This month’s conversation is a very special introduction to the world of Renata Helfman and the fantastic nonprofit organization she founded, Lipstick Angels.
Lipstick Angels utilizes nurturing beauty services and physical touch to restore, strengthen and protect the dignity, hope and self-respect of seriously ill patients undergoing debilitating treatments such as chemotherapy. Specifically, it provides complimentary, personalized one-on-one beauty and skin care services by professional makeup artists and certified, oncology trained estheticians at the patient’s bedside or while they are receiving chemotherapy infusions when they are at their most vulnerable. The team now serves patients across the country in Los Angeles, New York City, Seattle and the Bay Area, and we are pleased to have donated a number of our clean and pure Madame Gabriela Beauty collection lipsticks to this most worthy of groups. If you are interested in donating to this incredible cause, every little bit helps! Please visit the website at www.lipstickangles.org to support. Discover more below!
What prompt you to create Lipstick Angels?
My background is as a makeup artist for Hollywood for about 20 years, I was looking for a way to give back to the community and I was inspired by my grandmother who not only was a Holocaust survivor but also a 2 times cancer-survivor. Her journey through cancer inspired the idea of helping women that are going through similar circumstances. When I started Lipstick Angels there was nothing like this in hospitals, I started doing it myself until a friend prompt me to do it in a more formal way. This was 10 years ago and now Lipstick Angels is a beautiful reality.
What is the impact of Lipstick Angels in patients going through cancer treatments?
It is an amazing and rewarding impact. There are so many aspects to what we do at Lipstick Angels, there is the obvious of applying on makeup to the patient, helping them with their eyebrows and skin, we also do a full spa card with facial and massage very geared towards wellness, very holistic with aromatherapy, healing stones and other techniques. We do it for men as well. All our Angels have attended training on how to touch and treat a cancer patient. We have extensive manuals and protocols on all we do. In addition to the touch and treatment, the fact of having someone talk to you – be a friend, be an angel – is amazing, there is a whole other side of how Lipstick Angels become part of these peoples lives. Our Angels have the ability to really go into a different place when performing a treatment, there is a skill and a empathy that needs to be there. It certainly is not for everybody.
What are some of the most touching comments/feedback from patients?
I have a story that I often tell: a while ago I had an A-HA moment not only for me but for our entire organization, I was in the hospital working on this lovely lady and sometimes it takes a few times to get to know the patient and for her to really feel safe. I remember this lady that I started just helping out with a hand massage and before I left I told her that next time we were going to do the whole makeup and full package. She was ok with it and we did makeup, eyebrows, lips etc. When she took the mirror to see herself afterwards, she started crying and I was so worried that she didn’t like it. She said “Well, today I am not going to hide in the car when I drop my daughter at school”. It was a wow moment because when somebody gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer so to support a cancer-patient means we are supporting the family as well!
The nurses of these amazing hospitals love us, their gratitude is enormous and they are our biggest cheerleaders because they are so overworked and they cannot spend time with each patient as much as they would like to.
What does beauty mean for somebody going through cancer treatments?
Beauty changes, in a nutshell you just want to look like yourself. You lose your hair and your eyebrows, your skin is dry and the physical side of you doesn’t feel like you. It is very easy to give up so the patients need this gentle reminder that the way you look “does matter” and that you need to take care of yourself as you used to. You become so depleted as you are thinking about the bills, work, family etc. so it is so easy to put the self care in the back of the burner. I look at it as taking that burden off of them… to remind them that “we have your back and we are here to remind you that it is Super important to take care of yourself and it is going to help you.
What is next for Lipstick Angels – how could our community help/participate?
Due to COVID-19 we are in hiatus from being able to go to the hospitals but we are very excited in launching a virtual program soon so the patients can perform some on these treatments from home. This will be very much like a bit like a beauty master class, but for cancer patients.
How can the community help?
Help us share our efforts on your own social media channels, talking about it with your friend. We do accept donations directly on our website. Please follow this link for learning how to help
Now, the Madame Gabriela Rapid-Fire Questions?