FOAM Visionaries: Shaney Jo Darden of the Keep A Breast Foundation

Whether they're game-changing entrepreneurs or inventing a new way to give back, the we got the chance to chat with eight people putting the rest of us to shame. Here, the FOAM Visionaries, as interviewed by their mentors and collaborators.

Role Model // Zinzi Edmundson // 05/07/12
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Shaney Jo Daren of Keep A Breast Foundation is changing the way we think about charity.
Alessandra Olanow
Shaney Jo Daren of Keep A Breast Foundation is changing the way we think about charity.

From a one-off art show to a global humanitarian phenomenon, Keep A Breast is changing the way we think about and participate in charities. Here, founder Shaney Jo Darden talks to her friend and mentor Livia Tortella, COO of Warner Brothers Records about breast casts, youth outreach and what it's like to be a woman in charge.

LIVIA: So, I first met you in Mexico on vacation with some friends, when you were working at DC footwear. Tell me about the transition starting as a designer and then changing your life with Keep A Breast.
I was always a fashion designer, while Keep A Breast was a side thing I was doing. Once a year we did an art show but I finally got to this point when Keep A Breast was doing so well that I felt like it was time to transition. I thought, “Keep A Breast keeps growing all on its own without any of my attention, what if i can actually give it my full attention? How amazing would it be?”

What was the first thing you did when you started doing Keep A Breast full time?
We used social media early on without even really thinking about it too much. our resources were so limited, so we used what was
free and what was available.

And you never wavered from youth marketing. Why?
My personal passion isn’t so much about cancer in particular, it’s more about health and prevention. I’m driven to help young people learn how they can prevent disease through diet, exercise and living a non-toxic lifestyle. At the time, everything was about “the cure”. I didn’t buy into the whole pink ribbon, drug research, money for a cure thing. But I did believe you can prevent disease. that’s why my focus was on young people and getting them into these habits at an early age.

Tell me about Margaret.
Margaret Kilgallen was one of my original inspirations, she was a painter. She was really influential with my group of friends. So when she got breast cancer it was something that hit our community in an impactful way; everyone wanted to help and no one knew what to do. Everything was really “old lady” that was out there, like luncheons and walks, that kind of stuff. So we decided to do an art show and do something really unique. I came up with the concept of having artists paint breast casts, which was inspired by Frida Kahlo, because she had worn a cast after breaking her back. Frida had made beauty out of a painful situation. That was the original inspiration. It was only going to be a one-time thing to raise some money. It’s weird—you have one idea and it becomes your whole life.

What are some of the most memorable casts?
My favorite one is on my desk in San Diego and it’s like a piñata. Some of the other ones are of survivors, who maybe only have one breast or no breasts. they are really emotional and powerful pieces. We’ve been so lucky to work with some of the best artists in the world. even Iggy Pop painted a cast.

What's next for Keep A Breast?
Keep A Breast Japan is launching in may. cancer is on the rise there because of Western influence. Historically, their cancer rates are very low because of their diet: vegetables, rice, fish. We’re also trying to solidify a space in downtown L.A. to open a center—a public space where people can come and experience what Keep A Breast is all about. We’ll have a health library. We’ll invite musicians to come and do performances and talk about their experience. We’ll have chefs come to do cooking classes. We’ll also have treatment rooms where we’ll offer free complimentary care. anyone who is going through chemotherapy can come for more of a healing type of experience, like reiki, acupuncture, massage or talking with a counselor. it’s a big idea, but it’s doable.

Throw out the old way of doing it, who cares?
Yeah, because people are different. They absorb things differently now; life is different.

To read more inspiring stories from our Visionaries, pick up the newest copy of FOAM or stay tuned right here!

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Originally published in June/July 2012

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