ML - Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue - 2015 - Issue 8 - Winter - Sandra Lee

Michigan Avenue - Niche Media - Michigan Avenue magazine is a luxury lifestyle magazine centered around Chicago’s finest people, events, fashion, health & beauty, fine dining & more!

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Y ou spent your high school and college years in Wisconsin, lived in Los Angeles, and are now a New Yorker. How often do you come back to the Midwest? The Midwest is never far from my heart and I come back every year to La Crosse for Oktoberfest. It's an annual date that I have with my best friend Lisa from Onalaska High School—I wouldn't give it up for anything. These four fall days reconnect me to my wonderful years in the Midwest. And one of the best things about this weekend is that I always fy in and out of Chicago and spend a couple of days seeing what's new. Tell us some of your favorite things about Chicago. Well, for starters, I love the Water Tower. It's a magnifcent and historic archi- tectural landmark, and I could stare at it for hours. There is always something new to see, to do, and to taste in Chicago. The art scene is world-class, the shop- ping is divine, and the food is fabulous. There is a European feel and fair to the boutiques. But what I love the most is the sincerity of the people in Chicago. Midwestern values are incredibly special, and I am proud to say I have never lost them and I never will. Why did you decide to become involved with Miracle on Madison Avenue? I was asked to serve as an ambassador for the event and happily accepted because it is a wonderful holiday tradition. Participating merchants donate signifcant proceeds from sales on Saturday, December 5, to The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering. I'm delighted to support this world- class institution and encourage those who plan to holiday shop on Madison Avenue to come out that day and help such a worthy organization. Also in my role as an ambassador for Stand Up to Cancer, we want to get the word out about beating this disease, so working with Miracle on Madison is an honor. You recently shot bold images for a cancer awareness campaign to be called Painted Pink or Shades of Pink. Tell us how the photo shoot happened. I wanted the image to incorporate a feeling of empowerment, of sexiness, and of something smart. The image had to embody beauty and com- municate a confdence and strength in owning the diagnosis. It shows how to be proud of the way you handled it. It also had to be a fantasy, but one every woman, regardless of age, could see herself pictured in. I wanted the photograph to be something women could be proud to hang on their wall, something that said, "Job well done. Cancer didn't defne me; I defned it." The image combined a lot of artful input and forethought, but it took just under two hours to do, which is a stunningly short period of time for what came out of that photo session. The makeup and styling for the shoot is very artistic. What was the thought process that went into it? The modeling and styling represented a couple of things. First and foremost, the way everybody feels after a diagnosis, whether it's your own diagnosis or that of someone you love. You're confused and internally frantic no matter how on top of things or organized you are. You just feel out of control, like a hot mess. Photographer Jill Lotenberg and I worked hard to get the perfect lighting so that the shades of pink really popped. I wanted the image shot in a natural white light—what I call "God's light," as man can never create anything better. Why the different shades of pink? My longtime makeup and hair artist is Alx Galasinao, who really helped me bring this vision to life. Alx is an Emmy Award winner and searched high and low for colors representing every shade of pink. There are many shades to show how breast cancer has affected nearly everyone. The lighter shades stand for people who support loved ones affected by cancer. The darker, more intense hues represent the different stages of the disease. I haven't decided whether we're going to name this campaign Shades of Pink or Painted Pink. How has having cancer changed you? I am the same. I just want to make sure each day is flled with the best life has to offer—for everyone. You were incredibly brave to show treatment images from your hospi- tal stays on Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites. Why did you decide to be so forthcoming? Was it more diffcult as a high-profle personality to deal with the diagnosis and treatment? I've had a long career in the public eye, and I have always been open and straightforward with my fans and my followers on social media. I have never been one to hide anything from them. Being fortunate to work in television and to have a magazine, books, and products that reach people, I knew that, while sharing this experience was very personal, it is authentic to who I am. The person you see on television is really me, so why should I be any different, especially if I have something more meaningful to share? What I was learning could potentially save others' lives, too. Perhaps this was the most important public appearance I have ever made. I opened a door and let people know what was going on, and that I was going to be okay. If they are ever faced with a similar diagnosis, they will know I made it through and what it was like for me. If that helps anyone, it was worth it; if my story motivates someone to get screened, it was worth it. Talk about your frst interview with Robin Roberts right after being diagnosed. Why was it important for you to share news of the diagnosis in this way? Robin has been an example to so many peo- ple. She has bravely fought her cancer and shared her experience publicly. I admire and respect her, and when I had the opportunity to tell my story, I was drawn to Robin for that reason. In many ways she inspired me to share my experience because of her bravery and generosity. She was a wonder- ful support to me throughout my journey, and remains so today. What was the best advice you received after your diagnosis? To take care of myself frst and be selfsh about it, to be in the moment. None of that is my nature, but I did the best I could to follow the advice I received. How do you change how people perceive cancer, not just with fear and as a stigma? How do you eliminate the notion that a woman isn't pretty, feminine, or sexy after breast surgery? Once you get over the shock of the diagnosis, you have to make a choice. Are you going to curl up in a ball and hide in a dark room, or are you going to take charge of your cancer, treatment, and recovery? Sure, there will be moments of sadness and fear, but ultimately, taking control is empowering. Women who are in control and empowered are beautiful. Women who are confdent and in control of their lives and whatever situations they face are ultimately sexy. Sexy isn't just physical; it's a state of mind. The old adage "Beauty comes from within" became very meaningful to me. How do you sort through studies and reports on breast cancer that con- tradict and confuse women, both those who have a diagnosis and those who do not? "I wanted the image to incorporate a feeling of empowerment, of sexIness, and of something smart. the image had to communicate a confIdence and strength in owning the diagnosis." 106

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