The American Cancer Society Focuses on Black Women for a New Breast Cancer Initiative


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Beauty and wellness have always been connected. As the old saying goes, to look good is to feel good. Understanding this inextricable link between beauty and health, leading cancer research organization, the American Cancer Society has recently partnered with Fashion Fair Cosmetics and seven national Black civic organizations, including Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc., National Council of Negro Women, and more to launch the Shades of Strength Breast Cancer Awareness Initiative.

The basis of the initiative is to increase points of connection for Black women to access information and resources about breast cancer prevention and early detection through beauty. Incorporating a three-pronged approach, including panels, webinars, and collaborations to provide education about screenings and where to locate high-quality care, the multi-year plan is initially set to span three years, with the first installment of the initiative lasting through December 31st. But the dedicated women behind this call to action won’t stop until real change is made. “We’re not going to give up until we get some real results here,” says Desiree Rodgers, co-owner and CEO of Fashion Fair.

The legendary beauty brand, founded by Eunice Johnson in 1973, first rose to prominence as the first international cosmetics company to make products for deeper skin tones. Now, the brand continues its long legacy of uplifting Black women by collaborating with ACS to launch the first phase of the Shades of Strength Initiative. This holiday campaign donates 10 percent of the profits from every online lipstick purchase when you use the code ShadesofStrength10.

Their inclusion in this initiative is not only a way to further engage with and give back to the community but it is also deeply personal to Rodgers herself. “As a breast cancer survivor, being diagnosed at 39, I know firsthand about this struggle,” she says. “I’d spent a lot of time counseling Black women that also had the disease, and as I learned about the stats from the American Cancer Society, I wondered if there was a way that Fashion Fair as ‘our community’s makeup company’ could support our women in this space.”

Black women, in particular, face staggering disparities when it comes to cancer diagnoses. According to the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts and Figures for African American/Black People 2022-2024, not only is breast cancer one of the most frequently diagnosed cancers in Black women, but Black women have a 41 percent higher mortality rate when compared to white women. In addition, Black women are also more likely to be diagnosed with more aggressive forms of the disease at a younger age. Because of these factors, access to screenings is paramount to early detection and prevention. But the sad reality is that many women have not been equipped with tools to understand the difference in how the disease may affect them. And conversations on the topic can often feel overwhelming and scary, deterring many women from wanting to talk about it at all.

Through Shades of Strength, the involved organizations can expand the reach of the initiative to their respective communities and share the wide variety of resources and aid that is available through the American Cancer Society in a way that makes them feel comfortable and supported. “This initiative gives us a unique opportunity to share information with our community in a different and unexpected way. Even though ACS has tons of resources, we could not get the information out to the Black community the way these other organizations can as trusted messengers in their own communities,” says Tawana Thomas-Johnson, senior vice president and chief diversity officer of the American Cancer Society. “It’s like your aunties talking to you. We’re the aunties and you can trust us!” Rodgers says in response.

As trusted entities within the Black community and the beauty industry the American Cancer Society and Fashion Fair have championed the importance of health education for decades, the inclusion of the seven national Black civic organizations was a seamless way to amplify this mission. “As a service organization, we focus many of our programming on addressing African-American women’s health and wellness needs. We know that cancer can affect anyone, but it doesn’t affect everyone equally,” says National President of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Elsie Cooke-Holmes. “We are incredibly proud to partner with the American Cancer Society and Fashion Fair in this endeavor to impact the lives of those affected by cancer,” she continues.

Your trusted aunties have spoken and with the first installment of the Shades of Strength Initiative underway, we can expect to see much more of them as this mission continues.

Headshot of Tasha Nicole Smith

Tasha Nicole Smith is ELLE Magazine’s beauty assistant. She loves all things hair, makeup, and skincare so you’ll find her talking about it here. She enjoys Marvel movies, a good pair of heels, and lemon drop martinis and also shares a birthday with Beyoncé, which is her go to fun fact.

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