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Why I Decided to Go Topless For a Photo Shoot

I'm not an exhibitionist, I'm not a model, and I'm not a huge show-off. So why am I posing without a shirt on? Because I'm pledging to raise awareness of breast cancer. The Estée Lauder Companies invited me to participate in this year's campaign to fight this disease, and I've joined nine other women (and one man!) to do so.

The idea is simple: make a pledge to do something about breast cancer — it could be as simple as vowing to do a monthly self-examination — and encourage your friends to do the same. (If you visit Bloomingdale's 59th Street in New York, you'll see all of our portraits and be able to upload your own video pledge directly from the store.)

For more on the campaign, keep reading.

Being involved in the campaign is personally important. Long before I was born, my grandmother beat breast cancer not once but twice. She wasn't one to call attention to herself, so she didn't talk about it much. It was a different time. Even as a kid, I got the sense that she was ashamed to have lost her breast, and that she felt cancer wasn't something that should be discussed. She isn't with us anymore, but I think of her whenever the subject of breast cancer comes up. I admire her strength and wish she'd had more support during her illness, which is why I think it's so important to help women who are undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Maybe it's by doing something as easy as running some errands, or it's something as meaningful as lending an ear.

Because of my grandmother's cancer, I've performed monthly self-exams throughout my adult life. Even though they don't prevent cancer from forming, they can help you detect changes in your breasts — and if a cancerous growth is found early, it's much more treatable than a long-standing lump. (Here's how to do a self-exam.) Last year, I found a lump in my left breast. A biopsy proved it to be benign, fortunately, but now I know to keep an eye (well, a hand) on it in the future in case it radically changes. Now I encourage my friends to do self-exams, to know their bodies, and to talk with their doctors in case they feel something isn't quite right. Not all lumps are problematic, and not all of them even require biopsies. But it's always best to be aware of your body, especially when it could save your life in some cases.

So that's why I'm topless, and that's why I encourage you to make your pledge to fight breast cancer — whatever it might be.

Photograph by John Midgley

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