Lipstick Manifesto – She Roars Feature :: SRQ Magazine Article by Ashley Grant

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It was an act of challenge and hope. Geralyn Lucas took the tube of crimson pigment and beeswax from her bag and applied it to her lips. Moments earlier, shaking in the fluorescent light of a hospital room, she put on a surgical gown and her eyes fixed on the lettering of the garment: Property of Mount Sinai Hospital. It struck a chord. “Oh no. I’m the property of the hospital,” she thought.

GERALYN LUCAS IN SARASOTA FOR THE HEAR ME ROAR LUNCH. PHOTO BY EVAN SIGMUND.

After months of feeling invisible, that cancer had taken over and that she, besides malignancy, no longer existed, something inside of her was plaguing the darkness. She wanted to be seen, wanted to live and she wasn’t going to give in without a fight. She remembered stories of prisoners marching to their deaths, displaying a defiant gesture to mock their situation. She chose lipstick. A bright red symbol of his determination to regain what had been lost and his unique weapon against a defenseless situation. It gave him a brief sense of control. Maybe if her lipstick survived this nightmare, she would too. “I want my lipstick to tell everyone in this room that I think I have a future and that I know I’ll wear lipstick again, but next time on my terms,” ​​recalls – she thought. “But for now, I have my war paint. I am ready.” And when she woke up in the recovery room, her joy at the idea of ​​living to see another day was magnified by the triumph that the color was still there. Her lipstick had held up and so had she.

Before being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 27, Lucas was riding a wave of happiness and success. She developed a love for journalism as the editor of her high school journal and pursued her passion by studying at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. After graduation, she landed her dream job as an editorial producer at 20/20 develop original ideas for show segments. She then worked at Lifetime Networks, overseeing the biographies of critically acclaimed and award-winning stars including Beyoncé, Dame Elizabeth Taylor and former First Lady Laura Bush, then in the Public Affairs and Corporate Communications division, s ‘dealing with media and talent. for award-winning campaigns such as Stop Breast Cancer for Life, End Violence Against Women and Every Woman Counts. But none of that would have happened if she hadn’t had the mammogram.

Freshly married, Lucas had gone to his doctor to talk to him about getting pregnant. She pointed to a lump in her chest. When the doctor ordered a CT scan, she was so busy at work that she almost didn’t go. And when she did, the unthinkable happened. Diagnosed with a severe form of breast cancer, the terror of the disease and the indignities involved in the tests left him with little sense of personal agency. She was pushed, pushed and examined by several doctors as she explored her options. But other than the clinical information available, she had little to rely on. As she puts it, no one would talk to her about “what it meant to have a breast in a breast-obsessed universe.” So Lucas looked for unorthodox avenues to help her decide whether to have a mastectomy, researching the available clinical options while exploring the psychosocial aspects of what it means to lose a breast.

She went to a strip club – a “breast mecca” as she calls it – to try and figure out why breasts seemed so important to people, and reviewed the nipple tattoo options for. post-mastectomy reconstruction with her mother – noting their surprise at the artistry. . “It was a museum quality nipple,” says Lucas. “It was pointillist. It was like a Monet. There was a lot of different colors and dots and he was dancing and I’m just sitting here thinking, ‘I’m so glad I took an art history class.’ help others in his situation.

She collected all of her experiences in her hilarious and poignant memoir titled Why did I wear lipstick on my mastectomy, which was made into an Emmy-nominated lifetime original film, translated and shown worldwide. The book was a finalist for the Humanitas Award and won the Gracie Allen Outstanding Drama Award, and Lucas’ story was featured in Nora and Delia Ephron’s Broadway success, The love, the loss and what I was wearing. Clothing designer and breast cancer survivor Betsey Johnson designed a t-shirt to promote the book, and cosmetics company Stila created a lipstick called “Geralyn” in her honor.

The response to the book only strengthened Lucas’ motivation to share his knowledge and support to others through his writing and activism. “My motivation was the women who helped me get through my diagnosis and the women I didn’t even know who called me up and reached out to me and said, ‘I’m here’,” says -she. “It’s the most meaningful thing in my career when a woman says, ‘Your book got me through this’ or,’ It made me laugh at a time when I thought there was was nothing to laugh about. “”

She created a YouTube video called “Ouch,” which encourages women to have mammograms instead of bikini waxes and Botox. The video went viral and became a “Webby” winner. She brought the video to ABC and showed it to her former bosses on the air. “Ouch” formed the basis of the ABC News Goes Pink campaign, which encouraged women across America to learn about breast cancer and get tested. This program resulted in correspondent Amy Robach being diagnosed after an on-air mammogram, which made headlines around the world. “It sounded crazy,” Lucas says, “but it saved a life.”

Lucas realized that other women going through the process probably also felt the sense of invisibility she felt, looking at pictures of dehumanizing headless reconstructive breast implants in the surgeon’s office. “They were showing me these books of what I called ‘chest photos’, because there were no faces,” she says. “It was just scary, poorly lit reconstruction photos and I wanted to put a face with the body.” So she did a full length photoshoot with Auto Magazine. After the photos were finished Lucas was worried she would only see the scar, but the photographer encouraged her to look a little deeper, to look into her eyes, to really see herself. “It was, in the strangest way, the most beautiful picture I have ever seen of myself,” she said, “because I saw my courage, I saw my journey, I saw something that I didn’t recognize in myself. “

Almost two decades after his diagnosis, Lucas published Then came life: living with courage, spirit and gratitude after breast cancer in which she explores everyday life after a life-changing experience. From cranky husbands to roll-eyed teens and the frustrations that aging brings, Lucas writes from a point of view informed by the fact that no matter how boring everyday boredom can be, they are part of a life that hardly happened and she understands the precious nature of normalcy. “I’m straddling those two sides of life,” she says, a realization that appealed to her when she found herself dealing simultaneously with the meticulousness of getting her son to kindergarten and to school. be there for a friend with cancer. “It’s a tightrope and most of the time I really have to convince myself to jump on the life side,” she says. “Maybe knowing the other side makes things a little sweeter and puts things in perspective.”

Lucas’s experience enables her to appreciate all that women face on a daily basis and she actively encourages them to move forward towards growth and transformation every step of the way. That latest post is something she is completely passionate about these days, encouraging women to give themselves a break as they try to balance all the demands of their lives.

“It’s all a shitty show; no one has ever nailed it, ”she said. “This whole idea of ​​balance is so difficult for women. I often feel off balance and I often get this whole cliché of guilt when I’m at home and not at work; guilty when I’m at work and not at home. Can we forgive ourselves more? She doesn’t have the solution, she admits, and in her opinion, technology has only made things more difficult. His best tactic is to improvise and do his best as you go. “My mom had this trick that she used,” Lucas says. She would come home from work and just put a pot of boiling water on the stove. I would say, ‘What are you doing?’ She was like, ‘I don’t know, but dad thinks dinner is being prepared.’ “

Lucas doesn’t let his readers get away with it, but instead encourages them to “live up to their lipstick” despite their challenges. “A lot of people say that living with serious illness requires you to take a deep look at who you are, and that can be true, but you don’t have to have breast cancer to do that,” she says. “Whatever version of yourself you never thought was a possibility, go ahead and become her. Keep that in mind for inspiration.

Currently returning to journalism, consulting for the Pulitzer Prizes, as well as a project celebrating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Lucas continues his activism, educating women about breast cancer and early detection, and is working on several film scenarios. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and two children, always passionate about supporting women facing life’s challenges, and always wearing her lipstick. “It was hard to imagine that I could ever wear lipstick again,” she says. “I was worried that the other lipstick moments wouldn’t live up to my defining lipstick moment. But maybe that’s what’s so special now – I got my life back and every moment seems worthy of a lipstick. ”


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