Ann-Marie Appiah, Founder of PAINTED PINK, is a force to be reckoned with. Her plight to help millennials become more aware of breast health and live a preventative life (through a network of support and empowerment) has changed the lives of many. Even after Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) Ann-Marie and her PAINTED PINK team continue to inspire many with their mission to educate millennials about great health year-round, and the Holidays is no exception. When Ann-Marie was 23, a gynecologist found two lumps in her breast. Although the lumps were benign, Ann-Marie decided to be pro-active and had a lumpectomy. She also found out she was a previvor (“individuals who are survivors of a predisposition to cancer but who haven’t had the disease.”), since her aunt had Breast Cancer. A couple of years after having a lumpectomy, Ann-Marie moved to Atlanta from Tallahassee, Florida, and noticed a disparity in breast-care. She realized no one was really talking about women’s health concerns. Ann-Marie, along with a few of her line sisters from the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., family and friends began advocating, and PAINTED PINK was born. “When you have a blueprint and you allow God to guide your steps and you just ask, ‘What’s Next?’ or ‘Where do you want me to go?’ verses why or how, He shows you the how,” Ann-Marie said. “I just started where I was and I used my own network.”
Since its inception, PAINTED PINK has raised over $40K to create care kits for newly diagnosed young Breast Cancer warriors at local Atlanta hospitals Piedmont Hospital, Grady Health and more. “Our pillars focus on providing a unique opportunity to educate millennials about the benefits of breast health and self breast exams, nutrition, regular physical activity, clean beauty, and healthy lifestyle choices,” the Florida raised now 30-year-old stated on her PAINTED PINK website – www.paintedpink.org.
“A lot of Breast Cancer organizations focus so much on the research, which is great, because we need the research.I feel like we have hundreds of millions of dollars already advocated for that,” Ann-Marie stated. “Painted Pink is focusing on Black women and education and awareness, and what breast health looks like. We also focus on being a previvor. You need to know how to do a breast exam, and if you have lumps, you need to know what to do next. The stages before Breast Cancer are just as important, and that’s what we focus on.”
Although there is a demand for young Black women who need the assistance of PAINTED PINK, the 501(c) 3 non-profit foundation doesn’t always have the finances to do the work they were called to do. In spite of the obstacles, they have built their credibility through different partnerships with companies and surgeons to get care packages and change the lifestyles of many. Their initiatives bring in their target market – between the age group of 20-50, who are living their life, but may not be making the best health decisions.
Ann-Marie thinks the need for speed, such as fast weight loss and the obsession with image and validation steers millennials off the path of knowledge. “Get back to what really matters: Mental health, spiritual health and self-care.,” she admonished. “Life is so precious. Cancer is real, but instead of looking at it like a death sentence or a way to feel down about it, it’s important to get the attention of millennials that they are at risk. Just because people don’t look sick, doesn’t mean they aren’t sick inside. Maybe we [Painted Pink] can just shift the mindset of a few.”
Ann-Marie credits her parents, who were born in Ghana, for giving her and her siblings the inspiration they needed to progress. She said seeing their desire to make it in America, while providing a good life for their children, helped her to know that she doesn’t have to settle. And when it comes to her organization, PAINTED PINK, she says she’s really never satisfied, because there is still work to do. “I’m always ready for the next,” Ann-Marie said. “My mom always said, ‘We’re the authors of our own story. We write the script.’ You have to be honest with yourself and know that you want more, and that’s when you can reinvent yourself. There is so much more we all can do.”
And the message that Ann-Maie wants to give to young women who might have self-esteem issues is, “You’re are valued and you are enough.”
This past October, Ann-Amarie and her PAINTED PINK team hosted its 5th Annual PAINTED PINK Bruncheon, where hundreds came out to support them. View a few photos from the Bruncheon below. In the meantime, you can get more information about PAINTED PINK by clicking on each photo or by visiting https://paintedpink.org.