We’re big fans of Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) and all the work that Cherise Shockley has done to raise awareness about diabetes in the social realm. We’ve featured her story about the start of DSMA and Blue Fridays. We’ve also featured the story of Bea Domínguez, co-host of DSMA en Vivo, the Spanish off-shoot of DSMA Live. Today I’d like to introduce you to Christina “Kiki” Rodríguez, also a co-host of DSMA en Vivo, and active participant in the diabetes online community (DOC).
Christina’s first brush with diabetes came when she was seven years old and her older cousin was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Six months later they were playing together and he off-handedly asked if she wanted to test her blood sugar level. When they checked the level, it was in the 200s. Her mother took her to the doctor who diagnosed her with type 1 diabetes as well. “They said that I was in the honeymoon stage where my pancreas was still producing some insulin but not enough to keep me going,” she said. “I was hospitalized for several days and they put me on insulin therapy right away.”
Growing up with diabetes has given Christina a unique perspective. “Ever since the beginning, I’ve always had this perception that I didn’t do anything to get diabetes,” she said. “I didn’t choose to have this condition, and if people don’t like me because of it, that’s not my problem. It’s theirs. People often say they’re sorry when they hear I have diabetes. But I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I didn’t have it. I likely wouldn’t be such a good multitasker or as ambitious. I want people to know that I believe I can still do everything I want to.”
When the magazine she was writing for closed in 2010, Christina took her background in journalism and began looking for other writing opportunities. She started the Kikisbetes blog in September 2010 to share her experiences with diabetes. “I started writing about the challenges that I face as a Latina who lives with diabetes,” she said. “For instance, our food in the Latino community is so carb heavy that it’s difficult to try to balance that out. I wondered if I should take enough insulin and eat it anyway, or if I should cut it out of my diet and keep going. I write about topics that hopefully speak to that audience.”
As she was writing for her blog, Christina was also researching diabetes so she could write and educate from a more informed place. She learned about the prevalence of type 2 diabetes among Latinos. “While I don’t have type 2 diabetes, I figured I could talk culturally to the Hispanic community about the issues that we face together,” she said. “Ultimately the symptoms and the repercussions of not taking care of yourself – whether you live with type 1 or type 2 – are similar.”
In 2011 Christina joined the Young Professionals Board of the American Diabetes Association. “I was the only Latina on the board, and I really wanted to make a difference,” she said. “For me, beyond the fundraising component, it was about going out there and talking to people and saying, ‘I’m part of the Young Professionals Board. I want to be of service. How can I help you?’”
Then she met Cherise Shockley and Bea Domínguez. “Meeting Cherise and Bea pulled me into the social media realm,” she said. “I got to counsel a lot more people and be involved in the DSMA Twitter chats. That’s why I agreed to do DSMA en Vivo with Bea; they were being advocates and helping each other. I felt that being an advocate was probably even more beneficial to the community that I was trying to serve. One of the main goals of DSMA en Vivo is to show people that they’re not alone in this.”
Christina’s favorite part about doing the radio show is being able to talk with others who live with diabetes. “I like being able to talk about issues with others who know exactly what I’m going through,” she said. “Bea lives with type 2, and we just added Mila Ferrer whose son lives with type 1, so we have a variety of perspectives on the show. Plus we interview guests, so we get to talk to different people about what they’re doing within the diabetes space, which is comforting to me.”
In addition to her diabetes advocacy efforts, Christina does freelance publicity, social media marketing, content creation and public relations work through her company, Clique Communications. “When I was working for a magazine after I graduated college, I developed relationships with people that I had interviewed, as well as other editors, writers and photographers. Clique became a network of people that I worked with. It’s all my experience put into one place. Through Clique, I am able to connect with people and help them with a variety of projects.”
Christina also helped found Pícaro Media and serves as the Business Development Manager. “Together with Lori Díaz and Wendy Mateo, of the comedic duo Dominizuelan, a couple of other people and I decided to put together this company to create video content for the Latino community,” she said. “Ultimately, we want to see ourselves mirrored in mainstream media, not just in Spanish. We want to more closely reflect what Hispanics actually look like and be comfortable with being ourselves onscreen, whether it’s a short video on social media, or on TV. That’s how Pícaro started.” These projects supplement her work as Senior Account Executive for the Zócalo Group, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing agency in Chicago.
Talk about one busy lady! I’m impressed by all the projects she has going, and how she is able to bring it all together under the umbrella of diabetes awareness and advocacy. My thanks to her for sharing her story.
All the best,
Disclosure: Christina Rodríguez received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.