People to Know 2017: RaeLynn
Back in the early ’90s, when I was hosting a celebrity NASCAR event to raise money for diabetes research, a fan asking for my autograph struck up a conversation about diabetes. That short interaction eventually led to the founding of a Vanderbilt University research chair to fund and support diabetes science.
The connection musicians make with fans is important—doubly so if you have diabetes, like I do. That’s why I admire RaeLynn, the country singer who appeared on The Voice in 2012 and has been on a steady ascent ever since. Diagnosed with type 1 as a 12-year-old, she sees her mission as equal parts singer-songwriter and diabetes ambassador.
“There are days I’m upset I have it—some days I wish I could have a piece of cake and not check my sugar five times—but I’m so thankful God gave me a disease that I can handle and that I can be a voice for,” says the 23-year-old, whose first album, WildHorse, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums. “Everybody is unique in their own way and this is something that makes me unique and gives a different edge to my story. To be able to inspire a young girl or boy who has type 1 diabetes and let them know that this doesn’t hinder you from pursuing your dreams—to be that voice is the coolest thing in the world.”
She started a nonprofit, the RaeLynn Diabetes Foundation, to fund projects such as a program at Texas Children’s Diabetes Center geared to teaching young adults how to manage their diabetes.
Part of that, of course, includes educating the people in your life about your diabetes. (For her, that includes new husband Josh Davis and mentor Blake Shelton.) “I knew Josh was the one when he wanted to give me a shot at 18 years old,” she says. “But he’s a worry wart.”
He’s not the only one. “When I’m on the road with Blake he’ll ask, ‘Have you checked your diabetes?’ ” says RaeLynn, who checks her blood glucose multiple times a day, including before she goes onstage. That kind of dedication and focus—a requirement for anyone aiming for a career in music—has made RaeLynn a great role model.
“I’ve had fans give me their pump to sign while I’m onstage,” she says. “I tell them, ‘I don’t mind signing this, but please put it back on—you’re stressing me out!’ ”
The Author: Mark Collie is a country singer and songwriter with a string of Top 40 singles under his belt. When he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes over four decades ago, Mark made a commitment to finding a cure and has worked to fund diabetes research ever since. He’s currently promoting his documentary film The Mountain, which shares stories from his work with inmates, and recording a new album, set to release next year.