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How Can I Look Better Than I Feel While Being Treated for Breast Cancer?

This week I received a note from a colleague I worked with some time ago. I admired the simplicity of the question she had to ask; so often we waffle around and couch our messaging in fluffy niceties. This was refreshingly crisp and to the point, and it got my immediate attention and energy. She stated that she had breast cancer and wanted “any resources, tips or tricks to make me look better than I feel. The side-effects of treatments are difficult.”

Breast cancer is much on the fashion world’s radar this week: supermodel Linda Evangelista announced in a Wall Street Journal interview that she had privately been through two occurrences of the disease in the past five years. Evangelista is everywhere right now — the September cover of Vogue with fellow supers Christy, Naomi and Cindy; the launch of her retrospective coffee-table collaboration, Linda Evangelista, with photographer Steven Meisel last week; and the upcoming documentary series on AppleTV+ The Super Models. That she chose this victory lap to reveal her medical battles is a beautiful thing. 

As she told Vanity Fair: I think going through hardships and coming through the other end has made me focus only on the good things. I’m so happy to be alive. I know I am very fortunate.” 

Evangelista also revealed she had a bilateral mastectomy, and her attitude about the scarring is inspiring. “I have always viewed scars on the body from surgeries, from disease, as trophies. They are like gold and shiny and should be on a mantle. It shows you won,” she said. “I think scars are to be celebrated and not to be looked at as bad and ugly. It makes you stronger.”

The St. Catharines, Ont. native has long been an advocate for early detection. Back in 1998, she teamed up with fellow Canadian, singer and photographer Bryan Adams, to host a fundraising concert for the Evangelista/Adams Breast Cancer Screening Centre; more than 50,000 people have been screened for the disease there in the intervening years.

Now, Evangelista looks timeless in appearances over the past few weeks. Supermodels tend to have full glam teams for these high-profile events.

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Another Canadian fashion icon has also been public with her breast cancer story: Jeanne Beker, the doyenne of fashion broadcast journalism internationally, has been sharing every step of her journey online. She also very generously offered to share some thoughts with our readers on the subject of how to still feel like yourself even when undergoing the worst side-effects cancer treatments can bring.

Hair loss, she says, was the big challenge. We know Jeanne for her signature bob. The length varied over her 27 years on Fashion Television, but the style stayed consistent. “I wore one of those cooling caps,” she says, “but I still lost 60 per cent of my hair. Plus, I couldn’t dye it.” She did go out and buy a red wig, she says, from Toronto’s Wigs R Us. “How often in life am I going to get to wear something kooky?” she says. The human hair wigs there are gorgeous, but they do run in the $3,000 to $6,000 range. Jeanne didn’t splurge that big, and in the end, she didn’t wear the wig. She plans to donate it to someone in need.

Instead, she developed a new signature style: the newsboy cap. She got a great black rhinestone one from Toronto milliner David Dunkley. Dunkley is a national treasure, who was trained by the Royal Milliner to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Jeanne’s newsboy cap is a fun and funky contrast to the confections in his Bathurst Street salon. It also suited her personality perfectly. Jeanne felt like herself in it, she says. Another designer who Jeanne has had a long history of working with, Irish milliner Louise Kennedy, made her a sparkly magenta newsboy style.

Jeanne says she stocked up on Ugg slippers, splurged on a few special cashmere sweaters and enjoyed fuzzy blankets friends sent her to keep her cosy and comforted during treatment. She also read messages of support on her Instagram DMs in her lowest moments in the chemo chair. “The nice thing [about] going public is the love and compassion and support.”

Another tip she has to share is to stock up on sports bras for treatment, though, she adds, “it’s like when you are pregnant you never want to see your maternity wear again afterward. I feel the same way about sports bras now!”

She enjoyed the finer personal products in life. “Skin care, beautiful oils and lotions, those are really important to make you feel cared for.” But the biggest tip of all, says Jeanne, is to lean into makeup. “It became more important to me than ever before. You lose your eyebrows, your eyelashes. It helps having a professional show you how to fix those properly.”

Because she stayed so active, working on camera and hosting events throughout her treatments, Jeanne needed her own glam squad, in the form of her trusted makeup artist Genny Rovito. They met on The Shopping Channel at Jeanne’s Style Matters show, and Rovito has been doing Jeanne’s makeup for about six years now. Coincidentally, that is how long Rovito has been volunteering for the Look Good Feel Better program, which is really the best resource for women going through cancer treatments. (Go to for local workshops.)

Rovito also kindly offered to share some tips here for doing makeup to help conceal the effects of cancer treatments. Look for hypoallergenic skincare and makeup products, where possible, she says, as skin can become very sensitive. Stay away from active ingredients, such as retinols, alpha hydroxy acids and physical exfoliants. Also, wash your makeup brushes properly every day, she says. “I encourage using Q-tips instead, You really don’t want to be dealing with an eye infection.”

Now, to the tricky stuff. “To fill in brows, experiment with all the different products, from pencils to pomades to cream gels,” to find out what you are comfortable with. She teaches women to draw in little hairs by hand, with a good old-fashioned pencil. There are also, she says, wonderful fine-point, waterproof markers. “It takes a little practice, but they are designed not to give too much pigment, so it looks natural.” She recommends MAC Eyebrow Styler, an ultra-thin pencil and spool brush combo that is “smudge-proof and fool-proof,” she says. As for brow tint, her pick is Shape and Shade Bow Tint, also by MAC.

For eyelashes, falsies are the way to go. Rovito’s go-to brand is Ardel, especially their Wispies brand. “These are lightweight, they can be trimmed and custom fit.” Being picky about glue is also key. Rovito says Duo adhesive holds the base and comes in latex-free for extra sensitive eyes.

For foundation, you want to stay light and bright. Rovito is a fan of Laura Mercier Perfecting Primer as it soothes irritated skin with green tea extract. On top of that, Rovito prefers lightweight mineral-based powder foundation. This approach is buildable, and breathable. Her selection is Colorescience, which has SPF built in. “This is super important,” she says, “as treatments can make skin react to the sun!”

Learning about this stuff is encouraging for me, too. It is nice to hear about real options and strategies for when you aren’t feeling your best. I will leave you with Jeanne’s top tip, one she has followed her whole life and on-camera career. “Bright lipstick!” she says. It distracts from any hair loss, and instantly brightens your look. It is the first thing you see. “It can really light up your whole face,” she adds. “Maximum impact for minimum effort!”

Always asking questions.

—Leanne Delap