raw vegetables. Most of our food contains some sort of high fructose corn syrup or sugar going by a myriad of other names meant to fool us into confused dismissiveness and over-consumption.
Regardless, Divabetic teaches women that they have diabetes, diabetes doesn’t have them. We say, “Sugar’s the bitch, not me!” That kind of confidence encourages everyone that they should not get down, just get DIVA! And a favorite mantra of mine that became the name of my fashion shows, which I help produce, “Glam More, Fear Less“.
Our program consisted of divas traveling between stations in a “maze of care” with education and entertainment focusing on all the aspects of diabetes care management:
- Nutrition (Grab Green and Go)
- Exercise (Twist and Shout)
- Inspiration (Sweet Affirmations)
- Emotional issues (Tunnel of Love)
- Goal setting (Denials Not my Style)
- Dressing like a diva for daily motivation (Glam More Fear Less)
Each diva at our event was given a passport to have stamped at each station they visited with one of our core team members and certified diabetes educator.
Because diabetes affects many African Americans (Type II diabetics), we were invited to stage a program called Victory Over Diabetes, at the African American Museum. We staged an abbreviated version of our usual event with keynote speaker, Dr. Beverly Adler, PhD and CDE (certified diabetes educator). We held a fashion show with 35 models from the area, courtesy of John Robert Powers and Smooches Models, and featuring designers LMB Haute, Futa by Chama and Diaspora Africa.
The colorful, ethnic yet modern fashions were an amazing array of clothing that fit so well within the theme of the museum. In true Runway the Real Way style, there was a model of every size, shape, age and ethnicity represented on the catwalk. Just as diabetes doesn’t discriminate in who it affects, we feature every type of diversity in our shows.
We had over 200 people in the audience, who were treated to the inspirational speech from Dr. Bev, who did a book signing as well. There was a slide show of Hot Topics, which Max narrated between featured entertainment segments. The fashion show was inspirational and encouraged everyone to strut their inner diva in style. There were also testimonials, Q&As, performances by Fulton Street Baptist Church and Max’s fun and fabulous Dancing with Cars, a workout routine that uses car movements to embed low impact exercise into one’s daily movement.
Dr. Neva White is the force behind bringing us to Philadelphia under the auspices of Thomas Jefferson Hospital and their diabetes program. We work so well with their patients who we inspire, motivate, inform and educate.
It’s a fun way to learn and come out to see an afternoon’s worth of vibrant outreach. We came together to celebrate and uplift each other in the daily issues and challenges of diabetes maintenance.
We encourage everyone to like us on Facebook as well as check out all of our podcasts and videos on our website (www.divabetic.org) where we post links to all of our innovative outreach programs, products, services and calendar of upcoming events.
We put the WOW in wellness and glamorize good health. It’s important work we do raising awareness and consciousness about prevention and treatment. Diva is as diva does… It’s been a great gig all these years and we are going strong with new sponsors that continue to come on board and help us connect, define and defy the doldrums of diabetes and make everyone proudly live strong with a newfound diva-tude! Let’s chant our mantra – “Don’t Get Down, Get Diva!”
CATHERINE SCHULLER, AICI, CIP – President of Catherine Schuller Enterprises, LLC : Catherine began her career as a plus size Ford Model in the 80’s when the industry was just forming and went on to become an Editor at MODE Magazine, Creator of the first indie designer showcase CurveStyle: Reshaping Fashion and now is fashion curator for Runway the Real Way, the first inclusive catwalk event that recently won the award for being the Most Consistent Fashion Event in NYC. She develops new fashion talent with her passion to help beginners with her belief that she wants to be the person she wishes she had met when she first moved to New York. Model Maker Mentors is her way of giving back and she works closely with TRUE Model Management scouting and acting as liaison, helping to discover and develop upcoming models who have the look, drive and ambition to make it in the modeling field. She teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology and is Image and Style Advisor for Divabetic, a charity outreach for women living with, at risk of or affected by the epidemic of diabetes in America today.
Photo Credit: Tony James, Julian White
Models courtesy of John Robert Powers and Smooches Models