Visiting Alumna: Leigh Hurst '92
Leigh Hurst '92 raises awareness with her "Feel Your Boobies" campaign.
Pink: the color of a juicy grapefruit, a famed panther, and, sometimes, awareness. It’s also the color one’s cheeks might turn when she hears the name of an innovative campaign devoted to raising awareness about women’s health.
Despite its rather embarrassing name, the Feel Your Boobies campaign is quite serious. It is intended to make young women aware of the dangers they face from breast cancer.
Leigh Hurst ’92 started the campaign after she was diagnosed and treated for breast cancer at age 33. She came to campus this winter—hosted by the Ithaca Breast Cancer Alliance and the Departments of Strategic Communication and Health Promotion and Physical Education, among other sponsors—to share her personal story and the story behind the campaign with IC students.
“The point is to generate a fun conversation with women in that age group who would otherwise never have said the words ‘breast self-exam,’” says Hurst. Funky, fitted merchandise that “you just feel cute in”—all with the tagline “Feel Your Boobies” printed on the front—headline the campaign, developed after a homemade shirt turned heads among her friends. She told students how this idea grew from her study of corporate communications at IC, and taught a three-day minicourse on several well-known awareness campaigns that use playfulness in getting their serious messages across.
“I didn’t plan [on getting cancer],” Hurst says. “But going through something like cancer really makes you reassess.” Hurst now uses MySpace.com, her (very pink) website, and upscale boutiques to market her “boobies couture” to younger women. Each product comes with a guide on breast self-examination and a postcard for each woman to send to a friend; Hurst does no advertising but relies on word of mouth.
Currently balancing an adjunct professorship at Pennsylvania State University, freelance work in professional development, and her breast cancer awareness endeavors, Hurst hopes to expand the business out of her (pink) garage. So far the Feel Your Boobies campaign has sold more than 6,000 t-shirts and donated more than $20,000 to various breast cancer awareness and research organizations.
—Erika Spaet ’09
For more information about Feel Your Boobies and breast self-exams, visit feelyourboobies.org.