Jillian Rose Reed stars on MTV's offbeat comedy Awkward (which has been picked up for a second season) as the sassy and fun-loving best friend Tamara. Now 19, Jillian was only 9 years old when her older brother developed diabetes. He was away at college, which she notes made it especially frightening for him and the entire family. There was a lot of worry and fear, she told me, until he got diagnosed and got his diabetes under control. Even after that, life didn't go on an even keel. He nearly slipped into a diabetic coma before seeking medical help once when he was sick, because he didn't understand the complexities and potential complications of this medical condition.
There are an estimated 25.8 million people in the United States who have diabetes -- 7 million of whom are undiagnosed. Complications include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, and amputation. Type 1 diabetes, the type Jillian's brother has, where the body does not produce insulin, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and makes up only 5 percent of all diabetes cases.
Jillian's advice to others in similar situations is to just be there for your sibling. "It's such a hard thing," she said. It's traumatic and involves an entire lifetime change of diet and routine when you're insulin-dependent, she explained.
That's why Jillian is taking action to help raise money to prevent and treat diabetes. She's joined ranks with the American Diabetes Association for Los Angeles and will be speaking at the Los Angeles Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes on Sunday, October 2, 2011. The fundraiser is a 3-mile walk through movie and television history, complete with a yellow brick road and the opportunity to meet characters, such as Luke Skywalker.
Watch for Jillian's tweets (@JillianRoseReed) about it and how you can help raise funds to prevent and cure diabetes.
Meanwhile, Jillian is trying to reduce her chances of developing diabetes by exercising and eating healthy, which is especially hard for a teenager. She admits she's far from perfect, but she's trying.
And for all you young actors who dream of making it in Hollywood, I asked Jillian what she thinks was the key to her success. She told me that it's her family (she lives at home). They believe in her, and the fact that they think she can succeed made her want to keep going when she faced rejection. She told me about a time when someone in the business told her that she's good at acting but not that good. No matter who you are, you're always going to get that, she pointed out. And so her advice to young actors is, "definitely don't give up."