The “i love boobies!” bracelets. Photo courtesy of Keep A Breast.
Do you remember the “i love boobies!” slogan that took the world by storm back in the early 2000s? You probably had a bracelet, a t-shirt, or a sticker and proudly had your “boobies” on display.
The message was and continues to be a groundbreaking strategy to open up conversations about breast cancer awareness and prevention to a young audience for the first time. The slogan was created to remove the fear that is associated with breast cancer and to start a positive and supportive dialogue. Specifically designed to resonate with young people, “i love boobies!” made cancer prevention a more empowering experience.
Darden grew up surrounded by skateboarding culture in San Diego, California. Amongst this community, she developed a free-spirited and creative nature that encouraged her to follow her two passions - skating and fashion. She attended weekend skate contests with friends while experimenting with making clothing of her own. “I was into thrifting and taking my mom’s old clothes and making something new out of them,” said Darden. Eventually, this hobby led her to attend fashion school. Post-education, Shaney Jo returned to her roots and found work designing clothing in the skate industry, working for early girl's skateboard brands like Poot and Girly Things, as well as household names like DC shoes and Toy Machine.
In addition to her design career, Shaney Jo Darden and her friend Mona Mukherjea-Gehrig created “MODART” - an art collective that emphasized art, film, fashion, and music. They would host exhibitions at trade shows and feature artists, bands, and films from the skateboard and snowboard communities. “We did this every year, and it was super fun,” said Shaney Jo “It was just a way to bring all of our friends under one roof and give them a space to show their art in this subculture that was still new at that time.”
One of the featured artists at these shows was Margaret Kilgallen, who was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999. This inspired the MODART collective to help raise awareness in support of their friend. As a result, the Keep A Breast Foundation was born. The collective began featuring a series of customized breast casts modeled from pro-female snowboarders, skaters, designers, musicians, and more, which were then all painted by a variety of artists. The evolution of the casts eventually erupted into an arts-centered breast cancer foundation that's purpose was to “educate, prevent, and take action.”
It has been nearly 22 years since, and Keep A Breast is still going strong.
"The world is a different place [post-COVID] the needs of people are different, the way people get information is different - young people and the way they look at the world, and what they care about; so for us, it’s a time of turning everything inside-out," said Darden. “Keep a Breast is looking within and reaching out to the communities we serve and asking them how we can serve them better.” Amongst these communities, Keep A Breast has programs in the U.S., France, Mexico, and Africa
One of the organization's current focuses is its app. The KAB app allows users to perform self-breast exams by providing instructions and reminders and connecting them with doctors. While incredibly useful, the foundation is ever-evolving and hopes to find better and more effective ways to continue educating young people and create lasting impact. Additionally, the foundation has started a grant program named the “Keep A Breast Give Back Grants” for women of color who are breast cancer survivors. “It’s just about helping women who need it during a rough time and making it a little bit easier,” said Shaney Jo.
“We also want to highlight the conversation about the racial disparities in healthcare and cancer.” Giving away 16 grants in Nashville 2020 - the program has grown immensely, and Keep A Breast provided 450 grants nationwide this year.
The latest chapter for Darden and the team is their most ambitious yet. Located in Joshua Tree, California, “Keep A Breast Valley” is in the works. The center will hold retreats for breast cancer survivors and the local community with activities such as yoga, breathwork, and more. “The point is having a place to bring together our community, the people that we serve, and offer different healing modalities that are going to help people through cancer, but also help people after cancer with trauma healing and deeper work,” said Shaney Jo Darden.
With all of this in-store, the Keep A Breast Foundation has the arts community to thank for being its number one motivator. “That’s what makes Keep A Breast unique; we are not your typical breast cancer - pink ribbon organization,” said Darden. “For us, it always starts with art, and it’s all about using art as a communication tool because who wants to talk about breast cancer, not me - nobody, it’s f–cking scary. So this is how we start that conversation.” KAB will continue to use art as a platform to “educate, prevent and take action” by opening up a dialogue that, while ominous, is incredibly necessary.
WITHITGIRL believes that Shaney Jo Darden and the Keep A Breast Foundation’s work is that of a genuine trailblazer, linking together art, community, health, and above all, going at it with a bold, grassroots approach that’s relatable to everyone, everywhere.
Visit the Keep A Breast Foundation website to get even more inspired.
Shaney Jo’s Spotify playlist!
All photos are courtesy of Keep A Breast Foundation.
Katelyn grew up surfing in San Diego, California, and eventually found her way to Santa Barbara, where she started her education in communication at the University of California Santa Barbara. After graduating in June of 2022, Katelyn still enjoys surfing more than ever, skating, snowboarding, camping, and hanging out at the beach. She currently works as the Public Relations and Communication intern for Withitgirl.
Keep A Breast Information & Links
Shaney Jo Darden’s Instagram
Article by Yeah Girl on Poot
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