For celebrity makeup artist Collier Strong and his team, the battle against ovarian cancer is personal.
“I have a dear friend in hospice with ovarian cancer as we speak,” said Strong, who has been the makeup artist for Eva Longoria Parker, Kerry Washington and Diane Keaton. “I also have three sisters that are healthy. It’s the least I can do to lend my expertise and talent to something that will raise funds for ovarian cancer.”
He and a team of freelance makeup artists hosted a day of free makeovers at Walgreens at 42nd Street and Broadway yesterday in honor of Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., customers got free mini makeovers and consultations from trained professionals.
They could also share their own stories of how ovarian cancer had touched their lives.
Shahana Mahajan, of Jersey City, knows how important early detection is when, it comes to cancer survival rates.
“My husband’s sister died a couple years ago from ovarian cancer,” she said as a makeup artist applied shimmery, gray eye shadow to her lids. “If she would have known earlier, things may have turned out differently. This is an important cause for me.”
Mahajan, a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York, also works at the New York University Langone Medical Center as a research scientist.
“The thing with cancer is, if you detect it early, a lot of times it is curable,” she said. “If not, there’s really not much you can do about it.”
According to the American Cancer Society, if ovarian cancer is detected and treated before it has spread outside of the ovary, there is a 93 percent survival rate.
But the ACS said that less than 20 percent of ovarian cancer cases are found at this stage.
That’s why L’Oréal Paris, Strong and a team of trained makeup artists have teamed up to raise awareness of the disease that often slips into the shadows of more publicized types of the disease, such as breast cancer.
“I think it’s great to bring awareness,” said Christy Frustaci, a freelance makeup artist contracted by L’Oréal Paris for the event. “If you’re a woman, then it’s something you should think about. I think it’s great that L’Oreal does this.”
In addition to hosting events such as Friday’s mini makeover sessions, L’Oréal Paris has launched the Color of Hope Makeup Collection to raise money for ovarian cancer research. With the purchase of every Color of Hope item, the company will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.
In 2009, the ACS estimates that 21,550 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed. Of those cases, 14,600 will result in death.
Danisha Beltre, coordinator for public relations and strategic philanthropy for L’Oréal Paris, echoes Mahakam — awareness, which leads to early detection, is key.
“The key word here is awareness,” Beltre said. “Especially with a disease like ovarian cancer. The symptoms are relatively everyday symptoms. We, as women, need to be in tune with our bodies. A lot of times we are so busy taking care of everyone else — our children, husbands, families — that we forget to take care of ourselves.”
This is especially important for a cancer that currently does not have an early detection screening method — symptoms are the only indicators.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer include abdominal pain, difficulty eating, feeling prematurely full, frequent urges to urinate and bloating.
Beltre has seen what happens when these symptoms are overlooked.
“My grandmother died two years ago from ovarian cancer,” she said. “The symptoms were unclear. They were everyday symptoms that women often have. By the time (it was detected), it was incurable.”