July 18, 2014 at 7:16 PM ET
With a few bold steps across a stage, Miss Idaho 2014 has pumped up people with Type 1 diabetes everywhere.
Sierra Sandison, a diabetic, opted to wear her insulin pump conspicuously attached to her bikini bottom during the Miss Idaho pageant’s swimsuit competition on Saturday night. By the end of the evening, Sandison, 20, was crowned Miss Idaho — but the celebrating really began on Monday when she shared her bikini photo on Facebook along with a bit of her back story.
“Honestly, it is terrifying walking out on stage in a swimsuit, let alone attached to a medical device,” she confessed in a Facebook post.
Sandison also took to her blog to reflect on how much her diabetes diagnosis initially upended her life, and how she was able to overcome her fears about looking different from her fellow pageant competitors.
“When I first started competing, I was using injections rather than a pump,” she wrote. “I didn’t want people to see a weird-tubey-machine-thing attached to me all the time, and could not wrap my head around having a medical device on my body for the rest of my life.
“Then, I heard about Nicole Johnson: Miss America 1999,” she wrote. “She wore her pump while competing at Miss America. My whole perspective changed.”
Sandison felt inspired enough to join the ranks of others who have grown tired of concealing their medical conditions. Just a few weeks ago, former model Bethany Townsend, who has Crohn’s disease, became an online sensation after opening up about her health battle and sharing photos of herself in a black bikini with her colostomy bags exposed.
The reaction to Sandison’s bikini photo with her insulin pump was swift and positive, with dozens of diabetes patients using the hashtag #showmeyourpump to share photos of their own.
In her blog post, Sandison said it’s empowering to open up about an illness, especially if it can help others.
“The media often tells us this lie: if your appearance deviates in any way from cover girls, movie stars, super models, etc., it is a flaw and something is wrong with you,” she wrote. “Well, guess what? Miss America 1999 has an insulin pump, and it doesn’t make her any less beautiful. In fact, in my mind, it enhances her beauty! So, a year after I was diagnosed, I got a pump. It helped me get even better control of my diabetes, and made my life SO much easier. Working up the confidence to compete with it was an entirely different journey, but this summer at Miss Idaho 2014, I finally did it.”
Sandison will compete in the Miss America Pageant from Sept. 9 to 14 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.