From American Idol to Actor and Advocate: Meet Kevin Covais
From American Idol to Actor and Advocate: Meet Kevin Covais
Kevin Covais was one of the youngest contestants on American Idol; he was just 16 when he made his debut during season 5. He’ll share some behind the scenes stories including managing low blood sugar during a live performance. Diagnosed with T1D at age 11, Kevin has been working steadily as an actor. We’ll talk about working in Hollywood with diabetes – and what that's been like during COVID, more about American Idol, and how Kevin found himself mentoring other kids with type 1. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. ----- available to Diabetes Connections listeners! ----- Get the App and listen to Diabetes Connections wherever you go! Episode Transcription below Stacey Simms 0:00 Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dario Health. Manage your blood glucose levels increase your possibilities by Gvoke Hypopen the first premixed auto injector for very low blood sugar, and by Dexcom take control of your diabetes and live life to the fullest with Dexcom. Announcer 0:20 This is Diabetes Connections with Stacey Simms. Stacey Simms 0:26 This week, actor Kevin Covais was one of the youngest contestants on American Idol back in season five, he'll share some behind the scenes stories, including managing low blood sugar during a live performance. Kevin Covais 0:38 And I'm singing and I just like, I can't wait for this thing to be over. I can't wait to stop singing and get the critiques from the judges that I'm not even gonna really listen to you because I got to get off the stage and I got to get some juice or I gotta get some tablets. I gotta take care of this. Stacey Simms 0:49 He was fine. And since Idol , Kevin has been working steadily as an actor. We'll talk about working in Hollywood with diabetes and during COVID more about American Idol, and how Kevin found himself mentoring other kids with type one. He has advice for parents too. This podcast is not intended as medical advice. If you have those kinds of questions, please contact your health care provider. Welcome to another week of the show, always is so glad to have you here. Hi, I'm your host Stacey Simms. We aim to educate and inspire about diabetes with a focus on people who use insulin. And my guest this week is Kevin Covais, diagnosed with type one just as he turned 11. Kevin is best known for American Idol as you heard in the tease there and the Disney Channel show Good Luck Charlie, where he played the character Victor. He is a steadily working actor with roles in Transformers and this is us, the rookie, NCIS Los Angeles and more. I put some pictures of Kevin in the Diabetes Connections Facebook groups, you can kind of see him on set. And he is appearing in the new Netflix series on the verge, which is out this month. I thought it would be fun to just play a little clip of Season Five of American Idol where Kevin appeared and this was back in 2006. As I said he was one of the very youngest contestants. So here's a little bit of him from back then. (Kevin sings) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dc5ec3te75I Stacey Simms 2:44 used to watch idol all the time. And as I confessed to Kevin, it has been a while. But what a big show, right? And you'll hear Kevin during the interview mentioned Elliott Yamin who was also on season five and also lives with type one. I got to meet Elliot a couple of years ago at a touched by type one conference he is still performing writing music. He's now a dad, I'll put a link to Elliot stuff in the show notes as well. That of course will have tons of information about Kevin, but I just thought that was really interesting because to me, I don't know it seems like yesterday but of course 2006 was the year that my son was diagnosed, Benny was diagnosed right before he turned two. He is now almost 17 which is I mean, we've lived with diabetes. Now I've been part of this community for 15 years in just a couple of weeks. So 2006 kind of was a long time ago and kind of seems like yesterday to me. Alright, Kevin's interview coming up in just a moment. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Gvoke Hypopen and our endo always told us that if you use insulin you need to have emergency glucagon on hand as well. Low blood sugars are one thing we're usually able to treat those with fast acting glucose tabs or juice but a very low blood sugar can be very frightening which is why I'm so glad there's a different option for emergency glucagon it is Gvoke Hypopen. Gvoke Hypopen is pre mixed and ready to go with no visible needle. You pull off the red cap push the yellow end onto bare skin and hold it for five seconds. That's it. Find out more go to Diabetes connections.com and click on the Gvoke logo. Gvoke shouldn't be used in patients with pheochromocytoma or insulinoma visit Gvoke glucagon.com slash risk. Kevin, welcome to the show. I'm really glad to talk to you. Thanks for making some time for me. Kevin Covais 4:26 Stacey. Thank you for having me. I'm so excited to find we've been talking about this for a while I'm so I'm so happy to finally join the program. It's great. Stacey Simms 4:33 Awesome. Yeah, it's great that we finally connected Gosh, so much to talk about. We connected everyone We see each other every year add friends for life. Yeah. And I was so happy we were able to do that this year. We'll kind of see what happens going ahead. But before we get into all of that, do you mind if we just kind of take a step back and look back? I mean you haven't been on the show before and I'd love to kind of revisit the early days of Kevin Kevin Covais 4:59 Spacey. I would be disappointed if we didn't do that. So let's, let's dive in. Let's do it. Yes, please. Stacey Simms 5:04 As I was asking that I was thinking about American Idol but I should probably go back further. You were diagnosed when you were you were a kid. You were not even 11 years old yet, right? Yeah, it Kevin Covais 5:13 was just prior to my 11th birthday symptoms leading up. Yeah, my birthday is at the end of May. And I just remember that entire month of May so vividly. You know, obviously, you think back to childhood and, you know, memories here memories there. But that month just stands out in my mind so vividly. Symptoms throughout the month, parents wandering out what's going on with Kev? what's what's happening, you know, maybe an infection this that bring me into the doctor, several days prior to my 11th birthday to get the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Yeah. Stacey Simms 5:41 Did you spend your birthday in the hospital? Kevin Covais 5:43 I think it was. So it was it was several days after my birthday. So yeah, it was the entire month leading up to the birthday. And then it was, yeah, right. At the start of June, I was putting so this was several days after my 11th birthday that I was in the hospital. And just you know, you hear the doctor tell you and your kid and I, you know, I immediately I broke down and cried. I didn't know, I didn't know what I was dealing with. I you know, you hear the word diabetes and you know, your mind escapes, you starts running around all these different things. And then he you know, the doctor, you know, kindly explained to me, now this is something you're going to be able to manage your life. It's obviously going to be a great deal of work. But this is something you live with and something you manage. And then from there, I learned everything over the course of the next week and being in the hospital and getting treated. Yeah, it was. It was a month like no other though. Yeah, that's for sure. Yeah. Stacey Simms 6:27 So your kid, you're diagnosed at a time when frankly, it's the as I recall that time that early 2000s. It's the time right before everything really started changing. Absolutely. As I look at I mean, Ben, he was diagnosed in 2006. They were like, we've got this amazing thing called Lantus. That's just been approved for kids. Yeah, you know, and now everything seems so different with the technology. What was the first kind of technology or routine that you were on? Gosh, you Kevin Covais 6:54 got me thinking back to the pre Lantus days of time? Yeah, it's it's wild. For me. Taking the injections, taking the daily injections, I will go ahead and say I'm not currently on the pump, that I am one of these those rare rare people that uh, that takes daily injections. I have a CGM. But that's, that's my preferred way of doing it have been doing it that way for years. But yeah, starting out being diagnosed taking human and human log each and every day. Yeah. And those pre Lantus days. And, you know, they think back to those syringes before you have the pens and the newer technology and the things that make it so easy now, so, so accessible, and thinking back to a time before, you know, we had some of those advancements, it was definitely interesting at the start for those first couple of years. Stacey Simms 7:35 Well, is that the kind of and I say technology to encompass whatever you're using shots? Oh, of course. Yeah. So when you're talking humulin, you have a log, did you have to kind of eat on a set schedule? Or were you okay to kind of inject when you want it to eat, Kevin Covais 7:51 you know, that really came with adulthood, that sort of injecting when I wanted to eat and the accessibility I remember, as a kid, it was, it was the preference of my doctors to have that set routine. I remember going in and you have a regimented schedule of three meals, several snacks, a snack at an after school snack at roughly 3pm. And, and one prior to bed 9pm at night. And yeah, that was for a while. It's obviously insulin matching. Exactly what you're what you're ingesting exactly what you're eating and set times. It was all very regimented. For me those first couple years of my life. Yeah. Something. I bet. I bet it's a trip to think back on it really is. Yeah, Stacey Simms 8:30 it must be I mean, I just think, you know, it's there's no easy age to be diagnosed with diabetes. But 11 you're just starting out that like, tiptoeing into independence. Yes. Middle School. Do you remember? Did your parents kind of give you a long rope? Were they very protective? I don't want to be too personal. Kevin Covais 8:48 Please, please. They were unbelievable. I'm so blessed to have the mother and the father that I do. And the support system that I do, I think they handled it differently. I think, with my mother, I think not that there was more trust, I think, was maybe a little longer rope and trusting me to do the things I think my father was, you know, very concerned at times, but you know, rightfully concerned about, you know, what I was taking and this and that. So there were I think there were several different schools of parenting going on. But together, they complemented each other so well. And it was I just knew that they were always there for me during those frustrating moments, those highs, those lows, quite literally, obviously, where it's just they were there All the while, but just like an amazing support system site. I think they went about it slightly differently. But we're, you know, managed to still be on the same page because, you know, nobody handles You know, one set situation quite the same. So, I was just incredibly fortunate. We just got informed, it's like we figured out what it was and there was a moment of kind of bowing our heads and being frustrated being sad. And then we were like, Alright, what do we do about this and got in the hospital and took care of and met up with all the doctors and got assigned the endocrinologist and and took it from there. Yeah, Stacey Simms 9:53 your parents must have given you a long rope because five years later, you auditioned for American Idol right when you're 16 Kevin Covais 9:59 I was a baby I mean, I'm still a baby. I'm just an older baby. I'm still probably just as immature. But now I'm in my 30s so I don't really get away with as much. I I was 16 years old SJC when I did the show, I can't believe I did it at all. And I can't believe I did it when I was when I didn't know any more. I was just a child. Yeah. It's so Stacey Simms 10:17 funny. So okay, so you're my son's age. Kevin Covais 10:23 And your son's a child. I'm sure he's way more mature than I was. Stacey Simms 10:28 But, you know, you did let him just go. You know, he took an international trip for a month but he was with you. But he was with a bunch of people who, you know, we're we felt very safe with of course, what was the deal with American Idol because you didn't just go to one city, right? I mean, audition different cities take us kind of through what happened. Kevin Covais 10:45 It was just the journey of a lifetime at 16. I audition in New York. I'm from from Levittown, New York, Long Island, New York, and I audition up in Boston, I turned 16. And as I tell the story, my mom and I would watch idol from the Kelly Clarkson days. I ultimately was on season five. But you know, Kelly Clarkson wins the show, season one, my mom and I, it's must see TV. We tune in every week to watch the show. And my father was never a big fan. And I was a singer, around the same time that I was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 11. That's kind of when I joined the chorus and developed a love for singing and acting in the school plays and whatnot. And he'd walked through the room and we'd be watching idol. And I would tell him, I said, you know, one day I'm going to do this show. And he's like, yeah, okay, we'll see. And I turned 16. And again, just to echo how incredibly supportive my parents have always been, they've always been by my side, I turned 16. I go up to Boston to audition for the show. When there were no tri state area auditions in the Greater New York area. They take me up to Boston, they take me up to Gillette Stadium where the New England Patriots play, they're having massive auditions. 15 tents set up on a field, a judge at each tent and forward a time that bringing us down and they say Sing, sing, sing, sing, you sing a little bit of a song, they cut you off whenever they feel like you either make it or they send you to the exits, we see a herd of people go into the exits. And I was one of the lucky few that day who they said you know what, we're gonna give you another audition, we'll come back and see the executive producers, so on and so forth all the way up to the main judges in the city of Boston, I see the original three of Simon cow, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson. And eventually I make my way out to Hollywood. I get past that round, and made it to Hollywood. It was my first time ever on the west coast. I get to go and I'm one of maybe 180 people auditioning out in Hollywood to try to get on those live shows where ultimately I landed and Gosh, got to somehow got to the top 12 my seats I don't even know I don't even it was honestly Stacy, it was all blur. I don't even know how I did it. I don't know. I mean, I remember it. But it was just such a roller coaster and such an emotional ride in such an exciting ride my lights? Yeah. Stacey Simms 12:39 When I'm researching to talk to you, you know, going through the American Idol season five and kind of looking at what was written around that time. There's no mention of you having diabetes? Kevin Covais 12:50 No, no, you hiding it. Stacey Simms 12:57 Right back to Kevin finishing that thought. But first Diabetes Connections is brought to you by Dario health. And one of the things that makes diabetes management difficult for us that really annoys me and Benny isn't actually the big picture stuff. It's all the little tasks adding up. Are you sick of running out of strips, do you need some direction or encouragement going forward with your diabetes management, with visibility into your trends help you on your wellness journey? The Dario diabetes success plan offers all of that and more. No more waiting in line at the pharmacy no more searching online for answers. No more wondering about how you're doing with your blood sugar levels, find out more go to my dario.com forward slash diabetes dash connections. Now back to Kevin talking about why he didn't share his type one with the American Idol audience. Kevin Covais 13:46 Absolutely not hiding it. This is how little I just knew about I just wasn't aware of anything. I was so green to the experience that like now as an actor of 10 plus years as a mainly transition to acting at this point, which I'm sure we'll get to a bit in a little bit. I didn't think about it from a perspective of Oh, wow, what a stage to raise awareness for this thing. I was on the show. I made it to the top 12. And one of my best friends from the show is Elliot Yamin, fellow type one, and you know, great guy, great personality and just just a heck of a voice. Oh my god, the guy can sing the doors off the place. He's unbelievable. And we auditioned in Boston together. I was so nervous until my final few weeks performing live on the show. I just think I went in and I would do the interviews and I would do this and I would do that. And it wouldn't even occur to me like man, you should really bring this up. I wasn't hiding it. I wasn't ashamed. I think for me, it was just such a normal part of my life that I'd been accustomed to for five years. And I was like, Oh, yeah, well, I'm you know, I'm no different than anyone else. I'm just dealing with my type 1 diabetes, you know, all the while. And it's it's a regret not from a sense because again, I wasn't hiding it. It's a regret because I realized how big that platform was and Oh man, I should have said something. And it was and it wasn't until after the fact that I was like oh wow, there's like a lot of opportunity here and when I you know start to do very As events for the jdrf are really dive into work with the Diabetes Research Institute several years thereafter. It wasn't until that point, when I kind of got older. I was like, Man, this is an incredible opportunity to raise awareness. And, you know, use your platform. And I wish I could go back and tell 16 year old Kevin that I really wish I could. Stacey Simms 15:16 Well, I wasn't even thinking of it in terms of advocacy, which is a terrific point that you make, but I was thinking about it as your 16. And, you know, to say, Well, I need extra help, or I need you to know that. Although you weren't beeping at the time, you probably didn't have a CGM. No, not yet. Right. You might not just you know, and I think and I can totally understand that, because that's how my son is, you know, he'll tell people to be safe, you know, spending the night and we're not there. And he'll say, Here's to this and that, but he's not gonna say, hey, by the way, just as dropping into the conversation, yeah. I don't think a lot of 16 year olds who are let's just say it like that, I think. And you've already kind of mentioned it, it just seems like it was such a normal part of who you were. I think that's very commendable. I think that's great. Kevin Covais 16:01 Thanks. Yeah, I'd like to think so as well. I'll tell you, every staff member on idol, the producer, the up to the producers, up to the big time people behind the show, they knew I had type one. I always made it a point to you know, school teachers, obviously, you're telling them okay, hey, look, if I need to go to the nurse, this is why I'm not. I'm not trying to get out of taking this exam. It's because I have a legitimate low right now. So the people in my life I was telling, it never occurred to me when the cameras started rolling to bring it up, because it just didn't occur to me. I was like, Oh, yeah, no, I'm telling the people that are directly affected in my life about this. It didn't, it didn't even dawn on me to inform the audience about Stacey Simms 16:36 it. Did you have any issues on Idol with diabetes? And I did, Kevin Covais 16:40 yeah. There's a story that stands out. I don't...