New York Fashion Week is a prestigious event that is held every year in the months of February and September. It shows off the latest fashion collections from renown designers, exhibited by the world’s most successful models. This year, AnoOno came together with #Cancerland, a U.S. non-profit organization, to host an empowering fashion show consisting of breast cancer fighters and survivors. AnoOno is a lingerie and loungewear line that includes products for women who have undergone surgeries, including Lumpectomy, FLAP Reconstruction, Bilateral or Unilateral Reconstruction, Breast Reduction, and more. The line was designed by Dana Donofree, owner of AnaOno Intimates.
Donofree was diagnosed with breast cancer herself at the age of 27 and she had to undergo a double mastectomy as part of her treatment plan. She began to design her first pieces of lingerie out of necessity, due to the pain and discomfort she endured from her breast cancer treatments. Donofree also had a desire to enjoy sexy and stunning lingerie that made her feel beautiful during her recovery time. “I made it my mission to design specifically for those who’ve had breast reconstruction, breast surgery, mastectomy, or are living with other conditions that cause pain or discomfort because I believe that comfort should not be a compromise,” she said.
The fashion show, which took place at the Angel Orsenzanz Foundation in New York, aimed to help raise awareness for breast cancer – a disease that takes the lives of over 40,000 American women each year. It was hosted by Oscar-winning actress, Mira Sorvino. Sadly, Sorvino’s best friend, Champagne Joy – founder of #Cancerland – passed away from metastatic breast cancer in early 2017.
These products show that beauty is not limited
All of the women who took part in the show strutted down the runway in lingerie designs by AnaOno, proudly showing off their surgical scars with #Cancerland written across their bodies. AnaOno presented its latest product, the Flat & Fabulous bra, intended for breast cancer survivors who had undergone mastectomy, yet decided not to undergo breast reconstruction. Donofree stated that this was an opportunity to show that women diagnosed with breast cancer are no different from others. “We want to show that whether you have been diagnosed with breast cancer or have a genetic marker, have breasts or have none, have visible scarring or even tattoos in place of nipples, it doesn't matter,” she said.
Each woman has a story that cannot be fully understood just by looking at their photo. So, the 16 breast cancer fighters and survivors who took part in the NYFW breast cancer show decided to share their stories with the world. They celebrated their true beauty, identity and individuality - through lingerie. Most importantly, they shared a powerful and inspiring message: live your life to the fullest.
Aniela McGuinness’s story
Actress and model Aniela McGuinness was diagnosed with stage I breast cancer just days before undergoing a preventative mastectomy due the discovery of a BRCA-positive genetic mutation. Being that her career put her looks above all else, she was used to hearing that she was not pretty enough, not tall enough, not old enough, not young enough, etc. For McGuinness, cancer freed her from feeling ‘not good enough’. “I was able to witness how valuable and beautiful I really was without all of the things society and the industry put value in: hair, nails, health, breasts. My body loved me and showed it by healing over and over again,” she said. She became more comfortable with her body following a cancer diagnosis and realized that she was enough. After strutting topless at the fashion show in New York, McGuiness stated that she felt sexy and powerful.
Kiku Collins’s story
Musician Kiku Collins was diagnosed with infiltrative ductal carcinoma. She was all too familiar with cancer, as it had sadly taken the lives of her mother, her sister, and others in her family at a young age. As a performer, Collins masks her image, presenting herself as a confident and flawless woman. However, when the lights go out, she is left flawed with scar pain and aching bones. She stated that what helped her through this difficult period in her life was being private on her life with cancer. “My husband and I didn’t exit the ‘cancer closet’ for about 6 months. I’m still struggling with my health, my body and body image, the realities of everything going on, inside and out,” she said. Collins is learning to embrace herself and her body image. “Sometimes I can see my mom in the mirror looking back at me and there isn’t much to do other than wonder where I went. Other times, I look in the mirror and I see myself and know exactly where my mom went,” she said.
Shay Sharpe was praised for her actions, despite feeling unconfident
Shay Sharpe, Madame President of Shay Sharpe’s Pink Wishes, is a two-time breast cancer survivor. Before undergoing a mastectomy, Sharpe loved everything about her body and losing her hair was one of the most difficult things that she had to deal with. Prior to the fashion show, she started on a diet and lost more than 20 pounds. On the day of the fashion show, which was also her 39th birthday, Sharpe weighed 190 pounds (her weight before her cancer diagnosis was 160 pounds). Even though she had no confidence walking down the runway, she stated that it was an empowering moment for her. However, when the pictures of the fashion show were released, she was disappointed by how she looked. She felt that all her hard work in dieting and exercising were unsuccessful. However, a few days later, as the pictures went viral, Sharpe began to receive messages from other survivors, praising her for her representation on behalf of all African American women. “Being on that runway as an icon to redefining beauty for both myself and everyone participating has helped me restructure how I think about beauty and my body,” she said.
Candice Smith’s story
Candice Smith, a competitive fitness athlete, was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). After undergoing a mastectomy, she grew concerned that she would not be able to perform in fitness modeling and competitions, which were a part of her career. “After seven surgeries with a top-notch surgeon I felt I looked as normal as I possibly could,” she said. Yet, something else happened to her following her surgeries. She began to look past being defined by her breasts and she started to appreciate the fact that she was alive and healthy. On the runway, Smith stated that she felt happy, empowered, and more beautiful for the first time in a really long time. “I know I am here for a reason, and I believe it is to talk about early detection and to be a light and voice for others,” she said.
All of the proceeds from the NYFW breast cancer show went to #Cancerland, whose main objective is to advocate for cancer research and treatment that will hopefully turn breast cancer into a thing of the past. “It’s such an amazing thing to have these individuals walking the runway at NYFW, and not in just any lingerie, but made specifically for their unique bodies,” said Beth Fairchild, Co-chair of #Cancerland. “What an empowering thing to walk that runway and own what you have!” she added. The show was a perfect testament to the multifaceted realities of breast cancer, presenting the disease as hideous and beautiful, imprisoning and liberating, as well as isolating and unifying.
Photo: Facebook (Cancerland)