Hey hairballs! The past few weeks have been hectic and I’m finally giving my body a chance to relax. I’m completely exhausted and honestly, I’m pretty damn happy about it. I’ve worked hard to get to the point in my recovery where my body can carry me through a day’s work and it feels amazing. Trusting myself seems to actually be getting me somewhere.
Recently, I had an amazing opportunity to work with the charity “After Breast Cancer”, an organization with the goal to provide access to the needs of one diagnosed with breast cancer. Our project was to create clean editorial looks for the new Ambassador Calendar for the charity to promote the strength that survivors carry with them. I’d heard of them before, but have never done any work for their organization before. The organization began in 2013 by Alicia Vianga when she discovered that there was no assistance for breast cancer patients with no insurance or are financially challenged. After Breast Cancer fills that gap by providing mastectomy bras and tank tops, and breast prostheses with an understanding that the life of a patient changes the second they become a survivor. It’s such an amazing charity that really focuses on the survivor’s quality of life and all the resources that come with it. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, it wasn’t the exact experience I imagined (and still SUPER fun)
“Did I have too many Diet Cokes?’ I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’m fairly active. What did I do?”
Elizabeth Johnson, After Breast Cancer S|He Ambassador
Upon first arriving, I met Cristina Sacco, of boygirl photography, and one of the ambassadors (a.k.a models) were in the studio already shooting. Cristina has an amazing studio setup that is so welcoming and warm (also there’s beautiful images everywhere) and a personality to match. She blasted music and applauded the ambassador for every move she made, and it was genuinely an amazing experience. The ambassador was feeling herself and dancing to the music: her daughter dancing on the sidelines really made it feel special. It was beautiful. Soon I got to meet makeup artist Rachel Jones, of b pretty makeup artistry, an amazing and talented makeup artist who has worked with After Breast Cancer for 5 years (that’s awesome).
Each ambassador has a unique story; however, one thing rang true in every story – they were shocked by their diagnoses. In a 2014 article, an ambassador shared her journey with After Breast Cancer, explaining that she blamed herself for her diagnosis: “I thought, ‘Did I have too many Diet Cokes?’ I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I’m fairly active. What did I do?” She learned the harsh way that cancer refuses to descriminate and it’s no one’s fault. There was nothing they could do to prevent this. Working with After Breast Cancer was an amazing opportunity not just for this ambassador, but for all ambassadors working with the charity.
I’ll be honest – I was scared. I don’t have a ton of experience with styling for editorial photo-shoots and I felt like a fraud the majority of the time. I mean, I hadn’t even finished school! How was I capable enough to do something like this?
It wasn’t until the very end of the day that Rachel said “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without you” that I realized I had been undermining my own capabilities. The whole time I was telling myself ‘oh shit they’re going to realize they’re better off without me‘ when I ended up being the main hairstylist for the third and final day of shooting. This experience has taught me to trust myself and to refocus my negative thoughts into positive energy. By the end of the day, I was saying “I can do this” rather “I’m going to end up living in a ditch because I might fail”.
I needed that lesson in order to come to terms with where I am in my life, trusting that I’m no longer in that “sick” mindset. These ambassadors taught me an amazing lesson in reclaiming life and trusting one’s decisions, and I can’t thank them enough.
The fact that we were able to create this calendar, despite COVID-19, is amazing and I’m so happy to have been a part of creating this. We worked hard to be able to do the work that needed to be done on different days and in different provinces (our creative director was in Newfoundland, using Zoom). I’m so proud of us – photographer, ambassadors, makeup artist, hairstylist, directors, Olga – and I am so thankful I met each and everyone of you. I truly hope we get the opportunity to work together on next year’s calendar!
I’m so happy to have been a part of this amazing project. Not only was it an amazing opportunity for my career, this was amazing for me, personally. Having the opportunity to sit down and listen to their stories was life-changing. I have a lot to learn about moving forward and these souls have given me hope that there is a life after anorexia. I’m determined to figure out what that looks like for me.