In Jennifer’s words:
Sometimes in life, we are moved to do things we don’t completely understand right away. When I met Keely Webster, international model from the UK, I had no idea that it would be the start of something that would change our lives forever. In January of 2012, Keely told me of an idea she had of providing cancer survivors with makeovers and photo shoots and asked if I wanted to be involved.
Having a background and continued desire for community service, along with extensive experience in hosting events, I instantly agreed to launch the idea into action. Hence Survivor Glam Squad (SGS for short) was founded and the first US event took place on April 29th, 2012, in Savannah, Georgia. Six women who had fought or were in the middle of fighting cancer were given makeovers by professional make-up artists and hair stylists and participated in photo shoots by amazing photographers.
During the event, the survivors shared their cancer stories and described what the makeover event meant to them. As tears filled the eyes of all of us in that room, I realized that this event was more than just a good thing to do; it was a necessity and needed to be shared by as many cancer survivors as possible.
From the launch until now, Survivor Glam Squad has hosted makeover events in cities throughout Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New York, and has scheduled upcoming events in Tennessee and North Carolina. Each event brings new survivors into our lives with such inspiring stories.
Not having experienced cancer myself, I am always moved by the effect the makeovers have on the women. Many have said that cancer “de-womanizes” them, taking their hair, nails, and breasts. Getting made over allows them to embrace their “girly side,” uplifts their spirits and makes them feel like a woman again.
Others have said that cancer made them “feel ugly,” causing them to “give up” on doing their hair and makeup when going out. But after seeing their outer beauty in the mirror, they felt motivated and excited to “get fixed up” again.
Many of us take things for granted. Many of us complain about our looks. Many of us suffer from a “woe is me” attitude. When these women share their stories, not only with the public, but to each other, it reminds us all that we have a lot to be grateful for in our lives and that it could always be worse. In addition, when we witness the strength of the survivors dealing with their cancer and the aftermath effects on their bodies, it inspires us all to be strong in our own struggles.
With the astonishing number of people in the world who have been diagnosed with the disease, it’s likely that we all know someone or will meet someone who has been affected in some way. We may fear the possibility that we will one day hear the dreaded diagnosis from our doctors. It hits close to home for so many of us. We may not be able to control some things in our lives, but I believe that human nature causes us to want to reach out and help others in need. Compassion is not a rare find; we witness it every day. Survivor Glam Squad is a gift where I can witness compassion and do what I know I’m destined to do.
In Keely’s words:
Survivor Glam Squad was created in honor of my grandparents, Frank and Jean Noblett. My grandmother was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2006. With 23 grandchildren and not much hope left, she arranged her own funeral while in the hospital bed. Much to our surprise she recovered remarkably.
Unfortunately, my grandfather was then diagnosed with prostate cancer and was taken away from us in only a matter of months. Shortly after his passing, my grandmother experienced open heart surgeries but was finally given the all clear from cancer! The strength that I witnessed in this amazing woman is indescribable and has always inspired me. I began to search. I saw cancer everywhere. I saw women with it fighting for their lives.
I cannot imagine how I would feel or how I would fight if I had cancer. I began meeting people who felt the same way I did, and the idea of Survivor Glam Squad was finally born. The very first event was held in Savannah, Georgia, led by new friend and beautiful soul, Jennifer Hagan. Finding a person with the same mission as I, and willing to run with it was a miracle.
This organization isn’t just a nonprofit; it is my therapy. I feed off survivors’ strength; helping these women gives me great satisfaction. From the second we begin to plan an event or fundraiser to the moment the women are made up and smiling for their photo shoot, those are the times I feel happiest and high on life.