‘Even if I die I want to look pretty.’ The women having cancer makeovers.
The room is filled with the sound of laughter, unifying anecdotes and humbling words of compassion, a positive atmosphere despite the obstacles faced by every woman in attendance.
These women of different nationalities, religions, ages and appearances are intrinsically connected by one bond – they have all been diagnosed with cancer yet, against the odds, have defied its destructive passage either physically or mentally.
The Illumin8 studio in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers is the meeting place for the inaugural Shine Your Light workshop. Here under the wings of its founder, make-up artist to the stars Kate Goodwin, cancer sufferers and survivors can gather for free consultations on how to look good on the outside and ultimately feel positive on the inside. “Looking in the mirror may be one of the hardest challenges for those dealing with cancer,” says Kate, who lists actress Mischa Barton and socialite Paris Hilton as her clients.
“The effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment can cause terrible damage to skin, hair and nails, destroying women’s confidence and leaving them feeling very distressed about their appearance.”
Many of the women agree that one of the most traumatic aspects of their fight against the disease is the loss of femininity that comes with cancer treatment. “I finished chemotherapy four months ago,” one sufferer says. “I had hair right down my back, but now it’s only a few centimetres long – I hate it.”
Kate assures her that with the help of the volunteer hairdressers on hand, they will find
a way to change how she feels and, just a few hours later, sporting a brand new fashionable pixie cut, she beams into the mirror with renewed self-acceptance. “I love it,” she smiles, a moment that encapsulates the ethos of the Shine Your Light workshops.
The power to help
It was the loss of a close friend that ultimately inspired Kate in her endeavour to make a difference for cancer patients in the UAE.
By providing a beauty consultation during her friend’s last days and witnessing the powerful positive effect of an improved appearance, it dawned on Kate that she may have the power to help others.
“Back in 2010, a friend who was suffering from cancer in London asked me to give her a make-up lesson,” she explains. “I saw what it did for her and I knew it could have the same effect on other cancer sufferers. Even though Pam passed away shortly after, I believe she guided me here today.”
Back in Dubai Kate noticed that despite having a similar cancer rate to elsewhere in the world, there was very little on offer in the UAE to help patients deal with the appearancerelated side effects of the disease.
“I realised that women with cancer here didn’t have anything to really help guide them to look good,” she says. “People are very focused on appearance in Dubai and I knew something needed to be done to help.”
It was a chance encounter with breast cancer survivor Brigitte Rineiger last October that would inspire Kate to set the Shine Your Light wheels in motion. Brigitte, the epitome of femininity – from immaculately polished nails and flawless olive skin to perfectly tailored clothes and impeccably matched accessories – simply exudes positivity.
“When she walked through my doors for a make-up session I would never have known she had cancer,” says Kate. “It was about two hours into a four-hour session when she told me and I was stunned. She had such a big smile and was so positive and happy.”
Kate realised she had been shown another sign to use her talent to help others, so she put together the paperwork needed to start up a
free workshop for cancer patients focusing on pampering and positivity.
With a plan in place, Kate assembled her dream team of volunteers who could offer advice on how to heal the outside via skincare, make-up and hair styling, and also work on improving the inside via meditation, affirmations and “finding happiness within”.
However, despite all these positive points, Kate realised there was still one crucial component missing. “I needed a spokeswoman,” she says. “For as much as I can offer it only extends so far, I haven’t been through cancer myself. I knew Brigitte would be the perfect ambassador and I wanted to call her but I didn’t know what stage she was at with her cancer. Then out of the blue the very next day she called me saying she was back in Dubai and if I planned to do anything with cancer patients she was on hand to help. She hadn’t heard about the Shine Your Light project, it was obviously just meant to be.”
Brigitte is now the acting spokesperson for the Shine Your Light workshops. Her warm humour and genuine frankness about the effects cancer can have on mind, body and spirit are well received because she can talk from experience. “When I was diagnosed it was ascertained that chemotherapy would be necessary,” she says. “Of course, I instantly worried about my hair when they say the word chemo – as a woman it’s about beauty.”
As soon as she was diagnosed Brigitte knew that to keep her family together through the trauma of cancer, she would have to show strength and resilience. As the adage goes, “looking good is feeling good,” and so she
Kate Goodwin uses her beauty expertise to boost the confidence of cancer patients
Brigitte Rineiger is the spokesperson for the Shine Your Light workshops
Illumin8 is offering free consultations to help women with cancer look their best