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Life in Hollywood is full of ups and downs, Elizabeth Hurley notes. One constant, however, is the English actress and model’s longtime advocacy in raising breast cancer awareness as a global ambassador for Estée Lauder.
As Hurley tells Yahoo Life in the video above, it’s been 26 years since the late beauty executive and philanthropist Evelyn Lauder — credited with founding The Breast Cancer Research Foundation and cementing the pink ribbon as a symbol for the cause — approached her to support the relatively new Estée Lauder Companies’ Breast Cancer Campaign.
For Hurley, the answer was an easy yes thanks to her own personal connection with the disease, which in 2020 surpassed lung cancer to become named the most commonly diagnosed cancer worldwide.
“Everything she said to me really hit a nerve because I’d just lost my grandmother to breast cancer,” Hurley says. “No one talked about it back then. The pink ribbon had only just been invented and nobody talked about breast cancer. It wasn’t in magazines or on television. People didn’t wear pink… It was a really different time for breast cancer. And so as soon as Evelyn [asked] would I help, I was like, ‘There’s nothing I’d like to do more.” And really everything’s just sort of gone on from there.”
Since 1992 — when The Campaign was formally launched — more than $99 million has been raised to support global research, education and medical services. In her own 26-year experience since joining Estée Lauder as a global ambassador in 1995, Hurley has seen firsthand the strides the movement has made in terms of research and recognition.
“There’s been so many changes in the landscape of breast cancer: how we talk about breast cancer, how we think about breast cancer, what we know about breast cancer,” she says.
“I remember a time when there was no pink ribbon, there were no football teams wearing pink,” Hurley adds. “My son [model Damian Hurley] who’s 19 has only known a world with a pink ribbon. He’s only known hearing stories about these fabulous fundraisers raising money. He’s heard survivors talking about their stories. He’s seen families talk about what impact breast cancer has had on their lives when perhaps they lost their mother or their daughter, or like me, their grandmother. And sometimes it’s hard to remember that time when it just didn’t exist.”
She cites her frustration at the lack of information or treatment options available to her grandmother in the early ’90s, compared to now.
“When I first joined this campaign, we used to talk about breast cancer,” she says. “And now we know there are so many different types of breast cancer. So when my grandmother was diagnosed, of course, no one told us anything. She wasn’t told anything, she couldn’t have told us anything… We knew nothing.
“You had no information at your fingertips. Now we know there are so many different types of breast cancer. There are so many different types of targeted treatment to target specific forms of breast cancer that somebody has. Back in my grandmother’s days, everybody just got blasted with the same drugs.”
Those developments give her hope, but she still stresses the importance of early detection and self-checks — especially amid a pandemic in which many have been reluctant to keep up with their doctor visits. Two of Hurley’s own friends, both in their late…