|The Face of Good Health: Beauty After Illness and Trauma|
|Written by Liberty Craig|
Two local women help cancer and burn survivors reclaim their sense of self – at no charge.
Approximately 15 years ago, film and television makeup artist LeiLani Kopp decided to make a difference.
It all started after she’d begun volunteering for the Canadian Cancer Society as a wig stylist for cancer patients, and discovered a demand for makeup. Most off-the-shelf makeup is not good for the skin sensitivities often associated with cancer treatments, so LeiLani decided to launch her own line of anti-inflammatory, calming makeup using mineral extracts (the Sweet LeiLani line is now available in retail outlets across BC). It turned out that this kind of makeup was vital for burn survivors, too. As time went by, LeiLani saw more and more demand from women who simply couldn’t find any help elsewhere. And so she did something about it.
LeiLani started a program called “Face the Future.” A purely volunteer effort, LeiLani styled wigs and taught cancer patients how to wear them in a natural way so they could look and feel normal, healthy, and good. She taught chemo patients how to draw on eyebrows, and offered free eyebrow tattooing. She tattooed natural looking lips onto burn patients. She taught women how to use corrective makeup. She even treated severe acne.
One of the few people in the country to specialize in paramedical tattooing, LeiLani provides skin needling for burn scars to reduce scarring and improve mobility. She often then tattoos flesh tones over the scars to make the scarring literally blend into the surrounding skin and disappear. She tattoos hair colour over thinning or traumatized hair lines. She provides scar flattening and colour correction for mastectomy patients, and a great deal of her work with Face the Future now involves incredibly life-like areola and 3-D nipple tattooing for both full mastectomy and mastectomy with breast replacement recipients. In a hospital setting, there is typically a two-year wait list for a tattoo nipple that is literally “stamped” onto the breast and looks nothing like the real thing.
About a year ago, LeiLani joined forces with Yvonne Hogenes, mastermind of the Tab Bra line which caters to women from all walks of life and includes mastectomy bras. For years, Yvonne had listened to women agonize over their bra troubles while she helped them into outfits at her Surrey clothing store, Malary’s, so she created a bra that is highly customizable, ultra supportive, and can accommodate a mastectomy insert that looks completely natural. Her bras even have a health element as they aid lymphatic drainage, which can be of particular importance to cancer patients.
Both LeiLani and Yvonne had heard time and time again from desperate women: “There’s nothing out there for me.” Together, LeiLani and Yvonne have made it their mission to help women feel beautiful – women who could not get service for their issues in the past. “By integrating beauty, health and fashion,” says Yvonne, “you have no idea how many people you touch, and how many people come out of hiding.” Both women provide their services at no charge. They hold group events, they see many clients privately each week, they consult and they advise. And they do it because time and time again, women have said to LeiLani and Yvonne: “You have changed my life.” Husbands have said: “You have given me my wife back.”
“They hug you and kiss you,” says Yvonne. “What could be better?” And as LeiLani states: “It’s more than makeup; it’s therapy. We couldn’t charge these people.”
It’s taken many years of knocking down doors, but Face the Future has made some impressive inroads. Male doctors used to scoff at the concept of helping women heal through beauty and physical appearance. Female doctors, particularly surgeons, helped the program gain credibility. Face the Future spreads the word through plastic surgeons, burn units and support groups; most recently LeiLani spoke at a national nurse’s convention.
Their dream is to run a small boutique within a cancer agency in the Lower Mainland. Eventually they’d like to offer a full range of wigs and bras for purchase, with customization of both at no charge, as well as makeup and paramedical tattooing. “Everyone knows someone affected by cancer,” says LeiLani. “We can provide that extra care, love and servicing that these women need.”