Let’s start from the beginning. How did Bright Pink come about?
About a month or so after I graduated from University of Michigan I got this amazing marketing job lined up in Chicago. I was really ready to just start my life but I tested positive for BRCA1 gene mutation that July.
For those who aren’t familiar, what does that mean?
I found out that I had up to an 87 percent lifetime risk of developing breast cancer and up to a 54 percent chance of ovarian cancer. As you can imagine being 22-years-old and about to start a new life, it was a lot to discover.
Were there any support groups you could turn to?
There were a couple of websites that were like virtual communities. The problem I had with them was that a lot of the women were older, they were married, they had kids and would talk about how their husband was so sweet to pick up their son from soccer. I was thinking, “That is your reality, my reality is that I need to go on a date tomorrow,” so it was hard and I felt very alone.
When was the moment you decided to start an organization to empower young women to be proactive about their health?
I didn’t want to live waiting to develop cancer so in order to reduce my risk I made the difficult decision to have a preventative double mastectomy. At the time I was the youngest person in the country ever to do the surgery. I went to New York because no doctor in Chicago would even perform it. I was 23-years-old and I didn’t have cancer yet I was making this radical decision to make sure I didn’t get it. The Chicago Tribune and New York Post ran articles after I had my surgery and I was so overwhelmed with how many woman reached out that I started the organization. I thought it was just going to be a website and place where young women who were high-risk could connect with one other and get information. I didn’t want it to be depressing or scary, I wanted it to be upbeat.
Did you always know you wanted to name it Bright Pink?
No, we were going to name the organization Pink Lemonade around the idea of making lemonade out of lemons or VIPink which is what we use actually for our events series. I liked something about the idea of being bright pink and being bright. It’s a new take on a color that is so synonymous with this issue and topic but it’s a fresh, positive approach to it.
You’ve been in the press supporting Giuliana Rancic on her journey through breast cancer. How did you two become so close?
Giuliana and I met a couple of years ago through a mutual friend of ours, Kelli Zink, the host of CelebTV.com. Kelli brought Giuliana to our high tea celebration. Giuliana’s aunt is actually a breast cancer survivor so we had a chance to meet and then we worked together as part of our relationship with Orbit gum. I was getting drinks with her just in a social capacity when she confided in me that she had developed breast cancer. It’s really been an honor to share in her journey and become a lot closer to her as a friend but also be able to be there for her in a way that only someone who’s in this world can.
Did you ever think you would be where you are today?
That’s a good question. I always knew that I would need to have philanthropy as a big part of my life. I was raised by parents who were donating more money than they could afford to donate when they had nothing. It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to give. I actually thought I’d still be in the corporate world because I’m very motivated by kicking butt. I will tell you, this is the only non-profit that I could probably work for because we don’t operate like a non-profit. We run ourselves, this is our brand that we are managing, these are our programs and any person that is a part of the Bright Pink network is part of our family.
Are you single?
I am very single. Do you know any nice Jewish boys?
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
It’s going to sound so cliché living in Chicago but you’re talking to somebody who never missed an “Oprah Winfrey Show” episode since I was 11-years-old. I think for me it goes back to being 12 when my mom was battling cancer. That was right when Oprah introduced this idea of a gratitude journal and I started a gratitude journal then. I know it’s such a cliché answer!
Not at all, we’ve been waiting for someone to say Oprah.
I actually used to work out at the gym she used to go to. Tuesday nights at East Bank Club she would be lifting weights at 7:30 and I would go next to her and purposely lift weights and I would look around and go, “Why is no one freaking out? It’s freakin’ Oprah Winfrey!” and these people were just used to seeing her there. I was like, “Why is no one going crazy? This is a big deal!”
Photography by Natalie Probst
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