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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

Join The Conversation
JamieUK JamieUK 6 years
You look beautiful outside and are beautiful inside for doing this!
Katie-Sweeney Katie-Sweeney 6 years
You look gorgeous!
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
I think that this feature is ra rather tucked away here and it should go onother sections of 'Sugar too.
Ellenora Ellenora 6 years
Annie--I think what made it so easy is that it came so naturally to me. If you're going to help a friend with cancer, do what's natural. I always asked her or one of her family members if I could take Ally on a walk. Most times I was allowed to take her with a big thank you, but there were times Ally just wanted to stay home, it was too hot outside or Ally needed to be there for support/comfort. Ally got to do something other than sleep or lounge around for half an hour and with her best buddy. Helping others can be fun!
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Thanks for all the feedback (and Ellenora, no need to apologize -- I also think there's nothing wrong with a nude body). For what it's worth, I don't think that I'm heroic by being in these photos — but I do hope to help encourage women to do the monthly self-check, get a mammogram, help women who are going through treatment, or work toward fighting cancer in other ways. Also, I really like how you walked your neighbor's dog, Ellenora. It's a small act of kindness that probably meant a lot to her.
Venus1 Venus1 6 years
Well done!
Ellenora Ellenora 6 years
Anonymous--Being topless and supporting breast cancer goes hand and hand; I've seen it in so many breast cancer (and abuse) campaigns. I find it rather surprising that you see it as gratuitous. It's symbolic more than anything. Being topless is exposing and facing or knowing you have cancer feels like you've been ripped open from the inside out. In a way, after being diagnosed, you're walking around in public naked. Covering the breasts can be seen not just for modesty's sake, but to represent a woman with breast cancer losing her breasts. Aside from the womb/vagina (and arguably, her hips), what makes a woman a woman physically, in a woman's mind, are her breasts. It's incredibly traumatic to lose your breasts. As you can see in Annie's photo, when you press your arms against your breasts, they flatten and appear as if you have no chest. To me, this very much raises awareness for breast cancer. It's not as obvious as placing an MRI of woman's breast that has cancerous tumors in it, but it's not so vague as a pink bracelet. There's nothing wrong with a nude body. And now I must apologize to Annie for "ripping" her body apart. I was merely making an argument for why these photos are so important. I've seen my grandma grow stronger as she learned that breasts aren't what make a woman, but it's personality that does.
Brittney-Stephens Brittney-Stephens 6 years
so proud of you, annie! you are incredibly brave, and you look amazing! xo
ladyv ladyv 6 years
You look awesome, and it's for an awesome cause. Well done!!
PopSugarTV PopSugarTV 6 years
well done Annie!
Advah Advah 6 years
Very inspirational; it's time I stop being lazy and "starting that tomorrow" and actually start being careful about self-exam. Thank you.
Ellenora Ellenora 6 years
Bravo, Annie! My grandma lost both of her breasts when she found out she had breast cancer. She wasn't eligible for breast reconstruction because of her Lupus. She lost at least one sister (I can't remember if it's one or two) to breast cancer. My grandma, like your's Annie, is from a different generation, but she isn't ashamed of not having her real breasts anymore I think. She still doesn't like going out in public without them, but we can joke about them. It didn't help that she had two grandkids asking,"Grandma, why are you boobs on the sink?" and "Grandma, where did your boobs go?" I pledged last year to do SBEs once a month. I've been doing them for three years; I started at 18. It's never too early to start. It's easy to help someone you know with it too. I walked my neighbor's dog (the only one I'm close to) when she got breast cancer last year. Her dog, Ally, and Zena are best friends so it wasn't a big burden to me.
Annie-Tomlin Annie-Tomlin 6 years
Thanks, all. I'm excited to be a part of the campaign. So did you make a pledge?
bingbingboom bingbingboom 6 years
Bravo Annie!
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