This summer, Andrea Pellegrini, a makeup artist in London, was diagnosed with breast cancer, inspiring her to start a video blog, Baldly Beautiful. (Photo courtesy of Andrea Pellegrini)
Early this summer, the most pressing thing on Andrea Pellegrini’s mind was booking a family getaway for her upcoming 40th birthday. But then she found a lump on her breast while taking a shower, and on July 28, 2014, her life changed forever. “All along, I was told it was most likely a fatty lump of tissue,” Pellegrini, of London, told Yahoo Health in an email. “When I went back for the results, I was told it was cancerous.”
The mother of two was shocked, unable to fully process the diagnosis she hadn’t expected to hear. “My mind was swimming, and when I looked at my husband, his face looked the same as I imagined mine was — like a cartoon dog, with its mouth wide open and tongue hanging out,” she recalled. Needless to say, “the holiday didn’t get booked, and the party has been postponed.”
Andrea Pellegrini before undergoing chemotherapy (Photo courtesy of Andrea Pellegrini)
But that doesn’t mean Pellegrini has put her life on hold. Before her diagnosis, she worked part-time as a makeup artist, and her husband encouraged her to keep pursuing that career path — but with a new mission: to share her skills with other cancer patients. “My husband said to me, ‘Why don’t you set up a YouTube channel and help other ladies like yourself?’” Pellegrini said. She was hesitant at first, but after joining the Younger Breast Cancer Network, a Facebook support group, she noticed how many women were asking for beauty advice.
Since she’d done makeup for women undergoing chemo in the past, “I kind of had an idea of what makeup I would need,” said Pellegrini. “I asked them if they’d be interested in watching me do tutorials. I feel it’s so important for them to have someone to identify with.” Her support group’s enthusiastic response is what prompted her to start her YouTube channel, Baldly Beautiful. “The first video got about 800 hits in a couple of days,” she said. “The encouragement and support was amazing.”
In her videos, Pellegrini offers advice on everything from brightening skin to making lips appear plumper, which, for a woman with cancer, can make the difference between a bad day and a beautiful one. “So many ladies are in such despair. They find becoming bald so traumatic. The lashes are the thing that has upset me the most — my eyelashes have started breaking,” she said. “When you have no hair, possibly no eyebrows or eyelashes, nothing can make you feel as good as putting on some makeup and bright lipstick. I feel happier when I see my ‘old’ face with makeup on, rather than this sallow-faced bald woman starting back at me in the mirror.”
Pellegrini tries to keep her tutorials simple, since chemo saps your energy, leaving women too tired to apply elaborate makeup. In fact, her favorite tool in her beauty arsenal is perhaps the most basic: lipstick. “A bright lipstick can do wonders,” she said, which is why she advises women with cancer to invest in uplifting shades for what she calls “cheer me up days.” Other critical products: smudge-proof eyeliner — “When you’re on chemo, your eyes get watery” — and anti-redness BB cream to alleviate the blotchy skin often associated with cancer treatment.
Photo Courtesy of Andrea Pellegrini
Although Pellegrini is infectiously upbeat in her videos, the truth is, she’s nervously anticipating her surgery in early January, which will remove whatever is left of the lump in her breast after she finishes chemotherapy in a few weeks. “My hope is that I can beat this disease and send it packing,” she said.
But that doesn’t mean the end of Baldly Beautiful. Her dream is to start a makeup line geared toward women going through chemo. “I would love to set up makeup workshops one day, too,” Pellegrini said. “But for the moment, one step at a time. Getting rid of this disease is the first priority.”
Your Next Read: Aspirin May Reduce Risk of Aggressive Prostate Cancer