On a particularly cold and rainy fall afternoon, Elizabeth Hurley is seated in a swish private suite within The Room at Hudson’s Bay in downtown Vancouver. October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is a busy time of year for the 48-year-old British model, actor, and global ambassador for the Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign, and Hurley is unwilling to let weather impede her mission.
“Don’t worry, I’m from London where it’s cold and wet as well,” Hurley says in a velvety low voice to the Georgia Straight. She is wearing a bright pink dress—matching BCA’s iconic pink ribbon—and looks exactly as she appears in movies like Austin Powers and Bedazzled.
Hurley began working on the BCA campaign in 1995 when she was named Estée Lauder spokesmodel. The international beauty company’s senior vice-president Evelyn Lauder launched the BCA campaign and ubiquitous pink ribbon in 1992 after overcoming breast cancer earlier in her life. For Hurley, Lauder’s campaign hit home.
“My grandmother died of breast cancer just before I started to work for the Estée Lauder companies,” Hurley explains. “When Evelyn Lauder, Estée Lauder’s daughter-in-law, asked if I would help her with the campaign she just started, it was important to me.
“We’ve given away more than 100 million pink ribbons,” Hurley continues. “It’s a different world now from a breast cancer point of view, but women are still dying—less women are dying and more women are being diagnosed—but we know there’s still an awful lot of work to do.”
Hurley says that when she started working on the campaign, doctors told her that breast cancer was extremely difficult to treat because patients often did not seek medical help until their tumors were too big.
“Now, 20 years on, they very rarely see tumors like that,” Hurley says. “Now women know about breast cancer and they know they have to have it detected early, so they go to the doctor faster, they do self-examine, and have more mammograms.”
Hurley says that this year, the campaign’s mission is to turn awareness into action.
“We’re asking women to get a group together and make a pledge to something, not just talk about it, but to do something,” she says. “Maybe you all agree that every month you really will examine your breasts and maybe you’ll have a doctor come and show you how to do it. If there’s someone in the group over 40, really make sure you pressurize your friend to have a mammogram and don’t let them off the hook.”
While part of the BCA campaign’s mission is to raise awareness, the non-profit’s other efforts are dedicated towards fundraising. This October, Estée Lauder companies, which oversees more than two dozen makeup and skincare brands, is raising funds by donating a portion of sales from Estée Lauder, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Clinique, Darphin, Jo Malone London, La Mer, and Origins products.
“My favourite is a solid perfume compact,” Hurley says, showing off a small pink and gold box from Estée Lauder. “It’s got my favourite fragrance in it, which is Pleasures—a fragrance I launched for the company in 1995. The beauty of this particular product is 100 percent of the sale price goes directly into research, so really you’re making a donation of $55, and you’re getting it for free. Every single cent of that will be used.”
While the Evelyn Lauder Dream Solid Perfume Compact is the only product to have all of its proceeds benefit breast cancer research, Hurley encourages makeup consumers to stock up on other popular products: The Estée Lauder Advanced Night Repair ($105 for 50 millilitres at Hudson’s Bay [various locations]) and Clinique Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion ($47 for 200 millilitres at Hudson’s Bay [various locations]), which will yield $21 and $10 in donations, respectively.
Hurley says that working with Estée Lauder and the BCA campaign over the years has increased her passion for helping to find a cure.
“Amazing strides have been made in the areas of awareness and in fundraising, but we need more of everything, still, to make breast cancer a thing of a past,” she says. “That’s why we’re still here and that’s why we’re still raising awareness, raising funds, and really trying to activate as many people as we can to join the campaign.”