As the saying goes, beauty comes in many forms and stems from within, particularly, originating in our minds and souls. Former Disney star, Jennifer Stone, is an excellent example of how inner beauty can captivate the masses, as she proves that true beauty has everything to do with character and integrity. After being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Jennifer traded glamorous costume changes for hospital scrubs, as she made the valiant decision to put her Hollywood career on pause and pursue a field in the medical realm. Now, Jennifer is proving that life truly has no limitations, as she is successfully balancing her career in the arts while also working as an ER nurse amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In commemorating Jennifer’s inspiring journey, her raw, untouched beauty can be seen in the newest Oil of Olay campaign, “This Face Has Faced,” alongside several other exceptional women. In this exclusive interview, we had the opportunity to chat with Jennifer regarding her battle with Type 1 diabetes, her experience working as an ER nurse in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it means to be chosen for Olay’s newest campaign.
Megan Morgante: Did anything/anyone, in particular, inspire you to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Jennifer Stone: My older brother actually. One summer my mom wanted him to pick an extracurricular activity rather than stay at home playing video games and he picked theatre. I was the little sister that got dragged to all his rehearsals. I was six at the time and I just fell in love with the magic and art of acting.
MM: What did your life look like before you entered the entertainment industry?
JS: My life was in Texas doing community theatre, sports, art, and spending time at my dad’s farm. You can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl.
MM: You played Harper Finkle on the hit Disney show, Wizards of Waverly Place. What was your experience like working on this series and being a part of the cast?
JS: It was a dream come true that, honestly, I had never really dreamed of. I loved acting from an early age, but I just wanted to do it as much as I could. Thinking about being a part of a show and playing a character that would mean something to people was just never something I even considered. I still consider myself very blessed to have had that experience. I got to spend my high school years doing what I love every day and it made some people happy. I’m a lucky lady.
MM: Soon after the Emmy-winning Disney Channel series concluded its fourth and final season, you were diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Can you describe how you initially discovered you were diagnosed and what your ongoing experience with the illness has been like?
JS: Well, my symptoms weren’t typical. I started gaining weight really fast to the point it put a lot of pressure on my knees and back. My vision blurred and the most basic daily activities, like going to the grocery store, wiped me out for the day. Because I was older when my symptoms began and my symptoms were relative to Type 1 and Type 2, it took four years to get a solid diagnosis and a treatment plan that actually got me on the road to getting healthy and balanced again. Being diagnosed changed my life. I had to start taking insulin injections every day and seeing a doctor every three months. Balance became imperative for me and I had to start paying close attention to things I used to ignore. Some days I feel like I succeed at diabetes and other days I feel like I fail. Any diabetic would tell you, it’s a daily struggle with a lot of variables.
MM: In wake of your diagnosis, you starred, co-wrote, and produced, The In-Between, a movie highlighting diabetes. Can you give us a brief summary of the film and how you developed your inspiration when creating it?
JS: I wrote it with a good friend of mine, Mindy Bledsoe, who also starred in, co-wrote, and directed the movie. She has CRPS Type 2 which is a chronic pain condition. We commiserate over the daily routine of autoimmune conditions, the misunderstanding from others, and misrepresentations (or lack of representation) that come with chronic conditions. There’s a big difference between the day to day experience of something and how it is portrayed on film and TV. So, we decided to write a movie including an honest portrayal of our day to day experience with these conditions that wasn’t a sob story about them. It’s about two girls (one with Type 1 diabetes and the other with CRPS Type 2) who are stuck for their own reasons at certain stages in their lives. Through certain events on this trip, they push past what’s holding them back on their own and together.
MM: You’re set to graduate from Azusa Pacific University with your BSN in late 2020, and you currently work as an ER nurse… Congratulations! What drew you to pursue a career in the medical field?
JS: I have always been interested in various sciences, especially health sciences. Ultimately, my diabetes diagnosis inspired me to turn that passion for science to nursing. In the four years it took to diagnose me correctly, unfortunately, I didn’t have the most positive experience with the healthcare providers I encountered. I went into nursing to learn more about diabetes, to help others with chronic autoimmune conditions, and to do my part to make someone’s bad/worst day a little bit better.
MM: What has your experience looked like as a nurse in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?
JS: I don’t have anything else to compare it to, to be honest. I started my first nursing job in the ER one week after the first Safer at Home order went into place in April of 2020 in Los Angeles. The other nurses tell me and my fellow new grad nurses, that we were baptized by fire. It’s been challenging and rewarding and I’ve grown a lot in a short period of time. You can never stop learning and growing, though. This pandemic has definitely been a unique learning experience.
MM: You were recently chosen to be a part of the new Oil of Olay campaign, “This Face Has Faced,” alongside other beautiful women who are making positive impacts in today’s world. What was your reaction when you discovered you were set to be a part of this moving campaign?
JS: I’m honored! I can’t believe I get to stand alongside women that are furthering the presence of women in STEM fields like engineer Erica Joy Baker, astrobiologist Alyssa Carson, physicist Sabrina Pasterski, and many more. It’s so exciting to be a part of a brand like Olay that celebrates women’s unique beauty, one of a kind minds, and focuses on making a better world for women in general.
MM: What does it mean, to you, to be chosen for Olay’s newest campaign?
JS: It means that I have a responsibility to celebrate my skin, body, and mind exactly as I am. I am not perfect, but a big part of what I love about Olay is that they celebrate the uniqueness and imperfections of every woman. They have the Olay Skin Promise, which means they don’t retouch their campaigns. That means so much to me because I know growing up I used to look at beauty campaigns and think, “My skin doesn’t look like that. I must not be attractive.” I am so glad that they show women as they are because I never want any young girls to look at campaigns and ever think they aren’t stunning.
MM: You are an inspiration to many. What advice would you give to those young individuals who are looking to explore multiple facets of themselves in terms of career options?
JS: I appreciate you saying that, but I’m just trying to do my best to live a life I can be proud of. The advice I would give is to get ready to work, get ready to make sacrifices, and embrace delayed gratification. It took me eight years from starting acting to getting Wizards. It took me taking a break from acting for two years and living, eating, and breathing nursing to get my nursing license. I’ll get off a twelve-hour night shift and then have to switch from my nursing brain to my acting brain. You can have anything you want in this life, but get ready to work and to persevere past being told “no” and overcome challenges. It isn’t easy, but the rewards are so great.
MM: Do you have any new or upcoming projects that you’re particularly excited about?
JS: I finished my bachelor’s degree in nursing a few days ago, so I am going to sleep until 2021 (when I’m not working in the ER). Then it’s back to acting and working together with Olay to inspire the next generation of girls to pursue their own passions.
MM: Do you have any hobbies or passions you enjoy partaking in when you’re not acting?
JS: I love writing, drawing, painting, reading, vintage shopping, and I am a huge cinephile. I was going to start a monthly classic movie club with my friends at the beginning of 2020, but then, you know, the world changed.
MM: What is your biggest accomplishment thus far?
JS: That’s such a tough question. I am always looking ahead, so I don’t spend a lot of time looking back at what I’ve accomplished so far. I measure success in how my actions affect other people so maybe that isn’t something for me to measure, but those I’ve encountered.
Photography by: Krystena Patton